What is Culturally Relevant Vocal Pedagogy?
What is Culturally Relevant Vocal Pedagogy, and What are the Implications of its Absence in Primary School Music Classrooms?
The changing demographics in the U.S. are particularly evident in the K-12 population. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the population of white students was less than 50% of the total student population and will continue to decline until 2025, the last year for which projections are available. The growing cultural diversity in the U.S. is emblematic of a globalized and rapidly-changing world. Despite a rich abundance of linguistic and cultural diversity, American music education continues to be primarily Eurocentric. Students for whom the Western classical music tradition is irrelevant are lacking school music opportunities which “sustain” and celebrate their musical “funds of knowledge.” Paris (2017) and Ladson-Billings (2014) have advocated for a renewal of Ladson-Billings’ theory of culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) (1995). To account for the culturally fluid and hybrid nature of today’s world, Paris proposed culturally sustaining pedagogy (2012). This pedagogical approach, “support [s] young people in sustaining the cultural and linguistic competence of their communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence” (Paris, 2012, p. 95). Because music is intimately connected to a child’s culture, music education that does not recognize the musical competence of each student has the potential to negatively impact a child’s self-esteem.
music education that does not recognize the musical competence of each student has the potential to negatively impact a child’s self-esteem.
The discussion about equitable music education, particularly for students who are the most disenfranchised, would be inadequate without their voices. Therefore, the purpose of my study was to discover students’ perceptions of their music and vocal teaching in their general music classroom. Over the course of three months, I conducted interviews with fourteen fifth and sixth grade students and twice-weekly observations of their music classrooms. The two classrooms which I observed used two different pedagogical approaches which provided a means of comparison in my student interviews. The findings from this study revealed that for these students, music and family were inextricably linked. In addition, they valued the opportunity to express themselves with music, as it was tied closely to their identities. In comparing the two pedagogical approaches, student interviews and classroom observations revealed that CRP teaching has the potential to positively influence students’ identities. Surprisingly, culturally responsive vocal teaching played a large role in culturally responsive music teaching and positively influencing students’ vocal esteem. The findings from this study as well as interview data will be presented in further detail during the upcoming lecture hosted by Voicing Futures. In addition, possible implications for music and vocal education as well as further research directions will be discussed.