GUEST BLOG: "Choral Music Education as Social Justice Education," by Emily Pearce
Date: January 15, 2014
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.