[Translate to English:] Kinder musizieren mit Blasinstrumenten

What we've achieved: Musical Primary School – Connecting Music and School Quality

Cultural education is an essential part of a holistic education. Music, moreover, plays a central role: As a common denominator for all educational and learning processes in school, it promotes language learning, personal development and the acquisition of social skills. Against this background, the project Musikalische Grundschule (Musical Primary School) was developed to increase participation and equitable opportunities. In addition, the project showcases music as a medium and motor for the school-development process. This process results in a school that is methodologically and didactically creative, in shared educational efforts by the entire staff and in better social interactions.

Musical Primary School was launched in 2005 as a cooperative project between the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the state of Hesse's Ministry of Education. Since then, it has become an established part of the educational landscapes in Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine–Westphalia and Thuringia, reaching 375,000 students at more than 600 schools. And the success story continues: Since the 2019/20 school year, educational institutions in Schleswig–Holstein have also been participating. Musical Primary School remains the only approach in Germany that uses music to drive school development.

Liz Mohn Portrait picture
Music is fun and an excellent way to fill schools with more and better sounds. It increases feelings of belonging and has a positive impact on school atmosphere. Music education is also always about instilling values. Musical Primary School is particularly effective at giving children access to more equitable opportunities.
Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Executive Board

Two equally important goals: promoting music among top talents and among young people in general

Values education, social cohesion and music's ability to bring people together have played a key role in the Bertelsmann Stiftung's project work ever since the foundation was established.

In 1987, Liz Mohn launched NEUE STIMMEN, an innovative competition for young opera singers. Not only does the project organize the singing competition (with its worldwide auditions) and international master classes, it now also includes additional modules. They all aim to prepare young singers for individual careers and offer ongoing support. Today, NEUE STIMMEN is one of the world's most acclaimed competitions and development programs for up-and-coming opera talent.


Liz Mohn also realizes her personal commitment to promoting music among top performers and society at large through the Liz Mohn Foundation for Culture and Music, which she established in 2005.


In addition, Liz Mohn and the Bertelsmann Stiftung are committed to expanding the presence of music in early childhood education and care (ECEC). Several years ago, the foundation pooled its various initiatives for promoting music within its Music Education project. Together with its partners, the Bertelsmann Stiftung works to create "spaces" in preschools, schools and youth centers that allow children and adolescents to actively experience and make music with others.



Imagefilm: Musikalische Grundschule

This video shows how Buschkamp School in Bielefeld implements the project in keeping with the motto: "More music with more participants during more everyday activities all day at school."


Musical Primary School – a new path to school development

In contrast to approaches that concentrate on music as a subject in the curriculum, Musical Primary School focuses on integrating musical activities into all aspects of the school day, using them to support and stimulate learning in all subjects. The point is not to provide sporadic input, but to engage in an ongoing school development process that the entire staff endorses and shapes. 

Music as a method for shaping school life


In a Musical Primary School, music becomes a method for shaping all areas of school life. As a result, the school develops a greater sense of community, new momentum is added to classroom instruction, parents become involved and partnerships are strengthened with actors outside the school.

Each school shapes its own process of becoming a Musical Primary School. The main thing is that all areas of everyday school life are included – above all, the students themselves, who can only be reached if teachers and administrators are enthusiastic and if parents offer support. 

Musical Primary School goals


The Musical Primary School approach was developed with the goal of promoting school quality. The project gradually shapes an environment for living and learning that fosters development and provides all children – regardless of background, native language or educational achievement – with opportunities for actively participating in music as part of everyday school practice.

Musical Primary School gives all children access to the potential that music education offers: Creative engagement with musical tasks supports the development of sensory, linguistic and motoric self-expression, while promoting physical and mental well-being, increasing the joy of learning and improving social interactions at school. 

Practical implementation


Musical Primary School is a project in which music is the connecting element for developing classroom instruction, organizational culture and staff. It makes it possible for students, educators and parents to experience the "four Ms" at school: more music with more participants in more subjects on more occasions all day at school. Guided by that idea, each Musical Primary School develops in its own way. 
Everyone involved has diverse opportunities to sing and make music together.

The result might be jointly created sound installations, musical ensembles made up of staff members, or parent-teacher choirs. Children can work in groups to become familiar with instruments, or to playfully experiment with sounds and everyday noises. During regular classwork, they can discover the rhythms underlying language and music, play musical number games, and learn to listen to and be aware of sounds, noises and silence.

The school development process


Musical Primary School initiates a school development process that takes music beyond its accustomed role as a stand-alone subject, securely anchoring it in all subjects in the lesson plan and in a range of extracurricular activities. The process is based on the shared interest that teachers and staff have to become known as a Musical Primary School, a decision that is officially made at an all-school meeting. In a first step, all participants come together in a workshop to develop a common vision of what their Musical Primary School will be like. Joint goals and activities are then defined during a series of conferences. At the end of the two-year development phase, the school can apply for certification as a Musical Primary School, a designation which is initially valid for three years. This allows the school to demonstrate what it has achieved to the outside world.

Musical Primary School: Transfer and scaling

The Bertelsmann Stiftung first used the Musical Primary School project to develop a general approach that could be transferred to other sites, a pioneering effort launched in 2005 in cooperation with the state of Hesse's Ministry of Education. Since then, ongoing structural expansion has made it possible to cooperate with educational authorities and anchor the project in six other German states: Berlin, Bavaria, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, North Rhine–Westphalia and Schleswig–Holstein. Through targeted transfer and scaling, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has been able to ensure that this nationally unique program continues to have an impact.




Musical Primary School's sustainable impact


Musical Primary School has a sustainable impact. In light of their positive experiences while the project is running, more than 85 percent of participating institutions continue their development as Musical Primary Schools once the project ends. Findings from the project evaluation show that there is a positive impact on school atmosphere, learning conditions, organizational culture, teamwork among staff, and cooperation with partners outside of school.

Musical Primary School's successful track record

  • The program has been successfully transferred to seven German states.
  • Currently 415 schools are certified; 115 are still participating in the project.
  • Over 1,200 people at schools and extracurricular programs have been trained.
  • The program has reached 375,000 children.
  • Existing agreements ensure the program will keep expanding until June 2022.
  • State-level educational authorities are continuing the program's structural expansion.
  • Systematic public relations work has made the program widely known throughout the educational sector.


What others have to say about Musical Primary School

"Musical primary school in Hesse is vibrantly alive and is receiving attention and recognition throughout the state."
Prof. Alexander Lorz, Minister of Education, Hesse
"Through Musical Primary School, we have been able to reach children who would not otherwise have access to music education. This could result in more equitable educational opportunities. The program not only allows children to experience their own creativity, but cultural traditions from their native countries as well."
Karin Prien, Minister of Education, Schleswig–Holstein
"Musical Primary School offers schools the opportunity to explore and develop musical activities in their own way and in keeping with the needs of their students. At the same time, it is another important building block in Lower Saxony's music landscape and will play a key role in driving music education for our children."
Dr. Bernd Althusmann, former Minister of Education, Lower Saxony