The 2019 Conversation on Music Education
Revisiting Vision 2020:
Issues of Concern in American Music Education
Saturday, October 26th
Boston University College of Fine Arts
Prepared by Diana Dansereau and Ron Kos, Conference Co-Conveners
In organizing this gathering, we identified six areas where music education may be struggling to be progressive or even adequate: lifelong and lifewide learning, gender and sexuality inclusivity, cultural diversity, democratic education, poverty & displacement, and the relevance of its curricula. During her keynote address that opened the conference, Deb Bradley reviewed the Vision 2020 Housewright Declaration and problematized the statements within that document. As argued by Deb, these six shortcomings are actually evident within and indeed baked into the Housewright Declaration. The primary content of that document came in the form of 12 statements about music education and its evolution to that point in time. As Deb mentioned, those statements appeared under the heading “We agree that…”
Student volunteers attended the conference forums and took richly informative notes that they shared back with us. We reviewed their work, and compiled 12 statements or themes that emerged from our conversations today. To be clear, these do not fall under the heading “We agree that.” Instead, perhaps they fall under the heading “We notice that the following are deeply important to members of our community who are working toward change”:
- When striving for equity and inclusion in the classroom, the relationships we form with students may be more important than the repertoire or materials that we choose to use.
- Vulnerability and risk taking (for everyone) is a key ingredient in creating community.
- Narrowing definitions of terms or categorizations is exclusionary. For example, narrowing gender to a binary, or treating immigrants as a singular group with universal reasons for leaving their countries of origin.
- Diversity is intersectional – countless factors play into an individual’s experiences and life story. Many ways in which diversity is present in our schools and communities are overlooked.
- Working together, supporting one another, and functioning as learners is transformative. The music teacher is never the only source of music learning and it is incumbent on them to embody that principle.
- Musical learning and growth begin with the establishment of safe and supportive learning environments.
- Recognizing and addressing students’ previous traumatic experiences is necessary in actualizing musicality.
- The music of music education may still reflect an assumption that all people live in what has been called WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) societies.
- Inviting people to engage with us—rather than assuming they will want to engage or find our offerings compelling or relevant—is necessary for respecting participants’ positionings and creating equitable learning environments.
- Utilizing and honoring the musics that learners know and care about is an act of humanity and love. Treating children as musical blank slates is an erasure.
- Music can be used to bring people together, create community, and break down barriers.
- Everyone can be musical, but we do not get to choose the ways in which they are musical.
Thank you for engaging with us in conversation today.