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  • Writer's pictureKevin Shorner-Johnson

Press Release for the Master of Music Education Program Emphasizing Peacebuilding

Two thirds of children in the United States report at least one traumatic event by age 16.[1] Whether the traumas are assault, neglect, exploitation, abuse, domestic violence, or refugee experiences, students enter classrooms with anxieties and experiences that impact learning, social-emotional health, and wellbeing.[2] The CDC reports that chronic stress impacts brain development and is a risk factor for subsequent youth violence.[3] Teachers are given the superhuman task of caring for students as they are, teaching social emotional skills, and supporting journeys of healing alongside the traditional work of school curricula.

This is not an easy task. Living out Elizabethtown College's Anabaptist heritage of peacemaking and peacebuilding, the Elizabethtown College Master of Music Education program connects the popular World Music Drumming curriculum with the intentional study of peacebuilding, social-emotional learning, and the richness of musical diversity. Our program empowers teachers with the space to breathe life into their passions to connect with, care for, and inspire curiosity in students. We build musical capacities to disrupt cycles of violence, stress, and anxiety.

Students laughing and playing drums
E-town students exploring World Music Drumming

Our program partners with the World Music Drumming curriculum because this curriculum is an intentional practice of circle-oriented music making, listening, improvisation, community, and diverse ways of doing music. Teachers claim the curriculum has renewed their ability to reach children, engage students in complex music making, and develop hard-to-teach skills of community, trust, and teamwork. Beginning with 45 attendees in 1997, the curriculum is now found in 20,000 classrooms as well as summer workshops from California to Spain.

Michael Checco Playing Guitar
Michael Checco leads World Music Drumming @ E-town College

Our music education program first took steps toward peacebuilding and World Music Drumming when we encountered social media bullying some seven years ago. As we resisted bullying, we claimed and reinterpreted Anabaptist ideas of intentional community, vocational calling, and nonviolence to imagine what peacemaking/peacebuilding might mean within the day-to-day work of music teaching and learning. We began to imagine how our heritage might lead us to more intentional eye contact, relationship, voice, listening, social emotional learning, and imagination within our music classrooms. The day-to-day work of teaching became a sacred journey of intentions.

Dr. Shorner-Johnson teaching World Music Drumming
Dr. Shorner-Johnson teaching World Music Drumming

Our framework of musical peacebuilding is informed by Dr. Shorner-Johnson’s peacebuilding scholarship in Haitian justice, United Nations’ policy, cultural orientations toward time, and peacebuilding theology and philosophy. Our framework of mutuality, agency, and imagination explores the potential of music teaching to restore connection, empower voice, and imagine new possibilities. Candidates encounter mutuality through shared ensemble and the collective work of matching pitch, tone color, dynamics, and rhythm. Children develop agency when they are given opportunities to listen and give voice to musical expression. Within imagination, music can reorder senses of being for healing, compassion, and the imagination of alternative possibilities.

Candidates will explore this framework through a unique structure that combines online flexibility with one-week, on-campus sessions that are intentional about cohort relationships. Candidates begin the program through a 3-week, online entrance course that introduces our College’s Anabaptist heritage, frameworks of peacebuilding, and an overview of ethnomusicology and research skills. Candidates then join a three-year rotating offering of classes that explore four curricular strands: curriculum and inquiry, applied pedagogy, ethnomusicology, and social emotional learning. This curriculum empowers deep thinking about peacebuilding and the cultivation of trust, empathy, and understanding necessary to build healthy communities. The richness of our passions and heritage can restore the pressing need for human connection and care.

Participants engaged in World Music Drumming
Teachers attending a World Music Drumming workshop @ E-town College

We launched the new Master of Music Education program and the accompanying professional development network,, on April 3rd, 2019 at the Pittsburgh All-Eastern music education conference. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with 52 teachers writing to us about their excitement about the program. One teacher wrote, “This is amazing and exciting! I am 60 and was considering retiring, now you have me thinking otherwise . . . I would LOVE to extend the circle with all that is offered here!” Within 72 hours of the launch of the program, we connected with 76 individuals who were interested in the Master's program.

“This is amazing and exciting! I am 60 and was considering retiring, now you have me thinking otherwise . . . I would LOVE to extend the circle with all that is offered here!” ~ World Music Drumming Teacher

As we launch our Master's program, podcasts, and stories of peacebuilding, it is our hope to live out peacebuilding in every component of our program. Our majority online program reduces our carbon footprint and empowers teachers to maintain connected and meaningful family time. Our podcasts give voice to teacher beliefs and enlarge the community of peacebuilding conversations. Our advanced drumming workshops will pair high school students from Puerto Rican backgrounds with Master's candidates, empowering participants to do the work of peacebuilding as we explore Puerto Rican heritage, identity, and culture. The time we share together will deepen relationships and cultivate the imagination necessary for the sacred work of connection and care.

Join us as we build a community of peacebuilders who are called to counter violence with connection and care. Supporters of this work can contribute donations to the Master of Music Education program, sign up to join our professional development network at, or join our Master of Music Education program and drumming workshops ( With your support, we will reclaim space for connection and care.

[1] United States Department of Health and Human Services (2019). Understanding Childhood Trauma. Retrieved May 8, 2019 from

[2] Nutt, Amy Ellis (2018). Why kids and teens may face far more anxiety these days. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 8, 2019 from

[3] United States Center for Disease Control (2019). Youth Violence Prevention. Retrieved on May 9, 2019 from

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