What We're Teaching Music Teachers About Diversity: Viewing Cultural Diversity in Music Education Through a Hypervisible Lens


Jason D. Thompson, Arizona State University


Russ Biczo, Arizona State University


Don Adams, Arizona State University


Diana Clark, Arizona State University


Jennifer Hillen, Arizona State University


Krystle Wells, Arizona State University



In his analysis of syllabi for multicultural teacher education coursework, Gorski (2009) sought to determine what teachers were being taught about diversity. His analysis revealed that a majority of courses were designed to prepare teachers with pragmatic skills and personal awareness, but not to prepare them with the main tenets of multicultural education, such as critical consciousness and a commitment to educational equity. Gorskiís article provided a unique backdrop against which graduate students enrolled in a Cultural Diversity in Music Education course were able to ask: What are we teaching music teachers about diversity?


The interest in the topic of diversity has gained considerable attention within the context of music teacher education. A number of sessions related to diversity have been included in previous SMTE symposia, and at the 2015 Symposium on Music Teacher Education, an entire plenary session devoted to issues of diversity and inclusion was prominent (Conkling, 2016). Despite this increased interest, how these ideas are approached in courses specifically devoted to cultural diversity issues or infused into other courses across our curriculums remains questionable and minimal at best.


For fifteen weeks, we reviewed multiple data sources (e.g., academic texts, research studies, videos) with the intent of thinking about the ways these resources framed and conceptualized difference along lines of gender, race, sexual orientation, political ideology, to name a few. Although these labels have become a common way to categorize bodies of people and make sense of their distinctions, cultural theorist Stuart Hall (2009) argues that what matters most is not the differences themselves, but the meanings we assign them. An essential idea that framed our weekly meetings and discussions was the concept of hypervisibility, a type of visibility (e.g., invisible, hypervisible) where bodies are overly seen because they exist outside socially assigned spaces and expected norms. Often these bodies fall somewhere along the continuum of visibilities, and therefore the distinctions that exist between being seen (a positive observation) and being watched (a scrutinized view) are critical. These distinctions are paramount in how we are viewed as educators and how we view the students we serve.


The purposes of this session are two fold: (1) to uncover multiple ways that diversity education in the profession is enacted; (2) to provide a new model of exploring diversity through the concept of hypervisibility.




Conkling, S. W. (2016). Our Symposium Is Just Beginning. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 25(2), 3-7.

Gorski, P. C. (2009). What we're teaching teachers: An analysis of multicultural teacher education coursework syllabi. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(2), 309-318.

Hall, S. (1997). Cultural representation and signifying practices. London: Sage.