For a practicing arts educator, the relationship between theory and practice is often unproblematic: theory is considered to be irrelevant for the good practice. Considering the matter from an academic standpoint, one faces the distinction between poietic, or productive, and contemplative, or responsive, mindsets stemming from the classical philosophical tradition. Still more confusing is the question of the relationship between theory and philosophy; one's theory seems to follow one's chosen philosophical commitment, even to a degree that advocates of different philosophical stances do not necessarily understand each others' conceptions of theory.
In this article,1 we examine the complex relationships between philosophy, theory and practice in music education. We shall begin with analysing different approaches to philosophy of music education. Proceeding towards more general conceptions of the relationship between theory and practice, we will examine the work of some of the well-known authors within the field of music education in order to pave way to a philosophical outlook that conceives the role of philosophy of music education as a form of cultural critique. The suggested alternative approach mediates between contemplative and poietic fields in pedagogical praxis. This guides us towards an understanding that considers theoretical concepts as philosophically loaded pragmatic tools that serve critical rationality embedded in practical action. From this standpoint there is indeed no need to cut theory apart from a good practice: both can be taken to serve the same master, philosophically informed way of living meaningfully.