Ep. 8 Decolonizing the Music Room with Brandi Waller-Pace
Mrs. Brandi Waller-Pace
Brandi Waller-Pace created Decolonizing the Music Room as a website and Facebook group to use research to inform educators about decolonizing and help develop culturally competent pedagogy. In centering the voices of educators from marginalized groups, they imagine instructional practices, repertoire, and lived presence as bringing restoration and change to oppressive practices. This particular podcast looks at the importance of moving beyond theory to encounter the lived experiences of oppression, hate, and brutality. In so doing, we may musick into deeper forms of love, compassion, and care.
Keywords: Justice, Decolonization, critical theory, antiracism, music education, culturally responsive pedagogy, culturally comepetent pedagogy, repertoire selection
Brandi Waller-Pace started decolonizing the music room in the aim of bringing together racially and ethnically diverse voices to raise critical challenegss and questions. In September of 2019, this Facebook group counted 1,000 members wihtin its community
Brandi has taught elementary music in Fort Worth, Texas for 9 years. She holds a B.M. and M.M. in Jazz Studies from Howard University and performs and presents on jazz and the Black roots of early American music. In her decolonizing work, Brandi seeks to de-center the dominant white American narrative in music education to make teacher training, resources, and classroom practices more reflective of the many voices and traditions that exist in our schools.
Special thanks to Lorelei Batislaong, Michelle McCauley, Valerie Díaz Leroy, Martin Urbach, Elisa Rangel, and Andrew Ellingsen for contributing to this episode.
Decolonizing the Music Room website
Bradley, D. (2012). Good for what, good for whom?: Decolonizing music education philosophies In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education (pp. 663-702). New York : Oxford University Press.
Hess, J. (2015). Decolonizing music education: Moving beyond tokenism. International Journal of Music Education, 33(3), 336-347. doi: 10.1177/0255761415581283
Rosabal-Coto, G. (2019). The day after music education. Action, Criticism & Theory for Music Education, 18(3), 1-34. doi: 10.22176/act18.3.1
Discussion questions to come...
Waller-Pace: 00:01 Sometimes it's just important to look at someone's lived experience. We can, we can talk about humanization and we can talk about it in more, I guess like analytical terms, but at the end of the day, this is just my life, so for me that's the biggest part of it is that this is my, my lived experience that like I want my son to come home.
Shorner-Johnson: 00:23 You are listening to the music and peacebuilding podcast, a professional development network at music peace, building.com exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness community, creativity and imagination through research and story
Speaker 3: 00:40 [inaudible]
Shorner-Johnson: 00:40 Brandi Waller-Pace, started Decolonizing the Music Room in the aim of bringing together racially and ethnically diverse voices to raise critical challenges and questions. In September of 2019 this Facebook group counted 1000 members within its community. Brandi has taught elementary music in Fort Worth, Texas for nine years. She holds a bachelor of music and a master's in music in jazz studies from Howard university and performs and presents on jazz and the black roots of early American music. In her de-colonizing work. Brandy seeks to de-center the dominant white American narrative in music education to make teacher training resources and classroom practices more reflective of the many voices and traditions that exist in our schools.
Speaker 3: 00:40
Shorner-Johnson: 01:36 As I entered this conversation today, I need to name my identity and frame how I am attempting to do the work of decolonizing in producing this podcast. I am white, cisgendered and a male who recognizes that my ability to obtain a PhD, obtain a position as a professor are a story of the privileges that have been available to me as a white male. My first real encounter with differential privilege happened after I finished graduate school with five years of teaching experience a PhD, a little bit of ego. I believed I had the skills and tools to "handle" any teaching situation that came my way. When I entered the door of my middle school band room as the first white band director in an historically black school, I found out that my teacher education was only just beginning. I give thanks to my dear friend and greatest teacher/mentor Aswad, who from within the walls of the California correctional institution has taught me that behind the veil of my scholarly achievements are a story of unjust difference. He has taught me of the violence of difference and an unrelenting belief in deep, strong, and rigorous hope and love.
Shorner-Johnson: 03:03 As a white professor, I own that I love to throw out a good bit of theory because in many ways theorizing about decolonization is easier than encountering lived experience and the necessity for lived change. Recognizing this frame, I have asked my interviewee, Brandi Waller-Pace to co-edit and critique this podcast as the shared work of decolonizing the music room. We have done this together because de-colonizing work can only be done in community. For this, I express my gratitude, own my limitations, and embrace the beauty of beloved community through shared voice.
Speaker 4: 03:48 [Musical interlude]
Shorner-Johnson: 03:56 So could you tell me a little bit about where your idea came from and creating this website and what your vision is for it?
Waller-Pace: 04:03 Yeah, so and the last few years I've taken a lot of of, of looking at racial equity in my district. I'm very fortunate to work in a district that started a very specific racial equity initiative, put out a formal equity policy and started to engage community and teachers and administrators in this work. And I was lucky enough to be able to be a part of it. So at the same time that that was happening, I was getting more in depth music training and switching from one school to the next. So the, I feel like there are a lot of things happening at the same time. Switching from one school to the next gave me more ability to see how things differ by zip code, where I teach, my students starting at yet another school and other zip code gave me more contrast. So at the same time that I'm learning all these new things, I am realizing the disparity between different parts of my own district and taking a closer look at the curriculum that, that I'm doing, getting into old time music and looking at the dynamics of that community and having some experiences of my own that made me feel as if, you know, maybe I didn't have that agency that you're talking about and that there was a need to assert my voice in a certain way and to, to try to center voices of populations that I teach that are not generally listened to.
Waller-Pace: 05:30 And so it just, it kind of culminated in the idea of the site. And in talking to a colleague about a situation that I felt was particularly significant to me, he, he said, you know, having a place to deal with all this stuff might be a good thing. And I said, you know, there've been a couple of teachers who say like, I really like what you're saying. I like what you're doing. I liked having these conversations with you, but it would really cool if there was a spot that we could go to to look at this information. And so I said, you know, why not? And then, and then I started it and started to talk to other colleagues who seemed like they were either interested in the work or they, um, I knew for sure that they had, um, expressed a concern with how certain voices were being ignored or erased.
Shorner-Johnson: 06:26 Our theory of violence at Elizabethtown college derives much from Freire's pedagogy of the oppressed. Colonization is violence because it is a process of control that dehumanizes the oppressed and even the oppressor. Small acts of violence often become larger forms of avert violence and structural violence. Dehumanization Freire says, is the distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human. When we challenge the bounds of oppression, we may in Freire's words, risk an act of love In her vision for de-colonizing the music room, Brandy Waller-Pace risked the journey of taking communities toward difficult conversations. Her risk challenges the origins of songs that have roots in the mockery of African Americans, quote, "portraying black people as lazy, irresponsible, dumb, unattractive, slovenly and deserving of mockery." Let's start with the journey to find violence that is hidden within our repertoire and curricula.
Speaker 6: 07:37 [music interlude]
Waller-Pace: 07:43 as we said already, I do a style called old time and it has, it's like heavily banjo and fiddle based tradition that's rooted in, um, a lot of African American traditions and music of um, enslaved Africans, um, descendents of Europeans and there's a lot of merging of those traditions. So I have a colleague who fiddles and we were talking about that song. You said, you know, you might want to look up that song because I've heard of another song with a similar title. Johnny is the N word. And what I had learned from other performing and other reading through resources is that sometimes Johnny is that code word and it can give you a clue. So when I looked back, um, I saw that it was an idiom and that the idiom had a meaning, kind of like, I'm, something's amiss. There's, there's something that you can't quite put your finger on there's something, something is hidden there and there's a variation of the idiom. And it turned out the idiom and the variation where the first two lines of the song, but the melody was completely different from the song that had that same title that I heard performed. So in speaking to the author of the collection that included it, I learned that he had found it in an old textbook and the textbook was, um, he said maybe the twenties or thirties was when the textbook was from.
Waller-Pace: 09:13 And when I looked at the history of the idiom it pointed to it being maybe an even more popular use in the twenties and thirties, it started in the eight, in the mid 1800s. And I think it's usage peaked, um, maybe right around the forties or 50s. So what I felt like I saw was kind of the whole process and the need to examine the whole process of um, of language making its way into common speech. Um, that, that common language, having influence on what music is considered popular, how that music is used to, to um, give to teachers and children how it is not sourced when it's marketed or published. And then how by having an educator who focused on its pedagogical use focused on its use as an echo song focused on it's melodic content and how effectively that can be used. Took that and now we have like a country full of people of, of educators with a lot of people actually familiar with the song. And so it teaches us how at each point in the process that influence can play out and how there are so many opportunities for you to research and consider and be critical of whatever it is that's going to make its way into the classroom. I feel like that was just a really, really good example because I can't say Johnny on the Woodpile is a blackface minstrel song. It's not a black face minstrel song, but how did it become what is now known as a very functional echo song to use with children. And that process plays out completely and then lets us know how important it is to trace backwards. And then let's us consider is the very simple melodic content is a very simple function of the song worth using something that is that rooted in it.
Waller-Pace: 11:15 And then I, you know I even learned about the connection of Dr Seuss. Dr Seuss. Um, I already knew drew a lot of racist advertisements before his, his work that we know that we use in our classroom but there was a particular ad that had this phrase in it and so then it connects to another content area. So how do we want to approach dealing with dr Seuss things in the classroom and it just, I feel like it opens up a lot of considerations but is a really good example of the need to go back and look deeper and how you can go back and look deeper and consider that. For me like the response is I'm not using the song. There is absolutely no reason to um, to not go seek out another song that my kids can echo that goes from Do to sol that they can put a steady beat to. There's absolutely no reason to hold on to it. It's not even the real melody and we can get into all the considerations of that as well, but there's just absolutely, absolutely nothing that that gives me a reason to tie to that song and I feel like every incentive to let go of it.
Shorner-Johnson: 12:25 On August 8th, 2019 members of the decolonizing the music room team wrote a collaborative blog post on eight ways to become a decolonizing agent. Throughout this podcast, we will present important voices through audio segments.
Diaz Leroy: 12:44 One of the most important things we must recognize if we want to help remove oppressive practices is the importance of our openness to the experience of others. The threat of humanity must accompany our work in order to ensure we allow every child to be represented in a positive way. We are teaching at a time when the ability to share information is at our fingertips. Factual information and personal experiences are available to us at any moment. We have a responsibility to reach out to people in person or digitally so that we can better understand how our teaching methods and content shared will affect the children for whom we are responsible. Song histories, culturally responsive teaching practices and guidance in how to share historical truths are now so accessible that we have no excuse to turn a blind eye. Every day we ask students to analyze and reevaluate the work they produce. We must get in the habit of doing the same. We then need to share this new knowledge and these practices with others because it is our responsibility as educators. Each day we must grow so that our students can develop the tools they need to think critically and navigate their constantly changing environments. Valerie Diaz LeRoy
McCauley: 14:06 Genuine and ongoing meaningful relationships with culture in history. Michelle McCauley, Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe, music from cultures in this land predates our formal system of music education and existed long before it came to be the United States. Relying only on the study of music from the Western classical tradition. Simply does not fully prepare a music educator. The music of the many cultures that have long lived here does not require a music teacher to remain intact. Relearning U S history is vital to the decolonization process especially in the music classroom. For example, many music educators rely on teaching and programming patriotic songs without proper knowledge of how much of the United States is still under treaty neglect, committed and upheld by the government. This can be devastating for communities who know their own history because many of the patriotic songs were not written for every American. Music educators should know their own cultural histories and what roles the music of their cultures plays in their lives.If this part is missing, one needs to seek it out. There are plenty of cultures that practice their music in their everyday lives. For celebrations, identities, ceremonies, birthdays, et cetera. Music educators need to constantly and consistently seek to learn from the other cultures around them by spending time with others in their respective geographical location to see how music is utilized in the world outside their very doors. Decolonization is not going to only come from scholarly articles for educators. There is much to gain by being a part of the very diverse communities that are around educators every day.
Batislaong: 15:56 Hello, my name is Lorelei Batislaong. The way I approach becoming a decolonizing agent in the classroom is by constantly reflecting on my teaching practice and whether or not I've defaulted to a way of teaching because it's convenient or the easiest for me to employ. I ask myself, why am I choosing to teach this and teach it this way? Does it consider where everyone is and is coming from? Most importantly, am I upholding a status quo that excludes certain students? This is difficult sometimes because it means stepping outside of my own frame of reference, but that's why reflection is such an effective practice. Song selection is important for sure, but considering the music making process is just as important.
Speaker 3: 16:40 [music interlude]
Shorner-Johnson: 16:54 Juliet Hess asks that we decolonize by finding the complexities singularities and interconnectedness such that power, privilege agency and dissent can be made more visible and engaged. Using trees Hess imagines decolonized music rooms where students study the interwoven roots and branches of genres, cultures and peoples. Rather than conquering knowledge, we seek to live into dialogical curricula, embracing connectedness while thinking critically.
Shorner-Johnson: 17:34 So let's talk about that old time music that you're into. I feel like I am just newly awakened to this music as, I have fallen in love with Rhiannon Giddens and with Amethyst Kiah and so many of those amazing performers who are bringing life to this genre. You did an interview after attending an event in orange County, Virginia I think. And that interview talked about Afrolachian culture, which was a new term for me.
Waller-Pace: 17:58 Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 10: 18:00 And about Afrolachian on-time music. So can you talk about what is this heritage of music and what is your work in reclaiming?
Waller-Pace: 18:08 Yeah. So, um, Deena Jennings, Dr. Dina Jennings is the, the person who was in the interview with me who coined the term Afrolachian and um, kinda coined the term the term on-time. And so we actually talked a little bit about, about what that means and what she's told me about where that comes from is as a descendant of um, Appalachian Kentuckians who, who are of African descent. There is a lot she grew up with that Um, she has noticed that other people have, have used in their music and have presented as Appalachian culture but not with faces that look like her in it. And she's been in spaces where the culture has been presented to her as if she were not a primary source of that culture. And so the, the Afrolachian on time I'm gathering that we attended and the terminology she's using is a reclamation of that which is already already hers. And for me personally, I am originally from Georgia and I've been learning about, um, where enslaved people were brought to in the Americas, how people were taken to different parts of the South and the kind of cultural overlap between those people and my people and where the music ties into that. And when I talked to other, other people of African descent that are doing this in this music, I, it seems like we feel very similarly that there's a big sense of identity that's wrapped up in it. And as we learn about like we all play the banjo, we play other things too, but we pretty much all pay the play the banjo. And that story is our story. And so as we learn more about that, we learn more about ourselves. And as we dig deeper into the music, we dig deeper into ourselves and we realize how many things that we're not learning about as outsiders.
Waller-Pace: 20:10 We're learning about our own heritage our own history and it's really beautiful that um, we're, none of us are very far removed from one another. So me from, from Dr. Jennings or from Rhiannan or from Amethyst, where there's not a very large degree of separation. And when we talk about it there, that's kind of the common, the common thread is that we are learning what is ours. For me, like just learning that it was mine in the first place is the first step. And now I'm like learning, learning about it. And you know, even I haven't been in the community that long, but even this summer I went to a camp, I took a session and at the end of the session I felt as if the, um, the teacher just handed me a big piece of myself and that's just such a big part of being in the community and doing this work. So that's what's behind behind that and that on time, it's just, you hear it and it resonates with you and you're like, yeah, that's it. No matter what it is. That's it, you know? Yeah. That was the best description I heard in that interview [laughter]
Speaker 3: 21:26 [on-time music]
Waller-Pace: 21:54 here's an interview on Beatrice and the YouTube channel where Brandy demonstrates her expertise in Afrolachian music. I'm going to use, I'm going to use my gourd banjo. I don't play it often, but I love this instrument. Um, it's actually comes from a maker and an African American woman, banjo maker who is out of Western Virginia. The song I'm going to play is called old Bovak and it's from my home state of Georgia.
Speaker 4: 22:22 [music excerpt]
Speaker 10: 23:01 In your speech to your school district, you noted that barriers to black students and inequity affects whether students view themselves as part of the narrative that we weave for them, about the community in which they grow and learn. And you spoke a lot about the importance of seeing and hearing others through music. What does this seeing and hearing look like within your music classroom?
Waller-Pace: 23:26 in my classroom it has to do with repertoire and resource choice that I feel like reflects my students. It has to do with a lot of just like literal listening to the students and asking them about things, giving them opportunities to create, giving them opportunities to share and trying to really frame my discourse in a way that I guess we have to go back to agency. Just frame my discourse in a way that, that I feel grants that it's not perfect yet and I'm trying different things every unit, every semester, every year, but, and, and making sure I give them space to create and space to feel safe and space to really share about themselves and try to find resources and programming and um, activities that support that. Um, I think that is is the key bit. And even um, just, just visually if you were to walk into my classroom at the end of the last year, you see a bunch of composers, arrangers, musicians, singers on my wall. But um, they will look, visually it would look as diverse as my school community. So when you go into my classroom, you don't see the, the typical timeline of white guys in wigs and then other stuff on top of that. Like that's, that's not present at all. You see everybody.
Shorner-Johnson: 24:58 On November fourth, 2018 Brandy received honor and recognition for her teaching. In the close of this speech, Brandy Waller pace speaks to her mission for equity
Waller-Pace: 25:11 inequity in our education system results in lower achieving for our minority students and affects whether or not they view themselves as part of the narrative that we leave for them about the community in which they grow and learn. I'm able to use the connective quality of music to show my students that they are seen and heard and to show them how important it is to see and hear others. On a small scale in my classroom with their peers and on a larger scale in the wider world. This award is a great honor, one that will allow me to once again seek what I do not yet know what the goal of developing human beings who know that every tradition is valid and worth sharing and understanding and that they have a place in this world. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 25:50 [applause]
Shorner-Johnson: 25:56 maybe let's, let's, let's talk to decolonizing and I'm gonna use Deb Bradley's article maybe to frame some questions that I ask you about this process of de-colonizing. First she kind of writes about the problematic notions of what school music is. And she says that the restrictive framework of school music not only fails to connect with many students, it applies through a mission that music existing outside of school is unworthy of study and therefore inferior. Where music education fails to help students make musical connections to their lives outside of school many infer that they are simply not musical or that their ideas of music interest lack value. So within your teaching, talk to me about how you wrestle with separation between school music and the lived music in the home.
Waller-Pace: 26:48 Yeah, I try, I try to break down that separation and engaging the kids and giving them opportunities to share music that's meaningful to them. I try to do that. There are certain things I'm not as familiar with and I have to make sure that everything is appropriate for school. All the general things we have to do. But, um, I try to reach, I try to reach, um, and show them that they can bring in things that are not, there's not school music and home music and here is the right music and here is the other stuff. And I try to model that myself and talking to them about the music I make outside of school. Um, and making sure that musicians I exposed them to are not musicians that only perform within, uh, like a standard Western concert context. Talking to them about the way that music making can function. Um, even letting my kids teach me, like I have kids sometimes say where I come from, we use this song for this purpose or I, I'll make a connection myself. Like, you know, we're singing such and such song, Hey guys, I went to a square dance this weekend and we did this and this and this with this song and this is how I played it. And I try to, um, combine making sure they know they can bring in things that are important to them and that they are valid with modeling for them. How outside of the classroom there are so many ... For so many different types of music. And I feel like that's why maintaining musicianship and, and being active as a musician is really important to my teaching because I'm able to show them, Hey, this is what I'm doing and give them a lot of context into, into how I'm doing it. So, you know, they'll see, I played the banjo for them and they know that, you know, I sit with my friends and play the banjo. It's not just I play banjo and I'm specialized and I'm up on a stage all the time. Or I played with my jazz band and my jazz band comes and plays with them and they see, you know, this is how this kind of functions in real life and I think it helps them make that connection.
Shorner-Johnson: 29:02 How do we become de-colonizing agents? My first act is to reduce my defensiveness to challenge and critique myself with humility. Then, lean into the important questions. How do I include diverse musics with thoughtful, ethical care? How do I center and listen to unheard voices in my daily work? How do I empower students with the tools of critical thought that bring about restoration? I know the precision of my language and thinking matters.
Waller-Pace: 29:41 For example, my kids and I talk about classical music, but this year I make sure I say Western European classical music. And even something as simple as that opens up a conversation. Well, who else has classical music, very classical music traditions all over? Well, what's the one you hear about the most? Western European classical, Why? Why do we hear? But you know, and if, if that would be the beginning of a music educators education as well, then I feel like it would um, just exponentially change the landscape and um, it would affect practices so much. Just like you, you speaking about going to your middle school and seeing mostly black children and then you starting to question the images. You know, what if that had been questioned freshman year, you know, so for me that would, that would be a really good starting point that I see as a very feasible starting point.
Shorner-Johnson: 30:45 Yeah. For me, going back to the experience, you know, I had just gotten my doctorate, I was, I was full of the ego that comes from, from getting a doctorate and thought, I thought I was going to be this incredible teacher and, and really I was not a very successful teacher and then environment because I hadn't had enough time to really think deeply about my position of privilege and where I came from and the kind of language that I use. I think it's a really good point about the precision of the language that we use. Whether we say classical music or whether we say, you know, Euro-centric classical music or it changes everything. Little Brown boy was written by Brandy Waller-Pace and is performed here by Taylor pace.
Speaker 6: 31:32 [music]
Shorner-Johnson: 31:58 Emmett Till, Tamir rice, Trayvon Martin, Cameron Tillman, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, each lost to the targeted, systematic violence of white supremacy. Brandy Waller-Pace's identity as a mother of black children called her to write to a future where black boys might be valued and cared for.
Speaker 6: 32:25 [music]
Speaker 11: 33:29 [inaudible]
Shorner-Johnson: 33:31 musical lament is a radical, artistic form of compassion and critique of power. Walter Brueggemann writes "for it announces that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural, but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness." As I asked Brandy about her intentions, I hear her challenge me about the realness of the lived experience of hate and brutality.
Speaker 6: 33:58 [music]
Waller-Pace: 34:03 there wasn't, there wasn't really like an intention an intentional humanization in it. I think it's just important to note that it's a, it's a lived experience. I, I wrote the song because I have a, I have a son and um, so it was completely written from, you know, what a, what am I going to tell him? What's going to happen? I'm seeing these, these boys who, who my son will look like one day in a situation that I, um, can't imagine ever having to deal with finding out my son didn't make it home. And um, I think that's kind of a, an important thing to know is that, um, sometimes it's just important to look at someone's lived experience. Um, we can, we can talk about humanization and we can talk about it in more, um, I guess like analytical terms, but at the end of the day, this is just my life and, um, I think that's really, really important to note because when you're outside of that, you, you do access it in a more analytical way and look at forces differently. But, um, that's, that's been very significant for me even in like reading different theories and, um, and other authors is... How much of this is just experiential and, and not even, I'm not even really an analytical point, even though we could also go down that, that route. So for me, that's the biggest, biggest part of it is that this, this is my, my lived experience is that like, I want my son to come home, you know,
Ellingsen: 35:50 my name is Andrew Ellingsen and I'm a music teacher who's a white man living in teaching in Northeast Iowa. As a music educator, striving to be a decolonizing agent, I have found again and again that it is crucial to listen. I need to listen to colleagues who know more than me. I need to listen to the voice of spotlighting songs and practices that need to be replaced. I need to listen to those who have researched their repertoire and learn from their model about how to research my own. I need to listen to my students and to their families. I don't know everything nor can I hope to. What I do know is that I can learn more by listening than by filling more space with my own words.
Urbach: 36:27 Hey y'all, this is Martin Urbach from the streets of San Francisco living a little message around decolonization in the music room. This little piece is called unpack, address, undo, disrupt, challenging the norms of how everybody does it. So one way to become an agent of decolonization in our spaces is challenging the idea that we must do things the way they have always been done just because that is how everyone does it. In our music teaching spaces this requires, we analyze all curriculum, best practices, assessments and language through an anti-oppressive lens, and we actually do the work of and doing such practices on a daily basis. Decolonizing in the USA means actively unpacking, addressing, undoing and disrupting the racist, sexist, ableist xenophobic, homo and transphobic imperialistic and any other isms that are baked into the foundation of music education. Wherever we see them and as Ijiama Olu says including and especially in ourselves first. Questioning whether or not a song like eenie meenie miney Mo is a racist song alone is not decolonizing in and of itself, but it can be the first step on our way to decolonizing if we choose to do the work. Questioning can be a compass that keeps us grounded to work North slash truth. The map will be found in the research we do both through academic research but also through engaging in a decolonization of research itself, like seeking trusting and centering knowledge through the oral histories and ethnographies of people who have been marginalized, oppressed and other by whiteness. The dominant culture.
Speaker 4: 38:14 [inaudible]
Rangel: 38:15 hello, my name's Elisa Rangel. I am part of the decolonizing the music room team. And if I want a safe, inviting space for all students who enter my music classroom, I, the educator us also be a student in the culture of my school's community. Dr Stephen R Covey said, seek first to understand then to be understood.
Shorner-Johnson: 38:39 What I get from that discussion is about not being afraid of a sense of paralysis that often comes from talking about race. And I feel like I notice on social media a lot in the music teacher forums that when questions of race or inequality come up, they often become heated very quickly. And my concern is that often these tensions break us down to a sense of paralysis where we become afraid to even engage. But on the flip side, if we even have a chance of building peace, we have to be able to lean into these conversations and embrace difficult topics. What are some constructive ways that you go about continually facing some of these dilemmas and moving deeper into them with others?
Waller-Pace: 39:31 That's a really good question. Um, I think that maybe going with, with mentioning social media, um, providing resources, having a range of resources and, um, having private conversations sometimes helps avoid the mob mentality or avoid the, the fear of looking a certain way in front of other people on a post or, or even in public. Um, I have a slightly different view and I, I feel like, you know, I'm able to tactfully talk to peers, um, who are in positions of privilege and really impress upon them that it's such a privilege to pick and choose whether this is something that you want to engage in because I don't have the choice. Because, you know, I wear my skin and all the things that come with looking the way that I do. And, um, my, my position in society, like they're just there. And so the conversations I've had that have been the most successful have been, you know, I shared a resource, I talked about whatever. And then someone comes to me privately in person or online and says, "Hey, you know, I don't really get what you were talking about. Can you tell me more about that?" Or, um, you know, ask some question or put some point out there and then we're able to have a dialogue. But yeah, just having that, um, that one-on-one I think is very helpful. And when words fail, providing someone else's words who is more steady than you and has done it for longer than you and who was more eloquent than you is always good to lean back on.
Shorner-Johnson: 41:22 So what haven't I asked you about either your work with decolonizing the music room or your work with teaching that you would want me to ask you about.
Waller-Pace: 41:32 Um, I, something that I feel really important to share is... I like to people out of intention on the process. I don't know all the things yet. Um, I, like I said, there are people who study more than I have and are, are more eloquent than I am and have more experience than I am. But my main thing is to encourage a certain level of critique and analysis and make it very apparent that this is something that we can all be doing together. I'm not, um, at on top of any particular hierarchy as a source of knowledge. You know, I kinda, I just do what I do when it works and I feel like it benefits my students. And I feel like educators can do these things with me, not because I am the leader of anything in particular, but this is just a really good way to deconstruct what we're doing.
Waller-Pace: 42:29 You know, like we could talk in a month and I can say, you know, I said this, but I just read from this author and this is not how I would like my discourse to go. I will not do that again. You know, like you, you never know. It's always in flux. And um, yeah. Bradley also says in an article that, uh, de-colonizing philosophy doesn't, um, or she says it means like it doesn't assert itself as an authority and it necessitates, um, constant question asking and re-evaluation and critique. Like, my critique starts with me first. I'm looking at, and I'm evaluating sources and practices and things like that, but I'm evaluating them from like, well, what am I doing? You know, we all live in a white supremacist society. And so just because I'm a black person doesn't mean I'm not perpetuating that in what I'm doing. So just understanding that it starts with me and it starts with all of us and that I am, um, I'm not on the top of any particular hierarchy and I'm also not doing anything that is, um, superhuman or magical or particularly special. It's just I'm taking the look that I feel like educators are taught to take at, um, Western European traditions. And I'm just taking that look at all of them. And I'm, um, looking at like sociopolitical content, you know, like we learn a song from Africa, we say the songs from Africa, we don't say the country, the ethnic group, the language. But if we teach about Bach, we will tell our students every child he had and when they died and what his first home looked like. You know, like we can apply that same thing to things that are not the centered tradition. And it's not even, it's not even unusual. It's just applying it in a way that benefits everybody. I think. And then of course the element of actively deconstructing other things is completely necessary.
Speaker 3: 44:41 [Wade in the Water Soundtrack]
Shorner-Johnson: 44:46 Wade in the Water was arranged by Brandi Waller pace performed by Audra Scott and comes from Audra Scott's album A Long Road
Speaker 3: 44:57 [music]
Shorner-Johnson: 45:18 in the September, 2019 ACT journal Rosabal-Coto writes, "decolonization certainly does not happen overnight. It can only begin in the flesh and experience of each human being in everyday life choices and is both an individual and collective process." As we engage. Quote, "we listened to the interplay of desires, privileges, needs, convictions, vulnerabilities, insecurities, certainties, interests and ideals." My gratitude to Brandi Waller-Pace and her decolonizing the music room community for attempting to model this reflective discernment and action.
Speaker 3: 46:24 [inaudible].
Shorner-Johnson: 46:25 Special thanks to Brand Waller-Pace, Taylor pace and Audra Scott for the use of recordings in this podcast. A special thanks to members of the decolonizing the music room community for offering their time and their voices. Your writings and compassionate, vocal and caring work inspire us all to music, beautiful futures and realities. And the deepest possible things to Brandy Waller-Pace for her time, her critique, her leadership, and all the ways she contributed to this podcast. We are so grateful.
Shorner-Johnson: 47:05 May we name control seeking to Unbound children ourselves, allowing a fullness of who we are and can be to vibrate to the chords of community. Unique timbres of individuality made more human, more loving, in the unhindered care of being
Speaker 4: 47:40 [inaudible].
Shorner-Johnson: 47:40 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.