Harmonious Beginnings MTS

Archive for the ‘The”why” of music education’ Category

A Musical Chronicle of Sytematic Racism

Posted on June 29th, 2020 in Educator resource, The"why" of music education by |

Date:                   June 24, 2020

Bibliographical Information:

Stedman, Cameron (2018) “My Only Sin Is My Skin – A Musical Chronicle of Systemic Racism in the United States,” Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice: Vol. 3 : No. 1 , Article 13.
Available at: https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/rpj/vol3/iss1/13

Article Summary:

This article is more of a musical chronical that addresses systematic racism through a compilation of songs, liner notes, and research into racial inequality. As he reflects upon his student-teaching experience as a middle school band teacher and specifically his work with the jazz band. The band in the middle school where he student taught is all-white and, looking back, he discovered that he did not address race, at all, when jazz music offers many opportunities to address the topic of racial inequality. As he came across the work of Sensoy and DiAngelo, which discusses the difference between “multicultural’ and “antiracist” he realized that he missed an opportunity to educate these students about their white privilege. The context of his lessons may have even perpetuated racial inequalities by avoiding the topic altogether. His musical compelation included the following songs:

  • Is It Because I’m Black? -by Sly Johnson
  • Fables of Faubus– Charles Mingus
  • Strange Fruit– Billie Holiday
  • Black and Blue– Louie Armstrong
  • Living for the City– Stevie Wonder
  • Mississippi Goddam– Nina Simone



So much of Jazz music is really reflective of Black inequality, as perceived by Black musicians. The reimagining of traditional music rules, crossing boundaries, and reinventing band music in a way that had never happened before. The chords and harmonies use dissonance in new ways and symbolically reflect the dissonance happening in society, at the time. Of course, the Blues is a classic example of hardships experienced by slaves and dates back even further than jazz music. The songs chosen for Cameron Stedman’s album all contain lyrics, and so his liner notes have all the lyrics written out. In that way, his listeners can examine the lyrics apart from the music; more as a study of poetry- the meaning and weight of the words are absorbed and studied in a more impactful manner. It’s interesting that, as you look up these songs on YouTube and can watch a video of these iconic Black musicians, like Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday, performing on stage for all White audiences, you can see that the average Black person of the time was not allowed to attend concerts, if they could even afford tickets, and the performers had to enter and leave through the back door. The last important connection I would like to highlight is that, as I learn more about Hip Hop, and more specifically, the breakdown of the rhythms used by Hip Hop artists, they typically look to Jazz music for the foundation of their rhythm compilations, bringing Black history, social justice, and the Black Lives Matter movement to their work.

Considering Religion and Resistance

Date:                   June 23, 2020

Bibliographical Information:

Nguyen, Martin (2020) “Naming Resistance and Religion in the Teaching of Race and White Supremacy: A Pedagogy of Counter-Signification for Black Lives Matter,” Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice: Vol. 4 : No. 3 , Article 1.
Available at: https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/rpj/vol4/iss3/1

Article Summary:

In the article, Naming Resistance and Religion in the Teaching of Race and White Supremacy, Martin Nguyen discusses the relationship between religion and the Black Lives Matter movement. He discusses the concept of Signification and Counter-Signification, and the importance of naming specific terms and phrases that carry nuanced meaning for various groups of people. The term signification refers to “the ways through which a dominant group subjugates, denigrates and/or marginalizes another group” (p4). It is an eye-opening concept that lays out the tactics used by a dominant group in society to avoid the topic of inequality, steering discussion in another direction and preserving the system that supports their dominant position along with all the privileges. Colin Kaepernick’s protest by kneeling is great example sighted in the article. Critics of Kaepernick’s actions did not want to talk about the injustice done to Black members of society, but rather turned it into a debate about his patriotism. The bulk of the article covers the issue of religion and how it plays a role in white supremacy and the Black Lives Matter movement. Specifically, the connection of white supremacy to Christian supremacy and the implication that Christian equals American. Malcom X, like many of the forefathers in the fight against racial inequality, used the Nation of Islam as the counter-signifier to the white slave master religion of Christianity (p11). Their strength and pride came with a strong Islamic identity and helped to define their path of resistance against racial injustice.

Reflection on the State of the Content:

I was particularly interested in the religious aspect of this article because I struggle with the religious content in music. How do you keep God and state separate in a music class that studies composers whose compositions were based in their religion? As I search for Hip Hop music that is appropriate for a classroom, I find music that is riddled with swearing, gang violence and sexist imagery, but the alternative is Christian Hip Hop, which is another topic I feel is important to steer clear of in a public school. As I consider these ideas broached in the article about religion and its importance in the message of racial equality, I see that maybe religion is a topic I can cover with care and bring a more academic discussion of the roles religion plays in the creation of music. I also found the concept of signification and counter-signification an important distinction to make when discussing the topic; one that will help me to define the issues and discuss them thoroughly. After all, naming the terms and phrases that need to come to light in the era of Black Lives Matter is only half the task- if we don’t discuss them honestly and thoroughly, naming is only an empty gesture. 

Mindfulness in Early Childhood

Date:                   June 18, 2020

Bibliographical Information:

How a Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum Could Shape the Future? NICABM Retrieved June 8, 2020 from https://www.nicabm.com/mindfulness-how-a-mindfulness-based-kindness-curriculum-could-shape-the-future/

Article Summary:

The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) reviewed a study found in Developmental Psychology, volume 51, pp.44-51. The study came from UW-Madison in cooperation with the Center for Healthy Minds and they were researching the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based Kindness Curriculum on executive function self-regulation and prosocial behavior in preschool students. A control group of “wait list” students was compared to a group of students who received the Kindness Curriculum from a trained mindfulness teacher. Lessons included pictures books, music and movement that targeted skills like attention, emotional regulation and social skills like kindness towards peers. The preschoolers that received the mindfulness training were better at delaying gratification, cognitive flexibility, and sharing with peers. Students that were behind their peers in these categories showed the most improvement in the areas of social competence and executive function with the mindfulness training.

Reflection on the State of the Content:

I was very excited to find this review. I have been using the NICABM as a resource for trauma sensitive training and professional development. I also met a woman who worked at the Center for Healthy Minds several years ago at a meditation retreat who told me about the Kindness Curriculum. I was so interested in the curriculum, I signed up to receive the free downloadable curriculum and I have been using it for the last 2 years with the preschoolers I teach. The original study found in Developmental Psychology validates my curriculum choices as a preschool teacher and a music teacher. You can read it in it’s entirety here: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0038256  If you find that it can be difficult to sift through journal articles for the important take away information when you do not work in the field, this NICABM resource I cited at the top of the post can be easily shared with parents that are looking for the “why” behind methodologies like these. When I used the Kindness Curriculum, I tailored it to supplement my music lessons and my students understood how to calm their bodies and identify emotions. The more advanced students were able to put these methods into practice and make the connection between their emotional state and their behavior. It’s too bad the year was cut short due to covid19, because I could see that it was really starting to make a difference for some students, but the students who needed it the most were only beginning to get the hang of it all. It is a resource I will continue to use with my preschool students.