Season 3: Ep. 5: Constructing an Activist Music Education with Dr. Juliet Hess
Drawing upon the input of 20 activist musicians, Dr. Juliet Hess wrote a book about building curricula that support noticing, naming, and coming to voice. Building from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Hess offers a curriculum that asks students to construct songs, discuss soundscapes, and notice and name the structures that surround our expressions of music. Exploring the lessons of Jason Hwang, Lise Vaugeouis, and Teresa Vu and Taiyo Na of the Magnetic North Band, we enter profound lessons that seek to hold space for student voices in music education curricula.
Keywords: Freire, Activist, Activism, Social Change, Justice, Anti-Racist, Music Education, Songwriting, Noticing, Naming, Voice
Juliet Hess is an associate professor of music education at Michigan State University, having previously taught elementary and middle school music in Toronto. Her book, Music Education for Social Change: Constructing an Activist Music Education, explores the intersection of activism, critical pedagogy, and music education. Her second book, Trauma and Resilience in Music Education: Haunted Melodies, is an edited volume co-edited with Deborah Bradley. Juliet received her Ph. D. in Sociology of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include anti-oppression education, trauma-informed pedagogy, activism in music and music education, music education for social justice, disability and Mad studies, and the question of ethics in world music study.
This conversation opened in response to her recently released resource, Constructing an Activist Music Education: A 6-12 Curriculum and her accompanying Text, “Music Education for Social Change: Constructing an Activist Music Education.”
Hess speaks of a call to noticing, naming, and coming to voice. How might this call be lived out within your work and pedagogy?
Hess also warns against “dogmatic certainty” that can sometimes accompany activism and activist approaches. How can well-intentioned approaches become harmful if they are not accompanied by humility and a culture of continuous questioning?
How do we build spaces that challenge us to do better while also allowing room to mend brokenness when we slip?
Describe how Freire’s practice of naming the world is a process of literacy. How does this reinscribe new relations between teacher/student.
After looking through Hess’ curriculum, what are some powerful practices of “coming to voice”? How might we hold more intentional space for student voice in music classrooms?
Vaugeois’ set of questions ask us to move deeper to examine presences and absences in music. How might we engage imaginations to wonder about what could be while examining what is?
The album by Taiyo Na, Teresa Vu and the Magnetic North Band is partly a journey in examining what it means to belong. After listening to this album or examining the video, how does this music explore the complexity of belonging and lowering barriers to belonging?
Hess notes that after sitting with voices, it became clear that songwriting should be central within music education curricula. How might songwriting become more deeply embedded within music curricula? How is songwriting a practice of naming, noticing, and coming to voice?
Hess encourages a culture of questioning in which students notice ideologies shaping encounters, recognize lived conditions, and move to action. She names an analysis of music videos as an entry point to this culture of questioning. What other entry points might facilitate a culture of questioning?
Examine the musical cartography lesson from Hess’ text. What lessons might this activity hold for you and your community?
1:58 Introduction to Critical Pedagogy
4:03 Dangers of Dogmatic Certainty
6:51 Power of Dreaming
7:59 Introducing Activist Musicians
9:52 Jason Hwang
10:33 Lisa Vaugeois
12:54 Theresa Vu
14:53 Taiyo Na
16:30 How Voices Have Changed You
19:27 Introducing the Curriculum Text
23:06 Honoring Lived Experiences
25:20 Noticing Ideologies
29:20 Courageous Conversations
30:31 Introducing a Lesson
32:50 Reciprocity and Generosity
Giroux, H. A., & Giroux, S. S. (2004). Take back higher education: Race, youth, and the crisis of democracy in the post-Civil Rights era. Palgrave Macmillan.
Hess, J. (2019). Music education for social change: Constructing an activist music education. New York, NY: Routledge.
Hess, J. (2022). Constructing an activist music education: A 6-12 curriculum. Funded by Agrigento. Available at https://www.julietlhess.com/curriculum.html
Vaugeois, L. (2009). Music as a practice of social justice. In E. Gould, J. Countryman, C. Morton, & L. Stewart Rose (Eds.), Exploring social justice: How music education might matter (pp. 2-22). Canadian Music Educators' Association.
Wargo, J. M. (2018). #Soundingoutmysilence: Reading a LGBTQ youth’s sonic cartography as multimodal (counter)storytelling. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 62(1), 13-23. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaal.752
Juliet Hess' Website: https://www.julietlhess.com/
Magnetic North and Taiyo Na: https://homewordsound.com/
Lise Vaugeois' Website: http://vaugeois.info/bio/
Jason Kao Hwang Website: https://jasonkaohwang.com/
Article on Teresa Vu: https://www.growthfromfailure.com/podcast/theresa-vu
University of Toronto Ethics of Songs Project: https://ethics.utoronto.ca/the-ethics-of-songs/
Home:Word Magnetic North & Taiyo Na
Jason Hwang - Human Rites Trio
University of Toronto: The Ethics of Songs Project
HessPodcast - 4:5:22, 3.20 PM
Tue, 4/5 3:23PM • 37:20
music, curriculum, pedagogy, education, Freire, students, noticing, activist, musicians, book, people, hess, experiences, opportunity, peacebuilding, interviewed, ideologies, lise, community, create, introduce
Juliet Hess, Kevin Shorner-Johnson
Juliet Hess 00:00
We are working alongside a lot of different people who are trying to, to, you know, create an anti racist pedagogy that is intersectional and embracing across identities and there are so many missteps that are possible in this work and you know what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another person. So we really need to kind of be in that space of knowing that we haven't possibly got it right.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 00:26
You're listening to season three of the music and peacebuilding podcast, a professional development network at music peacebuilding dot com, exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness, community, creativity and imagination through research and story. Juliet Hess is an associate professor of music education at Michigan State University, having previously taught elementary and middle school music in Toronto. Her book, music education for social change. constructing an activist music education explores the intersection of activism, critical pedagogy, and music education. Her second book, trauma and resilience in music education haunted melodies is an edited volume co edited with Deborah Bradley. Juliette received her PhD in sociology of education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include anti oppression, education, trauma informed pedagogy, activism and music and music, education, music education for social justice, disability and mad studies, and the question of ethics in world music study. This conversation opened in response to her recently released resource, constructing an activist music education, a six through 12 curriculum, and the accompanying text published by Routledge press, her curriculum text was funded by a generous grant from Agrigento.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 01:58
So I'll start with the first question. So I really enjoyed reading your book. And very much notice the way that it's grounded in Freirean critical pedagogy, which you really open up at the beginning of the book. So for listeners who are not as familiar with Freirean critical pedagogy, will you introduce us to this call to noticing naming and coming to voice that you introduce in this book?
Juliet Hess 02:20
Yeah, absolutely. So I think, you know, noticing is rooted in noticing the conditions that shape our lives. Freire describe this process is like conscientization, or a coming to consciousness. So to just really recognize the ideologies that circulate in the things that kind of shape the conditions that you experience, and Freire describes this process as naming the world. So his early work on literacy, describes the process of literacy as what he called reading the word of the world. His literacy work explicitly tied literacy practices to the world surrounding the students. And he didn't even think of students necessarily as students in that kind of traditional hierarchical power situation. But he, he referred to the teacher, as a teacher/student, as someone who also learns from students and students, as students/teachers, as in their capacity to teach the teacher. So then the coming to voice piece, it involves students asserting their perspectives about the conditions that shape their lives. But it also is just an expression of asserting your views into the world about issues that are important to them. So it's learning to kind of develop that ability to assert yourself. So I write in the book about developing a practice of critique within a culture of questioning. And that, for me, is one of the key goals of education. And it's not indoctrination as the anti critical race theory folks seem to fear. But it's, you know, teaching critical thinking in a way that students can be discerning and formulate views for themselves, which I think is, you know, at the forefront of like the things that we need to be doing right now.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 04:03
Then, at the same time, that you're embracing these words, like liberation, you're very much also offering a warning against the very dogmatic certainty of implementation. So will you speak to why an awareness of problems of dogmatic certainty are really important when you're constructing an activist music education?
Juliet Hess 04:24
Yeah, absolutely. It's such a good question. I mean, I think, at the moment that we as educators feel like we have something figured out is that that's the exact moment that we slip. So pedagogy is relational. So there's no certainty the ground is always shifting and it should shift. So dogmatic pedagogy, like dogmatic activism is for me when people get hurt. So there's no room in that for nuance necessarily. And it can miss really complex intersections of identity. It doesn't it doesn't see gray area. So as Foucault writes, and I use this to start one of my chapters. he writes, My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So implementing a pedagogy rooted in activism is absolutely dangerous, and in more ways than one. So at the most basic of levels, the legislation that we are seeing being implemented around the country, opposing critical race theory, or so called divisive concepts, such as whiteness and white privilege, or queerness, means that it's quite literally dangerous to teach from an activist frame. So that's a real and present danger. The danger that I write about in the book, however, is more from a critical perspective, like how things can go wrong based on what I'm proposing. So I put forward kind of three pedagogies in the book, a pedagogy of community and a pedagogy of expression, and a pedagogy of noticing, and each of them refracts in very particular ways. You know, I want to look at all of the ways that those things can also go wrong when we implement them. Because keeping in mind, things that don't work is also really important. So, for example, in a pedagogy of community, like how the wish to connect to groups beyond your own personal experience could maybe lead to exoticism. So that's not a very helpful outcome. But on another note, I think the times when we slip also provide opportunities for mending. So I think there's a strong tendency that is particularly communicated to young teachers, that we shouldn't own it when we mess up in the classroom, but we should absolutely own it, and do the work necessary to repair any damage. I mean, of course, it's better if damage does not occur, but doing the work to repair any missteps, I think goes a long way to mending relationships. And I think, you know, embracing uncertainty means that you're going to be doing some mending.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 06:51
Hess notes the power of dreaming within Freirean pedagogy. She states quote, when we imagine a possible future that moves beyond the mechanical repetition of the present, something more becomes possible in a refusal of automatic reinscription. Freire centers the agency inherent and dreaming, the ability to make change and create a different possible future. He Grounds this notion firmly in reality, rather than pointing naively to some kind of causal relationship between dreaming and change, he notes that without dreaming, change remains impossible. This dreaming then does not result in top down imposition upon others. But a bottom up Relational Approach, rooted in love, hope, care, and optimism. Instead of working from a deficit perspective, Hess notes that an ethic of quote, uncertainty may help educators enact critical education in a way that honors the full humanity of students.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 07:59
Okay, so as we move to your newest text, you you grounded in the narrative of the 20 activist musicians who and there's a quote from you hold a range of different identities in terms of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, immigration, age, geography, religion, spirituality and disability. So I want to invite you if you want to introduce us to some of these people's stories that you bring into the book that really ground your narrative.
Juliet Hess 08:27
So I wanted to highlight the work of all of the activist musicians because I think they're incredible, but I realized that that's impossible. So I thought I would highlight a few folks whose ideas really heavily influenced the curriculum. Jason Hwang was a he was 58 when I interviewed him, and this was back in 2014. He describes himself as an independent artist, violinist and composer. He's Chinese American, originally from Illinois and living in Jersey. And Jason wrote and performed jazz new... and new and world music and his music fuse, fuses western and eastern sounds, and draws really innovatively upon Chinese traditional instruments. He worked regularly in schools as a teaching artist when I interviewed him. And one of the things that he did when he was teaching in Harlem, which really struck me was he created chants for the young students that he was working with. And these chants like really served as affirmations. So affirming, for example, like that many of the students were multilingual. So he thought it would just be a good idea if that affirmation was running through their heads as they were kind of going throughout their day. So as a result of his work, creating affirming chants is part of the curriculum, and other elements of Jason's work with young people are also in the curriculum, and I really was grateful for the things that he put forward when we got to be in conversation.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 09:51
Jason Hwang notes that his compositions or narrative landscapes through which Sonic beings embark upon extemporaneous, transformational journeys. In the liner notes to his provocative album, The Human Rights trio. Hwang writes that, quote, The psychic intensity both sacred and sacrificial, provokes a heightened awareness that unifies listeners and musicians within a spiritual entrainment. As we hear ourselves within music, we become music, which is no longer a performance, but an affirmation of justice, and celebration of life.
Juliet Hess 10:33
The second person who I want to introduce is Lise Vaugeois. She was also 58 When I interviewed her and is a musician, scholar, composer, educator, and activist, and she's from Thunder Bay, Ontario. And she self identifies as a white Canadian with Italian and French heritage and her doctoral work in music education, which is beautiful work focused on colonization and indigeneity. In Canada and western classical music's complicity in colonial violence. It's really important work. So some time ago, she created a tool called musical life histories. And musical life histories is a series of questions that allow someone to kind of excavate like the histories of different musics. So the questions are extremely critical. And they encourage us to think about both presences and absences and music. So the absences for me is really key. So asking, for example, who engages in this music and who does not? So I think, you know, asking the series of questions that she put forward in that 2009 article, really help us to think about where musical practices come from, and who participates and who doesn't, and what kinds of spaces they're in. And some of the power dynamics that are embedded really, you know, it really gets it power when you go through the series of questions. So I think they really help us get to the heart of how different musics are practiced. And that's also included in the curriculum and in the book as well, thanks to Lise allowing me to do that.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 12:03
In my heavily highlighted copy of Hess' book, one of my favorite sections is the reprint of Lise Vaugeois' was guiding questions. Vaugeois asks about performance regulations, who is allowed in and who is kept out who profits and how, and encourages a critical examination of lyrics. She asks, are lyrics significant to this music? What languages are used? Why these languages and not others? What are the lyrics about? How are gender race and classes represented? Why are genders races classes present or absent? In questioning what is and wonderings about what could be, we might embark on journeys to lower barriers to full belonging.
Juliet Hess 12:54
The third activist musician that I want to introduce you to is T Vu, Teresa Vu. She was 32 when I interviewed her and is Vietnamese American, and she grew up on the West Coast. She's a computer programmer and a hip hop artist living in New York City and her group magnetic north created the album Home Word, which explores issues of Asian American identity in the 21st century. So T Vu saw music as a way to educate listeners on political issues, and also organized benefit concerts to raise awareness and funds for issues affecting Asian American populations in particular, and they've got a concert upcoming soon in New York City. So I just like so many of T Vu's ideas, made it into the curriculum. So she talks about the way that she demystified music for her younger cosmic cousins by like showing them the kind of four chord song like, you know, the idea that many pop songs use the same four chord structure. And once you kind of break away that mystery, it allows you to write music in a way that you maybe were intimidated to do so before. She also talks about how covers that change the meaning of the original song are really interesting to her. And also about the way mashups can put two contradictory songs in conversation. So these ideas are all a part of the curriculum. I thought so much of what she said was so explicitly pedagogical, and I really wanted to draw on that. So one of the things she said in the interview, and I think this is just really interesting for us to think about, she said, sometimes it's like Mary Poppins saying medicine needs sugar. Sometime messages need these flowing, beautiful instrumentals just to get through to you. It can be a lot to take in, but music can be that kind of sugar to just open your mind. And I love that. And it also really makes me think that perhaps music is the vehicle to communicate some of these hard truths to people.
Juliet Hess 14:46
The last activist musician who I want to introduce you to is Taiyo Na, he was 31 when I interviewed him and he's a Hip Hop artist in New York City. He describes himself as an Asian American male, he centered community in his work and explored identity, in his music and his education focused on African and Asian Pacific American Studies, and subsequently inclusive education. So at the time of the study, Taiyo was performing regularly and also taught high school English. So I just so appreciated how Taiyo talks about community. So when he was talking about creating community, musically, he shared and this is a quote from him, jamming vibing and improvising with a group of people musically theatrically, that's the practice of community, you have to listen to each other. And make sure that people have their solo space or lecturing space, but at the same time, fall back and listen to places where everybody can participate. So that idea was just fundamental to the curriculum, and many of the community based lessons really orient around that idea.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 15:54
The inspirations of T Vu and Taiyo Na, can be found in the magnetic north band, and the inspirations of the home word album. So many of these songs explore the cartography of belonging, challenging the racism and hate leveled against Asian American communities, noting long histories of Asian American communities and villainization, this album is a call to the abolition of suffering, and the embrace of belonging, a home, that is a light within.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 16:30
I'm just curious, after having read that book, I'm sure that you sat with those voices for a long time. And everything that there was to teach you in that. How has your approach to preparing and developing music teachers changed as a result of sitting with these voices for such a long time?
Juliet Hess 16:49
I mean, I think, you know, one of the key things that came out that was, I mean, maybe not surprising, given who I interviewed, but maybe unexpected given what we typically do in music education was that when, when it came to discussing pedagogy, 18 of the 20 people that I interviewed, were like, songwriting needs to be part of curriculum, and that it was just so simple. I feel like the kind of composition and writing music is so often just completely absent from curriculum. I mean, it's so clear, given the fact that they write music, and that that, of course, would be part of how we express our experiences. But I think, you know, so often in music, education, we, we choose other paths. So I think that that was really important. I ended up writing about this, too, was that, you know, identity politics is often a big part of the music that you make. You know, it's interesting kind of how identity plays in to what we talk about. And, you know, the way our positionality really positions us to speak about particular issues. So I think that that was another interesting thing. And, you know, it was also both interesting to to see how people took up the idea of community and being with people through music, and also that kind of third pedagogy noticing, figuring out how, you know, how do we mobilize what we do in music class, to help people notice the ideologies that shape their existences and all of that as possible. So I think sitting with the data was super valuable. Like, when people ask me, like, I mean, I tell people, like I wrote that book five times, I wrote it in its entirety three full times and then gutted each of the chapters and additional two times on their own. Because there were just so many ways to kind of think through what people were saying. I think ultimately, the arrangement of it made some pedagogical sense that there was just really so much to consider. The conversations were so fruitful and valuable. And I so respect everything that folks had to say. I mean, you know, just introducing you to those four activist musicians as it just barely scratches the surface, you know, like there's, there's so much more to those conversations and to what, you know, what these folks bring to their music and to the world. And I, I'm in awe and respect.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 19:26
So let's pivot to your curriculum text that's recently come out that you're providing for free from your website is kind of a what I interpret as a gift to the profession. Maybe before I asked you this question about students lived experiences could you introduce like, what grade levels this curriculum text is for and your intentions about how this curriculum text might be used? Just to introduce teachers to it?
Juliet Hess 19:51
Yeah, absolutely. So I had originally kind of envisioned a K 12 text, but as I was working through activities, I realized that it's more geared towards middle school high school. And the activities are certainly adoptable to do at different levels within the six to 12 age range, but also for, you know, can certainly be adopted to elementary as well, you know, just choosing different things and doing activities from different angles. It's not meant to be like the sum of a year's curriculum, but activities that kind of integrate within your own program, thinking through where some of these things might fit, in alignment with your own goals for your classroom. And it really does follow the pedagogies that I outlined in my book. So the first section is on a pedagogy of community, which, in the book, I talked about a pedagogy of community being composed of three components. And the first component was, you know, building communities. So connecting people locally, so within your classroom, community building community, as you know, together as an ensemble, I use the word ensemble meaning like, from the French like meaning together, so how we learn to be together. And the second component of that pedagogy was connecting to histories. So that is things like Lise Vaugeois' musical life histories, and thinking about how we connect to the different traditions that musics are from, and honoring that within our classrooms. And then the third component I didn't really take up in the curriculum, I still don't like what I called it, I called it connecting to unfamiliar others. And what I mean by that, or what I meant by that, was that sometimes doing a particular music allows you to connect to a group that you haven't actually encountered in your life. So the group behind the music is beyond your personal experience. And I think that there's a lot of value in that. But I think that was almost impossible to create for a curriculum, because there's so much out there already that introduces different musics. You know, I didn't want to kind of pick a few musics that might be, you know, I think the music's that you introduce into your classroom are really specific to who you are in a lot of ways. So I wrote a little bit of text on it in the curriculum, but didn't actually enact some lessons on it. Then the second component of the curriculum is a pedagogy of expression, which I actualized as both honoring and sharing lived experiences. So there are ways to do both in the curriculum. Then the third facet is a pedagogy of noticing. So I have lots of possibilities for the noticing ideology section, which is the first facet of a pedagogy of noticing. And then the second facet is about recognizing the lived conditions that you're experiencing. So there are a couple of lessons there. And then the third lesson is about moving to action. So that's a little bit trickier, I think, in a school context, particularly with some of the legislation coming down the pipes. So that's really the structure for the curriculum is based on that work in the book, drawing on ideas that I got from activist musicians and actualizing them in some pretty practical ways for the classroom.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 23:05
In her curriculum text, Hess writes that quote, when educators honor the lived realities of youth in their classes, it potentially becomes possible for us to assert these experiences musically. Activist musicians perspectives on fostering a place based education, offered an education in which educators consider the community context and the needs of youth in the classroom, in a manner that honors their experiences. This kind of music classroom might open space to honor lived experiences, come to voice and embrace our agency within.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 23:49
And so one of the first things I noticed was this theme of asking students about their lived experiences before starting to impose teaching upon students. And I see that in asking students to construct, whether it's playlists, or constructing life histories, or sharing experiences through songwriting, that you're trying to be very intentional about drawing these out. So can you speak to what is powerful and maybe even countercultural about an act of drawing out the experiences of students?
Juliet Hess 24:18
Yeah, I mean, so that's the pedagogy of expression right? Like the honoring piece before you ever ask anyone to share you have to honor first. And I'm really hoping that it's not countercultural at this point, like honestly. So I think many of these ideas resonate with culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching and culturally sustaining pedagogy these like these pedagogy all recognize that students bring to the classroom a great deal. And then we build on it from there rather than assuming that students are like empty vessels waiting to be filled, which is like what Freire calls the banking mode of education, right, like deposit knowledge into the students when they already bring a plethora of knowledge. So It's really like, you know it because, you know, 18 of the 20 activist musicians thought that songwriting should be a fundamental part of the curriculum. And songwriting is often rooted in your experience, like you can't ask people to share unless you've communicated already that you absolutely value what they bring.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 25:20
So I also want to talk about the particularly powerful section that you've already introduced, which is this section in your curriculum on noticing ideologies. And what I think I gained from that, from looking through the curriculum materials is that students are being asked to contextualize their story and experience within larger stories, and maybe offering the critical reflection about the problems of systems within which they're situated. So can you talk about this section on noticing ideologies?
Juliet Hess 25:50
Yeah, absolutely. So this pedagogy of noticing is rooted in a culture of questioning. And as I just mentioned, I actualized that in three phases, so the first phase is that youth notice and identify the ideology shaping all of their encounters. And second, they recognize the lived conditions of both themselves and others in the class. And then third is moving to actions. So this section really focuses on that first phase, the noticing ideologies piece. So I have a number of lessons in the section that lead students to recognize ideologies, systems and structures that shape their lives. Like I, I tried to figure out ways to scaffold this kind of critical thinking. So I can talk those through a little bit. So it starts with looking at media representation, and that's analyzing music videos. So for me, this is something I use regularly in my teaching, like music videos are an easy way into representation. So this activity just encourages youth to kind of think through how different identities are represented in music videos. And then also whether or not there are any stereotypes at play. So it's just kind of a, a way in through music, of thinking about representation and the way that different identities are communicated. Then from there, drawing on this is the work of Magali Meagher, and she directed the Toronto Girls Rock Camp, one of the activities that she had going was an opportunity for the girls who attended the camp, and non binary students to, to analyze media messages about body image, it was just an opportunity to kind of help the campers think critically about media messages they received about their bodies, and obviously at a crucial time during those teenage years. So that was kind of the second piece of that noticing ideologies. And again, it's kind of targeting media messages. And then we turn to music and think about how music communicates a message. It's an opportunity to kind of consider both music and lyrics and to think about the kinds of messages that music sends. So that's a piece of this section. And then the next activity is about noticing the strategic nature of music. So that allows students to consider times where music might be dangerous or serve fascism, as well as when it might actually disrupt the status quo. So noticing when music might be used as propaganda, or to manipulate emotions is actually really important to being able to resist it and music gets mobilized that way, all the time. From there, I introduce the ethics of song project, and this is from the Center for Ethics at the University of Toronto. It's a project called the ethics of song. And it's a series of YouTube videos that various scholars have kind of chosen a song to discuss in order to explore the ethical dimensions of it. So this is an introduction to that project, and an opportunity to view some of the discussions and also to create their own videos for a chosen song about, you know, a song that they that is important to them in their life, and to kind of explore the ethical under underpinnings of it. And then the final activity in this section is about creating a podcast on the power of music. So that's kind of doing a culminating activity. So it's an opportunity for students to really kind of explicate their knowledge of the power of music, having done all these other things, and how it can be used in different ways. So I think all of these activities lead to a practice of noticing ideologies within music specifically, but I think it also extends to the world.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 29:19
Drawing on Giroux and Grioux's culture of questioning. Hess encourages curricula that support youth and exploring the conditions shaping lives. These explorations might build courageous conversations and movements toward action. Whether studying how music reinforces messages of body image, or the harmful ends to which music is used to amplify violence, xenophobia, racism, sexism, domination and supremacy. These studies set the stage for a courageousness that challenges harm. When we open ethical dilemmas, we might move deeper into musical and pedagogical decisions that challenge reverse and repair violence and harm. I particularly encourage teachers to look at Hess' ethics of songs projects in her curriculum, and the University of Toronto Center for Ethics YouTube series. Each video looks at the background behind songs and the ethical dimensions and complexities embedded within song. links and videos are provided on our website.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 30:31
I wondered if you might introduce our listeners to maybe one lesson plan and kind of paint a picture of that lesson plan that would help teachers further conceptualize about what a particular lesson within this book would look like.
Juliet Hess 30:45
So I had trouble choosing. But I think I want to share about the sonic cartography lesson. So I was really inspired here by John Wargo's work. So Wargo identifies Sonic cartography, as he says, the practice of mapping narrative through sound. And in his research, he was working with Andy who is an LGBTQ youth. And in this work, she maps her daily life through sound. And it provides this powerful kind of Sonic representation of both the misogyny and the homophobia that she experiences on a daily basis. So this activity like provides youth with the opportunity to map their daily life sonically, in ways that reveal what they experience regularly. So it's really it's a process of having students kind of identify the main places of their lives, and record the sounds in these places to create a soundscape of their days. And then they'll have an opportunity to reflect in groups. So it's not necessarily going to kind of have the outcome that it did in Wargo's research where it expressed. misogyny and homophobia, that's not necessarily what's going to come out in these, you know, reflections, but I think being able to kind of reflect in this is, you know, reminiscent of Kelly Bylica's work on soundscape is, you know, an opportunity to kind of think about, what are the different spaces that you're in? How do they differ between students, and you know, it's an opportunity as well for, you know, conversations about hard topics, like privilege and how that manifests in the soundscapes of our lives as well. So I think, you know, it presents some really interesting opportunities for conversations, particularly if soundscapes reveal some challenges that are regularly experienced. So I'm pretty excited about that lesson, and what the potential is. So, you know, I thought I'd pick that one to share.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 32:50
Yeah, is there anything that I haven't asked you that you wish I would ask you about this particular text that's come out?
Juliet Hess 32:59
That's a great question. Um, I mean, I, I feel like I'm really excited about it, because I had the opportunity, you know, post tenure, I didn't feel like I needed to pursue a publication for this. And that, to have the opportunity to kind of spend two years creating this document, and to just be able to give it away. I mean, I feel like that's, that's tenure privilege, you know, I have a permanent job. And I don't need to chase things down. And it's an opportunity to create content in a way that hopefully will be useful to practitioners. And the other piece of this is when I was in conversation with these activist musicians, I always asked about research reciprocity, like, you know, thank you for participating and giving me something but what can I do in return, and 12 of the 20 people who I interviewed were teaching in some capacity, because it's really hard to kind of be a musician and not, and not teach in some way. You know, most musicians do teach in some capacity. You know, what any, any number of people said to me was that we would really like some curriculum. And so this is very much a response to trying to create content for people who have given me so much, and to, to be able to kind of support their work in schools as they're working with youth. Like, I hope this is a document that is useful to the folks who have really shaped it. And as well as you know, hopefully other music teachers as well. You know, I want this to be a living document, something that gets taken up and used and changed and created originally, every time because of the group of you students that people have in front of them, like we recreate what we do, and cater it to particular groups. So I think, you know, that was really the impetus for this work and I'm happy to see it through to fruition and be able to get it up online
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 35:13
Hess closes her book with a powerful quote, one that I read to you here, quote, at this juncture in time, music education must matter, it must honor the humanity in all, and resist injustice loudly and musically. The life's work of these activist musicians, provides a powerful model for music education, a model that celebrates community, honors, lived experiences, provides musical means to share them, and encourages a praxis of noticing and resisting injustices across multiple identities. Listening to their voices helps our discipline imagine a different possible future. A collective envisioning of all that music education can do and be. Hess' work can be found at our website, Julia L. hess.com, where her curriculum resource is offered for free. The accompanying text Music education for social change. constructing an activist music education can be purchased from Routledge press, my deepest gratitude to Juliet Hess, as well as the 20 activist musicians found in her text. This book, and the voices within have challenged, changed, and accompanied me on journeys to notice, name and come to voice. Links to Hess' website, videos of mentioned musicians and resources, and additional resources are found on our website.
Kevin Shorner-Johnson 36:48
This is the music and peacebuilding podcast hosted by Kevin Shorner-Johnson. At Elizabethtown College, we host a master of music education with an emphasis in peacebuilding. Thinking deeply we reclaim space for connection and care. Join us at music peace building.com