Why Black Lives Matter in Music Education: The Necessity of Racial Inclusivity in the Music Classroom


Amy B. Lewis, Michigan State University



With a music teaching population that is more than 86% white (Elpus, 2015) and the student population shifting from 80% white in 1970 to just over 50% white in 2009 (Salvador & Kelly-McHale, 2017; Orfield, Kuscera, & Siegel-Hawley, 2012), it is clear that music educators address racial inclusivity in music education. Scholars like bell hooks (1994) highlight the need to transform pedagogy in order to provide a more inclusive classroom. She states,

If the effort to respect and honor the social reality and experiences of groups in this society who are nonwhite is to be reflected in a pedagogical process then as teachers--on all levels, from elementary to university settings--must acknowledge that our styles of teaching may need to change. (hooks, 1994)


Drawing upon literature on inclusive pedagogy and racial inclusivity and guided by three Black Lives Matter guiding principles, this paper explores the necessity of racial inclusivity within music education.


Gaining national recognition as a hashtag movement in the wake of countless police brutality incidents, Black Lives Matter is a national organization with 13 guiding principles that promote progress and justice within the black community. Focusing on three of 13 guiding principles - diversity, restorative justice, and loving engagement - I use Black Lives Matter as a lens to foster racial inclusivity within music education. In many ways, music education must improve the way we promote justice and diversity in our profession.


In the current political climate, Black Lives Matter can provoke polarizing reactions and emotions. Structuring the three Black Lives Matter guiding principles at the beginning of this paper will provide a foundation for the supporting literature. I will then use examples from my secondary general music methods course as a practical model of how to assert racial inclusivity in music education. Drawing on multiple scholars, (Dei et al, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1998) this paper will establish the need emphasize racial inclusivity in music education for the benefit of our students and their future students.




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Dei, G. J. S. (2000). Towards an anti-racism discursive framework. In G. J. S. Dei & A. Calliste (Eds.), Power, Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education (pp. 23-40). Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.

Elpus, K. (2015). Music teacher licensure candidates in the united states: A demographic profile and analysis of licensure examination scores. Journal of Research in Music Education, 63(3), 314-335.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Koza, J. E. (2008). Listening for whiteness: Hearing racial politics in undergraduate school music. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 16(2), 145-155.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what's it doing in a nice field like education? Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7-24.

Salvador, K., & Kelly-McHale J., (2017). Music teacher educator’s perspectives on Social Justice. Journal of research in Music Education, 65(1), 6-24.