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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Current Musicians of Color for Black History Month and Beyond

In the United States, February is Black History Month. Making sure my teaching values the broadest spectrum of music and musicians possible has always been a passion of mine, but this year I feel an even greater sense of responsibility to my students (and to myself) to make more room in my classes for musical role models who are people of color.

I think as music teachers when we consider ways to incorporate Black History Month into our lessons, the history of jazz, a study of Scott Joplin, or maybe even protest songs or hip-hop come to mind. But today I want to focus on current musicians of color outside of the traditional "pop music" realm who are making music in a variety of genres with "kid-friendly" songs.

Of course there is an endless amount of material out there I could include and dozens more musicians I wish I could feature in this post, but I hope these examples will spark further exploration of other music by these artists as well as many other musicians as well. The videos and music below would be great to play "just for fun", to use as a listening example and discuss the musical and/or lyrical content afterwards, to introduce instruments of the orchestra or genres, and more- both during the month of February and beyond.

Kevin Olusola, best known as a member of Pentatonix, is an amazing cello player and composer:

Esperanza Spalding is an amazing bassist, singer, and composer:

Daniel Bernard Roumain is a violinist and composer:

Robert Glasper is a grammy award-winning jazz pianist:

Leon Bridges has lots of great songs with jazz influences:

India Arie's song "Breathe" is a great conversation-starter:

So much amazing, positive music from the show "Empire"- this is one of my favorites:

Alex Boye has written lots of positive, empowering songs, including this one which also features people with different abilities:

Alright, it's time for me to stop and pass the baton to all of you: what current musicians of color have/will you share with your students? I'd love for my readers to add to the list in the comments to create an even more amazing resource for all of us to use! It's so important for all of our students to see themselves reflected in the role models we choose to present to them in class. 

If you're looking to explore more ways to foster understanding amongst your students, here are some other related topics to explore:

Happy Black History Month.

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  1. These are great suggestions, thank you! I am not familiar with many of these musicians so I look forward to listening to them and showing them to my classes. I like showing this version of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

    1. Awesome addition to the list- Lift Every Voice is a great song to use during Black History Month!

  2. Black Violin, especially this one:
    And Stereotypes:

    1. Love Black Violin! They're coming near me on tour soon and I know several of my students are going :)