Social Justice in the Music Education Classroom

Music is a critical part of modern-day culture, shaping individuals’ relationships and behaviors. According to one article in the “Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,” “Listening to music is an emotional and educational experience that potentially shapes an individual’s values, actions, and worldview.”

In today’s diverse and interconnected world, promoting equitable and socially just practices in every educational setting is crucial. The music education classroom, in particular, holds a unique opportunity to foster social justice since music plays a pivotal role in shaping and reflecting cultural elements. There is a need to address the prevalent inequities within music education, stemming from the tendency to view students’ differences in race, culture, ability and gender as deviating from established norms and practices.

An online Master of Music in Music Education from Eastern Washington University (EWU) can improve a student’s knowledge of pedagogy and music instruction to be a teacher leader in classrooms and beyond. This online degree program prepares students to teach and lead at an advanced level by boosting knowledge of music best practices, cutting-edge approaches and research. Students will explore issues in social justice and critical philosophy, technological advances, teaching methods, strategies for music theory and composition and more.

Promoting Socially Just Practices in Music Education

There is a critical link between music and culture, and music education classrooms can serve as platforms for social justice. By recognizing the cultural significance of music and acknowledging the diverse background of students, music educators can take proactive steps to address inequities and foster an inclusive learning environment.

The first step involves understanding and appreciating the musical traditions and experiences of students from various cultural backgrounds. This requires educators to be open-minded by embracing a variety of musical genres and styles that represent their students’ diverse heritage.

New Music USA provides a valuable recommendation to incorporate the polystylistic approach in music education. This approach involves exposing students to a wide range of musical genres and styles with artists of different backgrounds. By introducing students to a diverse array of music, educators can challenge the notion of a singular, “normative” musical practice, opening opportunities for students to engage with and appreciate different cultural expressions. This fosters an understanding and respect for the rich musical traditions that exist globally, breaking down barriers and promoting social justice through inclusivity.

Another effective strategy recommended by New Music USA is the use of sampling and exploration of the blues. Sampling involves incorporating elements from various musical genres to create new compositions, encouraging creativity and innovation. This approach can be particularly empowering for students from marginalized backgrounds, as it allows them to find their voices and express their unique experiences through music. Exploring the blues, with its roots in African American history and culture, provides an opportunity to shed light on a communities’ historical injustices and struggles while celebrating its resilience and contributions to music.

To promote socially just practices in the music education classroom, educators must center their pedagogy around the needs and interests of their students. Doing so can create a safe and supportive space where students feel heard, valued and represented. This approach empowers students to explore their own identities and cultural backgrounds through music, enabling them to develop a sense of pride and ownership over their musical experiences.

How a Master of Music in Music Education Degree Can Help

Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Music in Music Education program equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to promote socially just music classrooms. Relevant courses such as Current Issues in Education offer insights into the challenges and opportunities for fostering inclusivity and social justice in educational settings, including music education. Similarly, the Transformation of Learning and Teaching course explores innovative pedagogical approaches that can be tailored to meet the diverse needs of students in the music classroom.

Graduates of this advanced degree in music education are equipped with the skills to promote music learning that is culturally aware. As Education and Career News notes, “Removing the barriers to music education allows all students to create something of beauty to share with each other and the world. This collaborative bond breaks down the walls of being different and creates a positive environment where students accept one another and support each other …”

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Music in Music Education program.

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