Statement on Contributions to Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Music Education is a wonderful opportunity for world music and cultures to be explored amongst young, growing artists. Music is an instinctual human creation, and there is so much to discover from regions and countries around the globe. Even within countries and regions there are multiple expressions of human life through music, which reflects politics, history, social interactions, art, and food just to name a few common themes. How can we as music educators become more comfortable and inclusive in our teaching of the many styles of music as reflected in cultures outside of our own?
Jennifer Mellizo shares some astonishing research: “Music education researchers Jui-Ching Wang and Jere T. Humphreys found that undergraduate music majors at a major university in the United States spent almost 93 percent of their time studying and performing music styles from the Western art tradition. In another study, music education researcher Roy Legette found that 99 percent of K–12 public school music educator participants (n = 394) believed culturally diverse music should be included in the curriculum, yet only 35 percent reported using multicultural music in daily lessons and concerts.” I have found this to be true in my circle of music educators, though we are open-minded and inclusive people who come from many different cultures. Perhaps it is the music education system that we too were brought through. Only within recent years have higher education music programs begun to acknowledge that there is more music to learn and perform outside of classical music. It is still difficult to find a masters in Vocal Performance or Vocal Pedagogy that offers specialization in Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM), which includes jazz, blues, rock, gospel, country, musical theatre, metal, pop, and other modern vocal techniques. I know of one program located on the other side of the country and so this is not an option for me until they offer a distance learning program, although I would love to obtain this degree. World music is offered through college coursework as electives. As a music teacher, I would like to go back and take many more of these courses now so that I can incorporate the content into my public school general ed music classes.
Every year that I teach, I learn about more songs and improve my inclusivity of world music. I am also learning and enhancing all aspects of my teaching practice the more hours I spend in the classroom. I still have a lot to learn about teaching world music, composition, music notation, music history, and music theory to children of all backgrounds and learning styles. My goal is to be the best music teacher that I can be, and I realize that this will be a lifelong journey.
This year, I taught a joyful song about Kwanzaa during the holidays, as well as a traditional holiday song (Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride) performed by an orchestra. I also taught a Hawaiian hula dance combination to the song “Mele Kalikimaka” and taught my students some Hawaiian words to practice speaking, while also giving them some background information about what my experience was like growing up in a big, Hawaiian family. I felt most comfortable teaching my own culture. I taught an Irish jig which felt comfortable as well because I have been teaching this musical and dance style for three years now. I taught some songs in Spanish this year, which was fun because I learned Spanish in school for 5 years and I have had a number of friends who I can practice speaking with. I also taught at a Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Spanish school in San Jose during my first year of teaching. I loved practicing my Spanish speaking with my school community! Some songs of other cultures I am uncomfortable teaching because I don’t know if they will be received well, and so I realize that I need to spend more time familiarizing myself with those songs and making sure that I really enjoy them sonically. If I don’t enjoy listening to the song, then I have a hard time teaching the song with the enthusiasm it deserves and I worry that the students will pick up on my lower level of passion for the song.
One value that I hold myself to a high standard to is keeping an open mind so that I may always hear the stories, music, and realities of other people. Everyone has a story, and if we keep an open mind and truly listen to each other, we learn so much and we feel heard.
I have a list of cultures that I still need to address in music class: Indian, Native American, Australian, and Japanese to name several. Every culture has their own children’s game songs that can be played in a circle. My goal is to introduce one circle game and song per month from a different country, and this practice will allow me the opportunity to introduce seven to nine more culturally inclusive pieces of music into my classroom per school year. I am finding some great resources to pull from for world music and games to use in the elementary school classroom, including Mama Lisa’s Circle Games from Around the World and Jay Sand’s All Around the World Interactive Music. I will also ask my students to teach the class any games or beloved childrens’ music that originate from their countries of origin as a future class project. I look forward to being a much more culturally inclusive music teacher than what the research shows regarding the average music teacher as I further learn and grow into my teaching practice.
Mellizo, Jennifer, “Music Education, Curriculum Design, and Assessment: Imagining a More Equitable Approach,”June 29, 2020, Music Educators Journal, National Association of Music Educators
Circle Games Around the World, Mama Lisa, https://www.mamalisa.com/?song_type=Circle+Game&t=e_type&id=474
All Around the World Interactive Music, Jay Sand, https://www.allaroundthisworld.com/listen/#.YE6fHJNKjGI