Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in the Music Classroom: Supporting the Development of Cultural Competence and Sociopolitical Consciousness in Future Music Educators

Ruth E. Gurgel, Kansas State University

Brigetta F. Miller, Lawrence University


Music classrooms in the United States experience disproportionately higher retention rates for students from upper socio-economic backgrounds, students who are white, and students whose parents have some years of college education (Elpus & Abril, 2011; Lundquist, 2002).  If these statistics demonstrate that music education is not serving all students well, how can teacher educators prepare their teacher candidates to reverse this trend, especially given that these teacher candidates were often successful in current school music models? Culturally Relevant Pedagogy has been shown to support academic achievement, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness in K-12 students in multiple academic subject areas, and this presentation explores the application of CRP in music education. 


Ladson-Billings (1994) defines Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) as a theory that includes 6 prongs: 3 pedagogical and 3 ideological.  Woven throughout this presentation will be examples of historically rooted pedagogies in music education and how they can work against CRP in today's classrooms. One of the presenters, a music educator who is a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) tribe, will share connections from her work in both K-12 and undergraduate music education.


This presentation will focus specifically on interviews with 7th grade music students from within a pluralistic music classroom. The presenters will compare the music students' perspectives with Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, identifying points of congruence. The 7th grade students self-identify in 4 racialized groups and sound bytes of their interviews will be played. The presenters will discuss how the students' ideas can be used to support and encourage cultural competence and sociopolitical competence in future music educators. The presenters will share global immersion experiences for undergraduate music education students as well as reflective activities and action-based strategies for use in student teaching. Topics covered include: body comportment in music classrooms, competitive vs. collaborative structures, musical achievement, popular music paradigms, and "world music."


This presentation will conclude by evaluating resources and strategies to bring Native American music into the classroom. The presenters will share authentic recordings, not yet published musical transcriptions of tribally specific lullabies and developmentally appropriate pedagogical practices designed to produce a "cross-cultural encounter [that] can be an active process of self-development” rather than a “passive act of cultural tourism" (Titon, 2008, p. 144).  The presenters will conclude by using the research to suggest ways in which teaching music from unfamiliar cultures can illuminate the fluid, ever-changing nature of humans throughout space and time.




Elpus, Kenneth and Abril, Carlos R. "High School Music Ensemble Students in the United States: A Demographic Profile," Journal of Research in Music Education 59 no. 2 (2011):128-45.

Ladson-Billings, Gloria. The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994.

Lundquist, Barbara R. "Music, Culture, Curriculum, and Instruction," in New Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning, ed. Richard Colwell and Carol Richardson, Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Titon, Jeff Todd. Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World’s Peoples. Belmont, CA: Schirmer Cengage Learning, 2008.