Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Initiate, Create, Activate: Practical Solutions for Making Culturally Diverse Music Education a Reality

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Initiate, Create, Activate: Practical Solutions for Making Culturally Diverse Music Education a Reality

Article excerpt


The 'global village' states Palmer (2004), "has become a cliche, but it is real. We are as close to each other as CNN, e-mail, and the World Wide Web allow" (p. 132). With the increased globalisation of society and advances in technology, opportunities exist for listening to diverse musics from a variety of cultures which would have been hard to imagine 100 years ago. This greater accessibility to different musics means that there is now a wealth of opportunities for musical change to traditional styles and instruments (Rice, 2012). An argument could be made therefore, that all music educators would find it difficult to ignore the importance and fundamental nature of cultural inclusivity in the music classroom (see for example, Curtin, 1984; Griswold, 1994; Lynch, 1989; Thompson, 1998). No longer an afterthought; cultural diversity in music education has become both a reality and a necessity in the 21st century (Schippers 2010; Cain, 2005, 2010, 2011; Lum, 2007; Drummond, 2005).

This paper presents the voices of three practitioners experienced in the field of culturally diverse music education. Over the past 25 years the authors have ignited an interest in world musics in their students from pre-school to higher education in North America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. They have been committed to creating innovative programs which practically reflect the changing nature of contemporary classrooms within a global society.

Each voice represents a different perspective on the journey to making culturally diverse education a reality. Although the focus is on music education in the Australian context and with special emphasis on the ways diverse music education can enhance creativity, the observations presented apply globally. A dictum which unites these voices is based on the insightful work of Bruno Nettl (1992) who advocates for the exploration of musics through a flexible and context-specific approach:

The idea is not to teach the music of these cultures, and for the students to know them, but to teach something about them and for students to know they exist and are worthy of attention and respect. Emphatically, it is better to know a little than nothing. The first thing our students need to get is a sense of 'what's out there'. (p. 5)

Through years of observation, practice and research in a variety of settings, the authors have identified six key theoretical and practical themes which will addressed in this paper:

1. The impact of globalisation on the accessibility of world musics and the resulting importance of intercultural competency for all students.

2. The influence of an increased breadth of musical knowledge on students' musical identities, and the corresponding increase in creativity within culturally relevant boundaries.

3. The lack or absence of pedagogical approaches to teaching non-Western musics in the training of pre-service and in-service music teachers, and how this impacts the development of inclusive music programs.

4. Acknowledgment that issues of authenticity and context must be addressed when establishing a degree of cultural accuracy, but need not stifle innovative and adaptive programs.

5. The critical role individual music educators play in assisting students to develop qualities of curiosity, open-mindedness, respect and empathy for'the other', to enlarge their students' horizons of musical understanding, and to develop a 'tolerance of uncertainty'.

6. Acknowledgement that there are many ways to build a culturally inclusive music program. Some practical approaches are explored in this paper which encompass a greater breadth and enjoyment of music, using a cross-cultural musical elements approach.

The first section of this paper provides a review of relevant literature as a theoretical framework for the second section--a practical 'how to' guide for teachers; tried and tested with a wide variety of ages and in an abundance of contexts. …

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