Ethnomusicology

graf sharonSharon Graf, University of Illinois Springfield
CMS Board Member for Ethnomusicology

At the 2015 CMS National Conference in Indianapolis there was a good representation of papers, panels, lecture recitals and posters on ethnomusicological and multi-disciplinary topics that shed light on music practice outside the central canon of western music education. These included a panel on “Latin American Conceptions of Music and Music Education” (Amanda Soto, Pat Campbell, Radio Cremata), a paper on “Hip Hop Perspectives on School, Schooling, and School Music” (Adam Kruse), and a poster on the “Liturgical Jazz of Edgar E. Summerlin” (Derick Cordoba). A diverse set of musical performances took place, including Chinese piano works by Zhou Long and Chen Yi (Susan Chan), an electro-acoustic mbira performance by Jim Rhinehart, and a set of Sufi songs sung by LaToya Lain. There was also attention to local musicians including a presentation on Indianapolis ragtime by Nanette Kaplan Solomon. There seem to have been fewer local traditional musicians on the program than the previous years in St. Louis and Cambridge, and this is an area we should look to expand again in coming years. An ethnomusicological highpoint of the conference was the excellent Robert M. Trotter Lecture given by Daniel Sheehy, Curator and Director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, entitled “Great Music, Great Stories: Tales of Excellence and Equity from Off the Beaten Path.”

At the Indianapolis conference there were also two panels put together by the Ethnomusicology Advisory Council. The first explored a variety of innovative and proven pedagogies curriculum reform that exemplify the recommendations of the CMS Taskforce on the Undergraduate Music Major. Topics included the diversification of teaching methodologies, individualized curriculum design, and a broadening of topics taught in core survey courses. A highlight of the panel was the presentation by respected ethnomusicology scholar and former Society for Ethnomusicology President Tim Rice, who spoke about an innovative approach to teaching a core music history course that challenges the traditional chronological survey format. Instead, the course follows a narrative about diverse musical styles and cultures and proceeds from music with the shallowest historical roots to music with the deepest roots. The second panel focused on Public Musicology arguing that music is inescapably public and musicians are public figures, yet often their voices do not connect beyond the academy. The panel explored approaches making musical knowledge open, accessible, and available beyond the academic and classroom spheres through digital delivery and from a wide variety of cultural perspectives. The panel featured two special guest presenters: ethnomusicologist Greg Adams, who is an archivist at the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, demonstrated early minstrel banjo music and discussed how it could be used to explore difficult racial issues past and present; and Richard Feinberg Professor of Anthropology at Kent State, noted scholar of Polynesian communities in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the Central Pacific, who discussed some of the roles that music plays in Pacific Island culture and why this is useful information for non-Pacific Islanders. Both panels were well received and panelists fielded a healthy set of questions from the audience. This was a strong indication of the need for continuing efforts of CMS members to keep current and relevant with contemporary concerns for inclusivity by rethinking the core music curriculum, as was so appropriately articulated in the report by the CMS Task Force on the Undergraduate Music Major (2014).

The 2015 conference proved a fertile place for ethnomusicologists to brainstorm for future projects. The Ethnomusicology Advisory Council and a number of CMS members interested in ethnomusicology discussed (among other pertinent issues) the upcoming “Transformations” theme for next year and explored a number of pertinent issues. These included:

(a) Professional Identity Transformation—how to “branch out” from the Classical Western canon. What suggestions can we offer to give faculty the courage to branch out?

(b) Transforming Borders—local, regional, national, transnational transformations. How can we be more inclusive in music curriculum and programming to transform borders into liberating rather than constricting mechanisms?

(c) Critical Thinking and Musical Citizenship: How can we transforming isolated music study into public centers of musical exchange; and

(d) Diversifying K-12 Pedagogies—What advice can we offer upcoming educators to transform and diversify the K-12 curriculum?

Though I was unable to attend the Society for Ethnomusicology Conference this year, Advisory Council Member Yona Stamatis attended and served as liaison to this important organization.

In 2016 I look forward to continuing discussions and innovating active measures cultivate diversity and inclusivity as an everyday feature of contemporary music education not only in academic but also public settings.