The November 2020 issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Addressing Contextual Information in Multicultural Choral Repertoire” by Tiffany Walker. You can read it in its entirety at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the article.
There is an ongoing need to help choral music educators make informed decisions about how to select culturally responsive music. Teaching music from diverse cultures is part of state and national music standards, but it needs to be approached knowledgably, beyond picking a song in a different language. Julia Shaw refers to culturally responsive pedagogy as a way of teaching music from diverse cultures using prior knowledge, frames of reference, and diverse performance styles to make the learning experience more relevant to students.1
Without this cultural meaning, repertoire selection and performance could fall victim to cultural appropriation, which happens when “people from a more powerful culture adopt the art, symbols, or elements of a less powerful culture without understanding or respecting the context or history of that material.”2 Knowing more about the multicultural music arrangements we choose to perform may spur the developing of prior knowledge and frame of reference needed to practice culturally responsive pedagogy. Why is it that choral music educators shy away from programming diverse music?
Some choir teachers may feel uncomfortable adding multicultural music to their concert program because they lack training or exposure to the genre and they fear being inauthentic or falling victim to cultural appropriation.3 On the other hand, there may be teachers who are not afraid to program music in a variety of languages, but lack cultural responsiveness by not delving further into the cultural meaning of the music. Sometimes an arrangement inaccurately includes instruments creating an entertaining affect instead of creating an authentic musical experience.
My intention is to help guide a choir director towards knowing how one could select repertoire that validly represents the music of diverse cultures. This includes ways to inform the study and programming of cultural music, examples of trusted publishers, and describing what to look for in octavos.
1 Julia Shaw, “The Skin that We Sing: Culturally Responsive Choral Music Education,” Music Educators Journal 98, no. 4 (2012): 75-81.
2 Ryan Cho, “Cultural Appropriation and Choral Music: A Conversation That Can Make Both Our Music and Community Better,” Choral Journal 55, no. 10 (2015): 59.
3 Kathy Robinson, “Teacher Education for a New World of Musics,” in Readings of Diversity, Inclusion, and Music For All (Reston, VA: MENC, the National Association for Music Education) 14-31; Margaret M. Woods, “Alleviating the Difficulties in Teaching Multicultural Choral Music (PhD diss., George Mason University, 2018), ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.