How to Make Your Music Classroom More Inclusive

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are a music teacher striving for inclusivity, there are many specific actions you can take. This lesson offers some ideas for how you can make sure every student feels welcome in your music class.

Being Inclusive Matters

Mr. Thompson has been teaching music for over ten years, but he is a new hire at Banks Elementary. One of the first things he was told upon being hired is that Banks is striving to make each of its classes more inclusive. Mr. Thompson knows from experience that an inclusive classroom is one that offers opportunities for all students to engage. Since he worked hard at his last school to make his music classes inclusive, he feels he has a lot to offer Banks.

An inclusive music class makes a big difference because it helps all students see that music is for them. When a music class is truly inclusive, Mr. Thompson knows, students learn more productively and feel they are part of something special. They look forward to coming to class because they know that their presence really matters.

There are many different ways to think about being inclusive, and they are all important. This year, Mr. Thompson is focusing in particular on making his music classroom inclusive in terms of culture, gender, and ability.

Cultural Inclusivity

When Mr. Thompson first got his music degree, he learned that some kinds of musical traditions were seen as the most important ones for students to learn. Now, though, Mr. Thompson understands that the diversity of musical traditions, instruments, styles and values is one of the most special aspects of his subject area. Mr. Thompson makes his class culturally inclusive by:

  • teaching students about instruments, traditions, and styles from a variety of cultural and geographic backgrounds
  • helping his students learn about composers, singers, and instrumentalists from a variety of cultural backgrounds
  • teaching his students songs that different cultural groups have used to combat oppression and exclusion over time
  • asking students to share musical traditions from their own families, heritage and histories, and inviting families and community members to share as well.

Gender Inclusivity

Mr. Thompson also knows that gender can be a major issue in some music classes. He is aware of schools where only girls participate in chorus, or where the larger instruments are considered 'boy' instruments. Mr. Thompson knows that to be truly inclusive, his classes must combat gender stereotypes that relate to music. In an effort toward this goal, Mr. Thompson takes the following steps:

  • teaching his students about musical experts of all genders
  • showing his students videos of a variety of musical events in which people with different gender identities take on different roles
  • challenging his students to get outside of their comfort zones
  • having explicit conversations with his classes about gender stereotypes in musical fields.

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