NAfME Funds Research Projects on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Music Education

National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has funded two research projects to study important issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in music education. Educators at the University of Connecticut and University of Arizona are researching several aspects of music education.

Dr. James Byo, Chair of the Society for Research in Music Education (SRME) which issued the call for proposals and chaired the selection committee, speaks of the importance of these projects to move forward the teaching of music for all students. “By sponsoring research that documents the ongoing state of inclusivity, diversity, equity, and access in music education and illuminates context-specific challenges and best practices, NAfME as an organization demonstrates a commitment to acting on its support of social justice in music education.”

“At NAfME, we are working for the day that the many benefits of music education are present in the lives of all our students,” adds Mike Blakeslee, Executive Director and CEO for NAfME. “Our work needs to be guided by more and better information on which we can base long-term strategies for achieving music for all.”

The aim of the University of Connecticut awarded research project is to gather best practices for creating supports for universities and public school teachers to help students of color and students from urban areas to major in music and become music teachers. “We are conducting observations and interviews in urban schools to find out the perspectives and practices of teachers and students,” explains Dr. Abramo. “In music education research, there is much discussion about changing the music curriculum to be more inclusive of different types of music-making and of students of color, and how the current curriculum creates barriers to access. However, the research has not reached out to teachers and students in urban areas to gather their perspectives and experiences around this topic.”

“Our work needs to be guided by more and better information on which we can base long-term strategies for achieving music for all.”

When asked why Dr. Abramo and Dr. Bernard chose to focus their research on collecting first-hand information from urban music students and educators, Dr. Abramo replied, “Our ultimate aim is to contribute to the efforts of many educators who are trying to foster a more diverse music teaching workforce. Research has suggested that about 87% of music teachers identify as white. As our schools become more diverse, it is important that the music teacher workforce grows in diversity as well. Music teachers coming from a diversity of backgrounds will diversify and improve music instruction. A greater diversity of ways of knowing, types of music and music making, approaches, and perspectives will improve music education for all students.”

Dr. Jason Thompson of Arizona State University, along with his colleagues and doctoral students, are focusing their research project on community cultural wealth, an assets-based theory that identifies cultural resources that students and their families find valuable but may not be valued in school contexts. Through this grant, these researchers aim to explore the community cultural wealth that 13- to 18-year-olds in the Phoenix metropolitan region use to “do music” in three specific contexts: school music programs, community music programs, or on their own apart from any school or community organization.

Conducting research with young people doing music in contexts like schools, community programs, or on their own may provide useful information to music educators who often have interest in making music programs more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. In working towards this goal, Dr. Thompson adds that “members of the profession are beginning to better understand the landscape of young people who are included in and excluded from school music programs and music teacher education programs. Unfortunately, the profession lacks a theoretical knowledge base for mobilizing action because of a limited understanding of the community cultural wealth and practices of underrepresented and underserved populations.” Dr. Thompson and his research team believe that understanding how young people use community cultural wealth to “do music”, as well as where they face limitations, may help the profession develop more effective ways to bridge school and community partnerships and to create more inclusive musical opportunities during the school day for underrepresented and underserved young people.

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