While the dictionary defines “equity” as a noun, the quality of being fair and impartial, this blog post (and the podcast that accompanies it) morphs “equity” into a verb, with tangible and actionable ideas. How do we define “equity?” What actions can we take and how can we employ from the various DEIB or ADEI or DEIA acronyms? And how can any of this help us become a better choral leader, musician, or educator?
Enter composer, conductor, equity coach, and nonprofit strategist committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, in this month’s Advocacy and Collaboration Curated Episode on the “Music (ed) Matters” Podcast: Arreon A. Harley-Emerson.
Mr. Harley-Emerson is the Director of Music and Operations of the Choir School of Delaware where he is responsible for the musical components of the renowned Choir School program as well as the day-to-day operations of the organization. He’s also the chair of the ACDA Diversity Initiatives Committee.
Committed to the principles of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), Mr. Harley-Emerson has established a thriving consultancy to assist arts and culture nonprofit organizations in remaining relevant in the 21st century. His work includes longitudinal studies, strategic planning, board governance, resource and asset development, and board diversification – and we talk about it all in this incredible conversation! Specifically, we talk in this one about cultural scaffolding, The Gang Mentality of Choir (a 2015 TedxTalk of Mr. Harley-Emerson), Maslow, Kirk Franklin, and the “Peabody voice,” the history that led to ADEIBR and how to define and use it as a tool for change and action, and the power infusing joy in all the things!
But how? According to Mr. Harley-Emerson, “leadership is commitment in action,” so step one is making the commitment and step two is figuring out how to take action.
By defining ADEIBR we can create a sequential procedure to help us reach that point in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid of “self-actualization” where motivation thrives because needs are met for all our singers. First, accessibility – can all singers gain access into your space? Once there, are they experiencing a diverse range of teaching styles, music, and overall experiences? Beyond that, is there equity, both the noun and verb; do actions provide a safe space that is fair and welcome? Is everyone represented and included? As singers are welcomed and included, do they know they belong? How do they see themselves and live in the space? And finally, where do restorative practices play out to build the community and repair in order for additional growth and learning to happen?
Advocacy isn’t about finding a one-size-fits-all solution, or doing the work once and considering it done. It is a constant assessment and analysis that you show up for every day in order to create spaces where all humans can be impacted by the power of collective song. In this podcast episode, Mr. Harley-Emerson references a 1998 Kirk Franklin jam, and it perfectly echoes how this conversation left me feeling, ready for a “revolution!” And now, with these steps, we have some direction on how to start.
Learn more about and connect with Mr. Harley-Emerson https://equitysings.com and choirschoolofdelaware.org.
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/KHF649tk-rQ.
Dr. Emily Williams Burch chairs ACDA’s Advocacy & Collaboration Committee. Dr. Burch has served in various positions for ACDA at the state, regional, national level in a variety of roles, including co-programming chair and honor choir coordinator for the Southern Region ACDA conferences since 2014. You can subscribe to her podcast for music educators wherever you get your podcasts, or at EmilyBurch.org/podcast.
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