At present, instrumental music education, defined in this paper as the teaching and learning of music through wind bands and symphony orchestras of Western origin, appears embattled. Among the many criticisms made against instrumental music education, critics claim that bands and orchestras exemplify an authoritarian model of teaching that does not foster democracy. In this paper, I propose a theoretical framework by which instrumental music education may be conceived democratically. Since educational bands and orchestras have achieved global ubiquity, I theorize broadly for both the East and the West and draw on ancient Chinese philosophy and American pragmatism as sources of inspiration to construct the theory. This theory comprises a quintet of themes that emerge from a comparative analysis of key philosophical texts by Confucian and pragmatist philosophers, namely, the people, participation, equality, cooperation, and conflict. This paper aims to address critical issues in instrumental music education with respect to democracy, complement extant music education philosophies, and serve as a first step towards a transcultural philosophy of music education relevant to the interconnected world in which we live.