Moving Forward…

Written by: Mitchell Robinson

Primary Source : Keep Talking, May 11, 2016

Photo Credit: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/020310/fea_558112953.shtml#.VzMlBmO8lVc
Photo Credit: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/020310/fea_558112953.shtml#.VzMlBmO8lVc

 

In the wake of the Michael Butera situation with NAFME, there has been a lot of discussion about matters of equity and inclusion. But this will be a missed opportunity if no action is taken. Here are a few ideas–please suggest yours in the comments below…

We need to make sure that our bands, orchestras and choruses “look like” the population of students in the schools in which they exist. That may mean providing instruments for students who can’t afford to rent them, subsidizing private lessons, etc.

There are still too many urban and rural students that do not have access to the same number and quality of music offerings that their peers in more affluent schools do–NAFME should make this a “talking point” in their advocacy materials and legislative work, and should be focused on addressing this kind of equity in their strategic planning.

I’d like to see NAFME, and state MEAs, sponsor scholarships for summer study for underrepresented minority students, provide free registration for solo and ensemble events for students from low SES schools, and encourage TriM chapters to identify and support minority students who are interested in becoming music teachers.

State MEAs should also look at their lists of “required solo and ensemble music” to make sure that black, Hispanic, women and LGBT composers are represented on these lists.

MEA festival coordinators should be encouraged to invite a diverse selection of guest conductors and clinicians to work with students at regional and all state festivals. These persons are often important mentors and role models for our students, and we need to make sure that our students “see” persons who look like them on podiums and in classrooms at these events. It is also important for “majority” students to have the opportunity to work with a more diverse array of guest conductors and clinicians, who often bring unique backgrounds and perspectives to their teaching.

NAFME and state MEAs should establish recruitment programs to identify promising young minority music teachers, and encourage these teachers to pursue leadership positions in their local, state and national music education associations.

There are also plenty of obstacles that need to be addressed in our college and university music programs in terms of audition procedures that make it more difficult for minority students to be accepted to these institutions to pursue music degrees.

This incident provides an opportunity for NAFME to take some serious actions to address the problems we are all aware of in our school music programs, and in higher education. As music teachers, we need to hold NAFME accountable for taking a leadership position in addressing these problems, and making this a priority in their planning moving forward.

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Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education, and coordinator of the music student teaching program at Michigan State University. Robinson has held previous appointments as assistant professor and coordinator of the music education area at the University of Connecticut; assistant professor of school and community music education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.; and director of wind activities and wind ensemble conductor at the University of Rochester. Robinson’s public school teaching experience includes 10 years as an instrumental music teacher, music department facilitator and high school assistant principal in Fulton, N.Y.