In a recent blog post, Keryl McCord of Alternate Roots alleged abhorrent behavior on the part of of the Executive Director and CEO of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) during the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) meeting on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in the Arts on April 26, 2016. As leaders of the Cultural Diversity and Social Justice Area of Strategic Planning and Action (a committee of the Society for Music Teacher Education [SMTE], which is an arm of NAfME dedicated to music teacher education and certification), we unequivocally denounce this alleged behavior. Further, although some may believe that this is a single, unfortunate error, we believe that it is a symptom of deeper, ongoing issues in an organization that saw equity and inclusion as “important objectives and directions that did not make the cut” for its 2011-16 strategic plan [Glenn Nierman, in a 12/5/14 letter to this ASPA]. It is our hope that the current incident presents an opportunity for NAfME to address ongoing issues, within and beyond NAfME, that have led to this challenging moment.
As the Area of Strategic Planning and Action specifically devoted to cultural diversity and social justice in the field of music education, we expect the leadership of NAfME to embrace efforts such as the April 26 meeting led by the NEA to engage in serious dialogue about Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, and to support other organizations in doing the same. According to Ms. McCord and others who attended the meeting, however, the executive director of NAfME abruptly left the room, effectively vacating our seat at the table. This action is completely unacceptable. Rather than acknowledging and addressing the systemic issues that perpetuate the lack of diversity in institutional music education, this action sent a message suggesting that the body of music educators in the United States is satisfied with the status quo. This message is antithetical to the values that we hold as music educators deeply committed to equity.
If any of Ms. McCord’s allegations are corroborated, we believe that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for NAfME to repair the damage to its reputation as long as the current Executive Director remains in place. We need an Executive Director who acknowledges systemic issues of access, racism, and classism in music education. Further, the Executive Director must possess the knowledge and communication skills necessary to discuss these issues, and lead NAfME, indeed, the United States, in the effort to prioritize these issues. Our ASPA therefore supports the recommendations made by the Policy ASPA, the Social Sciences SRIG, and the faculties at Arizona State University and Michigan State University that NAFME (1) investigate these allegations, (2) make recommendations for sustainable and measurable diversification of both NAfME’s EB and also music education as a whole, and (3) mandatory diversity training.
As a group within NAfME that is deeply committed to social justice and equity work, the CDSJ ASPA has the expertise to support the organization by offering assistance with the following actions: (1) Establishing and implementing a strategic plan for addressing issues of equity and inclusion in NAfME’s organizational structures and in music education as a whole, (2) Offering specific expertise toward the design of conferences, workshops, policy research and other materials, and (3) Suggesting other organizations to assist NAfME in the journey to being a more inclusive and welcoming profession and organization. Whatever the outcome of the investigation into the recent events, the dialogue raised on social and other media gives us a clear imperative to act. Music teachers, programs, and students will look to us and judge our inclusiveness, relevance, and effectiveness on the basis of our response in moments such as these. The SMTE Cultural Diversity and Social Justice ASPA stands ready to assist NAfME in actions that increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in music education.
The Cultural Diversity and Social Justice Area for Strategic Planning and Action
Juliet Hess, Carol Frierson-Campbell, Amanda Soto, co-facilitators
(Others wishing to sign this statement may do so via the CDSJ Facebook Page)