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GUEST BLOG: "Choral Music Education as Social Justice Education," by Emily Pearce

CHORAL MUSIC EDUCATION AS SOCIAL JUSTICE EDUCATION, by Emily Pearce
 
As a current student of Music Education, I am immersed in Social Justice Education: teaching students about equal rights, respect for all, and unity in diversity. These are central aspects of my courses work, but also inherent in the work we do as Choral Music Educators.
 
We teach our singers about balance, blend, and hearing each other; and about sharing a vision and working together to make it come alive. We teach them that every voice matters, and each unique colour is essential to our "pallet".
 
When I was 16 I worked with Geoffrey Boers, and he said that choir is the only place where we come together and share something totally unique to us, our voice, with a group of people whose names we may not even know. To me, sharing something so personal, that is totally unique to you, and being accepted, celebrated, and valued for that contribution: this is Social Justice.
 
We are not just teaching our singers about balance, we're teaching them that everyone must be heard equally. When we teach blend, we teach that it is our colours coming together that creates the perfect tone - there should be no single colour heard over the others.
 
Singing together crosses all boundaries of race, sexuality, ability, religion, gender, and even language. Youth in high school are in a developmental stage where their sense of self is growing, changing, and fragile. I believe it is imperative that youth have a place where they can develop and feel valued and celebrated during this time.
 
Furthermore, as we honour the work that is done in our space, we must hold ourselves and our singers accountable for living that work in our daily lives.
on January 15, 2014 6:21am
Beautiful post!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 15, 2014 3:30pm
Hi Emily,
 
Didn't know we were social engineers all along. I think we sing because we love to and can take pride in the fact that we are doing "God's work" while enjoying the talents He gave us. We may have only cracked the book onthe values of our blessed art as we persuade others to listen. If our music strives for "truth" and "freedom," others might believe and also feel free.That would be true justice, I think Then, "social justice" is a natual bi-product
 It is good to know that you and others realize that we are already doing what is ideal for society's good.                            
 
Do you think that most every other subject can be injected into
a good choral rehearsal? Think Math (from day one learning to count Music is Math, eh!), History (what was Mozart doing during our War for Independence?), Social Studies (well said by you), Geography (music of this and that country) Language/Literature (texts, libretti, learned in several languages) and on and on.
 
Thanks for making us think, Emily
 
Edward Palmer D.M.A.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
on January 19, 2014 9:43pm
Emily,
 
it is so thrilling to see a music education student make the connection between building skills and building relationships in a musical ensemble. Since this idea excites you, I think you would be interested in the work of Jose Antonio Abreu, who established the student orchestra movement in Venezuela known as "El Sistema", and of Shinichi Suzuki, whose work in violin pedagogy (and its subsequent transfer to other instruments by Suzuki's colleagues) led to a new philosophy of music education.
 
 Señor Abreu has given a TED talk, and his star student, Gustavo Dudamel (now music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) contributed video to TED of Venezuelan youth orchestras with Dudamel on the podium. 
 
 
  Suzuki's autobiography, "Nurtured by Love", discusses his desire to find a way to bring children and parents together after they had been separated by WW2, and to bring some beauty into their lives after the horror of war. He believed that if young people spent their time discovering the artistry and passion of composers and other musicians, they would develop a deep respect for all people. After hearing a concert by Suzuki's students, who filled a hall to play a Vivaldi violin concerto together in unison -- a sort of violin choir, if you will -- the renowned Brazilian cellist Pablo Casals said "it may be music that will save the world".
 
 
You are right, that so much can be learned through the experience of singing in a choir, so I though you could draw inspiration from these instrumental teachers who shared your goal of teaching social justice through music.
 
NC