School of Music


Doctor of Music Education (DME)


Paul Rumrill


Harmonica, Pedagogy, Special, Education, Disability, Disabilities


Music | Special Education and Teaching


The harmonica was once taught in American public schools coast to coast from the 1920s through the 1940s when imports of harmonicas were curtailed due to World War II's efforts. Since then, American public-school instrumental music curricula have long forgotten the only wind instrument that makes music when the student inhales or exhales. The harmonica provides a natural calming effect to the player and medical benefits, including being a tool for overcoming mental health issues and expressing needs and feelings without words. During the era when the harmonica was taught, pedagogy lacked uniformity. Consequently, confusion about the instrument's unique tuning scheme has discouraged many music educators from embracing it, despite its low financial cost and its potential for very high popularity among students. The harmonica's popularity presents a likeliness that students will continue to play it far beyond their K-12 education experience, today just as they did in the early 20th century. Federal legislation regulating school policy, such as the No Child Left Behind act, has broad-sweeping implications for music teachers to provide direct instruction in the Least Restrictive Environment. Through qualitative research, this thesis compares multiple levels of literature, program requirements, and course syllabi. The research findings reveal that music teacher preparation programs do not comprehensively prepare for adapting instruments or modifying curriculum to provide inclusion for students with disabilities, including paraplegics, amputees, and the blind, in instrumental, performance-based music classrooms. The harmonica is easily adaptable to meet school-age children's specific physical and cognitive needs. At the same time, school districts maintain compliance with inclusion mandates and guidelines from legislation and teaching standards for K-12 instrumental music education.