Marginalized Voices in Music Education: A Meta-Analysis of Case Studies from Across the Nation     


Brent C. Talbot, Gettysburg College

Sandra Stauffer, Arizona State University

Margaret Schmidt, Arizona State University

Karin Hendricks, Boston University

Colleen Sears, The College of New Jersey

Darrin Thornton, The Pennsylvania State University

Vanessa Bond, University of Hartford

Don Taylor, University of North Texas


In Who We Be: The Colorization of America, Jeff Chang claims that cultural changes surrounding the civil rights movements of the 1960s were equally important in transforming American society as the legal ones; and that both faced a sustained hostile response that continues today. According to Chang (2014), multiculturalism challenged the American identity of who we thought we were and eventually who we were aspiring to be. It was a time when university battles raged over whether the Western canon should continue to be elevated, or imagined outside the politics of racial and patriarchal hierarchies. Over the decades to follow, powerful counterattacks were launched and many understood that the battles over culture were high-stakes. Chang writes, “The struggle between restoration and transformation, retrenchment and change, began in culture.” So, what is our culture? Who we really be? We explore this question by looking at marginal statuses in music education as a means to critique prevailing assumptions and paradigms in order to expand notions of who we think we are and who we want to become. As Benedict (2007) contends, “Naming our reality brings power to a margin made ephemeral; one in which we exchange delimited lines for spaces of possibility” (34).


This research examined multiple cases of individuals who have experienced marginalization in music education across the United States. In a coordinated effort, eleven researchers from ten institutions each identified one participant with whom to conduct a case study about their experiences regarding marginalization and privilege in music education. The eleven cases included stories of overcoming issues of physical ability, being the recipient of misogynistic behavior, the daily struggle of institutional racism, coming out as a preservice teacher, classist assumptions made by professors, the challenges of giftedness, not having a place for one’s musical interests outside the large ensembles, negotiating cross-cultural identity, and being “the only one.”


Once the eleven case studies were completed, each researcher and participant then sent their stories/narratives to one researcher, who drew from approaches in discourse analysis (Blommaert 2005, 2010, 2013), to conduct a meta-analysis of all eleven cases. This meta-analysis illustrates the diversity that exists within the fabric of American music education, not to provide a grand narrative of “otherness;” but instead, to reveal the patterns of our kaleidoscope and to share the diverse stories that is the struggle for inclusion in our field. As Stauffer (2012) comments, “We have a professional responsibility to help [people] know that they are not alone, and to help them make these stories of music education present in the educational imaginary…we should tell stories of self-making, of re-making and replacing ourselves (p. 11). Through this telling we strive to disrupt the stories created for others and recast music education as fertile ground for transformation, experimentation, and renewal.     




Abrahams, F. (2005). The application of critical pedagogy to music teaching and learning. Visions of Research in Music Education, 6. Retrieved from

Benedict, C. (2007). Naming our reality: Negotiating and creating meaning in the margin. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 15(1), 23–35.

Blommaert, J. (2005). Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blommaert, J. (2010). The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blommaert, J. (2013). Ethnography, superdiversity and linguistic landscapes: Chronicles of complexity. Multilingual Matters: Bristol, UK.

Chang, J. (2014). Who We Be: The Colorization of America. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Stauffer, S. (2012, June). Trading places: Transformation in progress in the lives of music educators. Paper presented at the MayDay Group Colloquium 24, East Lansing, MI.