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  • Writer's pictureKevin Shorner-Johnson

Musical Textures of Belonging (PMEA handout)

Friday, 10am CC 170B

The word “belonging” carries different meanings cultural histories, and forms of research. Drawing upon research and over 50 conversations with ethnomusicologists, music educators, professional musicians, historians, social/cultural psychologists, and neuroscientists, this session looks at the rich diversity of what it means to belong through music. This session also looks at the challenges and dangers of stereotypes, belonging uncertainty, impostor phenomena, and exclusion. Drawing upon this tapestry, music educators will come away with research-informed understandings of how belonging might become more expansive through contributions of music teaching and learning.


Kevin Shorner-Johnson


Podcast: Music & Peacebuilding (available on iTunes and other platforms)


Dr. Kevin Shorner-Johnson is Professor of Music Education and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Elizabethtown College. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of peacebuilding and music education. His work has been published in the Philosophy of Music Education Review, Journal of Medical Humanities, Music Educators Journal, International Journal of Music Education, Humane Education for the Common Good, and Advances in Music Education Research. Dr. Shorner-Johnson's most recent scholarship with Dr. Martha Gonzalez and Dr. Dan Shevock in The Oxford Handbook of Care in Music Education, investigates how indigenous notions of care and convivencia might recolor our relationships with each other and the ecological world.


About my “Methodology”


About five years ago, I began a journey into podcasting. What started out as a way to market a new master’s program in music education and peacebuilding quickly became much more than that. I quickly realized that I could conceive of podcasting as a form of scholarship if I did it with rigor and intention. In that time, I have reallocated the time that I would have spent on written scholarship to enter the sound world of podcasting. I love that podcasting forces me to translate peacebuilding theory and  philosophy, which can be very esoteric, into a format of storytelling and translation.


My “methodology” includes:

1.        I seek to choose interviewees who can speak to scholarly themes of peacebuilding philosophy, silk roads, belonging, and music education pedagogy. I seek to interview the voices of individuals who are often overlooked.

2.        Before I record an interview, I require that I have deeply read nearly every piece of scholarship that an interviewee has written. This usually takes about 5-6 months of preparatory work. Especially when interviewing historically under-valued voices, I see this as an ethical requirement.

3.        In the interview and the final product, I seek to model what de-centering might look like as a white male of significant privilege. I seek to pursue this as a deepening of humility, generosity, and vulnerability.

4.        I typically spend anywhere from 2-10 months reflecting on an interview, editing the interview, reading additional research, and constructing narrations.

5.        Before publishing, I send the final product to the interviewee, asking the individual to check my biases, correct misconceptions, or offer suggestions as to how I might better represent their work. Where appropriate, I sometimes offer compensation to the interviewee for the labor of checking my biases.

6.        When complete, I construct written transcripts, time-coded chapters, and other elements that adhere to the principles of universal design. I catalog a podcast as searchable scholarship within the High library at Elizabethtown College.


A few takeaway recommendations from today’s presentation


To develop belonging in musical spaces, I encourage us to consider:

  1. Our roles as “Situation Crafters,” taking a critical look at how we craft contexts.

  2. Synchrony: How being in rhythm together, moving our bodies togther, being in harmony together aligns breath, creates belonging, and forges the groundwork for social connections.

  3. Explore circle process within musical experiences, centering the work of seeing each other and listening to each other.

  4. Empathy and Perspective Taking

  5. Building lessons that ask students to switch perspectives through artistic engagement.

  6. In general music, framing engagement with fiction and storybook readings as opportunities to move into shared imaginations.

  7. Study frequency, harmonics, and amplitude as a pathway to hear the emotional texts behind our words

  8. Stereotype Threat

  9. Values affirmation: Ask students about what matters to them and get to know all of our students (epscially minoritized students) and what matters to them.

  10. WISE Feedback: Express “because I believe in you” to minoritized students when offering critical feedback  in music.

  11. impostor phenomena

  12. Help students normalize impostor phenomena. Research indicates that having older students share stories of feeling “not enough” to younger students can be especially helpful at transitional moments (like entering HS).

  13. Growth mindset

  14. Center the research on growth mindset and a malleable belief in musical talent.

  15. Celebrate growth and improvement.

  16. School bullying 

  17. Centering the development of ensemble social networks and reducing hierarchical power as a means of working against school bullying.

  18.  “Resizing the self”

  19. Build arts curricula that allow students to explore emotions and how they change our relationships to others.

  20. Build curricula that empower awe and wonder experiences as a practice of resizing the self.

  21. Teach from a frame of “what if” to adopt exploration, awe, and wonder in teaching.

  22. Exploring interconnectedness

  23.  Opening spaces of shared imagination

  24. Imagine what it means to “belong across time” to a legacy of ancestors and fellow humans who are yet to enter the world. What would historical figures be saying to us in the now?

  25.  Explore ecological belonging and interconnectedness

  26. Ask students to listen to soundscapes of the natural world and sing back to it.

  27.  Affirm individuation

  28. Self-affirmation theory – plan instruction that develops competence and autonomy

  29. Creating celebrations of the individual within the collective

  30. Offer space for mattering

  31. Center relationships – creating moments of “I see you” at the start of every day.

  32. Affirm assimilation

  33. Create group rituals/shared traditions

  34. Develop markers of group identity

  35. Structure superordinate goals that bring people together across identities.

  36. Lowering thresholds and enlivening hospitality

  37. Expand musical curricula so that all students’ musical lives and cultures are represented within curricula.

  38. Understanding that signs and symbols matter, build curricular signs and symbols as “markers of belonging” to diverse populations.

  39. Celebrate difference – exploring entrained difference, perform our way into new ways of being together while retaining our own uniqueness.

  40. Create intentions of kindness and hospitality.

  41. Engage in artistic “restorying”

Selected References on Belonging Outside Standard Music Education Literature

Allen, K. A., Kern, M. L., Rozek, C. S., McInerney, D. M., & Slavich, G. M. (2021). Belonging: A review of conceptual issues, an integrative framework, and directions for future research. Australian Journal of Psychology, 73(1), 87-102.

Allen, K. A. (2021). The psychology of belonging. Routledge.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

Brewer, M. B. (1991). The social self: On being the same and different at the same time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17(5), 475-482.

Cohen, G. L. (2022). Belonging: The science of creating connection and bridging divides. W. W. Norton & Company.

Easterbrook, M. J., Harris, P. R., & Sherman, D. K. (2021). Self-affirmation theory in educational contexts. Journal of Social Issues, 77(3), 683-701.

Hicks, D. (2011). Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict. New York, NY: Yale University Press.

Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLOS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316-e1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316

Hou, Y., Song, B., Hu, Y., Pan, Y., & Hu, Y. (2020). The averaged inter-brain coherence between the audience and a violinist predicts the popularity of violin performance. NeuroImage, 211, 1-11.

hooks, b. (2019). Belonging: A culture of place. Routledge.

Keltner, D. (2023). Awe: The new science of everyday wonder and how it can transform your life. Penguin Press.

Kraus, N. (2021). Of sound mind: How our brain constructs a meaningful sonic world. MIT Press.

Mesquita, B. (2022). Between us: How cultures create emotions. W. W. Norton & Company.

Murthy, V. H. (2020). Together: The healing power of human connection in a sometimes lonely world. Harper Collins.

O’Donohue, J. (1999). Eternal echoes: Celtic reflections on our yearning to belong. New York: Harper Perennial.

Parker, P. (2018). The art of gathering: How we meet and why it matters. Riverhead Books.

Siegel, D. J. (2022). IntraConnected MWe (Me + We): As the integration of self, identity, and belonging. W. W. Norton & Company.

Steele, C. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: And other clues to how stereotypes affect us. W. W. Norton & Company.

Strait, D., Skoe, E., Kraus, N., & Ashley, R. (2009). Musical experience and neural effiency: Effects of training on subcortical processing of vocal expressions of emotion. European Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 661-668.

Taylor, S. R. (2018). The body is not an apology: The power of radical self-love. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..

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