Community works towards these ideals to better represent and provide a quality music education to all students.
The first goal is to provide free and equal music education for all students (Bates, 2012). This includes access to high-quality instruments, private instruction from highly qualified teachers, free uniforms, funds for program-related trips, and transportation (Bates, 2012).
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Teachers need to revisit traditional music program structure to allow for beginning level instrumental and choral classes at multiple grade levels (Hoffman, 2013). Building relationships with music community members who can offer tutoring (during school) can enable more students to take private lessons (Hoffman, 2013). Teachers can downplay/eliminate types of competition often ingrained in music programs (seating, solos, solo/ensemble festivals) (Bates, 2012). Teachers need to take a critical look at the value of some of these practices. It is certainly important to keep what is valuable, but address it in a way that adds enrichment, not competition, and make sure any opportunities offered are equally accessible. Large-ensemble competitions and regional ensembles draw often unfair comparisons between schools and students (Bates, 2012).
A greater focus on more popular and less-expensive instruments can be beneficial as well (Bates, 2012). Orchestra is so much less expensive than band, yet orchestra programs almost always get cut before band programs, because band is such an American institution. Guitar, composition and popular music classes are other non-general music alternatives. These should be geared toward all students and not create a new form of tracking for students excluded from other ensembles (Hoffman, 2013).
Teachers need to understand and respect each student’s cultural background (Bates, 2012). Social class is a form of cultural diversity and we shouldn’t put deficit labels on students who come from different social/cultural backgrounds than our own (Bates, 2012). Teachers can acknowledge, attempt to understand, show appreciation for diverse musical preferences, and examine their own bias (Bates, 2012). Students can explore historical and social contexts and develop performance skills in their preferred music (Bates, 2012). In this way, all students gain access to diverse preferences and practices. Teachers need to understand what support students will need to be successful and continue to be involved in the music program (Hoffman, 2013).
Teachers should recognize the social forces that perpetuate poverty (Bates, 2012). We must examine the ways structural and procedural decisions about classroom music may influence curricular and co-curricular musical opportunities for students from low-income homes. Intersections between SES and music education (Hoffman, 2013). Bias are perpetuated by beliefs that low-income students are lazy, socially deviant or intellectually inferior (Bates, 2012). Many songs in music curriculum address struggles of low-income and working classes (Bates, 2012). Need to actually critically examine these songs with students though.
Being able to question requires having the knowledge or the access to knowledge of the way things are and the ability to develop ideas for creating change. Teachers and students need to develop the ability to enact change. The issues that Stevenson raises in Just Mercy stem from issues prevalent in American public education, as explained in Research Studies. These problems are just as relevant in music education as they are in other education programs. We cannot champion the arts as enabling creativity and music as the universal language unless these programs are observed with a critical lens. Doing so is vital to serving our community and saving the world as Bernstein called for.
Social Justice Towards Music Education. (2019, Apr 05).
Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from
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