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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Summer Listening List for Music Teachers

Last week I shared a summer reading list for music teachers, with my recommendations of books that I have found helpful in reflecting on my teaching practice, especially in addressing marginalized people and perspectives. Books are great! But what about the music we're listening to? Summer break is the perfect time to explore new genres and artists to bring into our lessons!


As I continue to explore the topic of equity in music education, the idea I keep returning to is the importance of listening. More than anything else we can do, listening to different perspectives- not just hearing but actually listening- has the power to foster true empathy. For music teachers in particular, one area where we tend to be most overtly exclusionary is in the musical material we consider worthy of using in our classrooms. Not only does that severely limit many of our students from feeling connected to our lessons, but it also presents a hierarchy of musical genres that is rooted in our own personal biases. Taking time in the summer to dive into genres and artists with which you are less familiar will give you a chance to gain some appreciation and understanding that you can bring into your teaching!

With that thought in mind, here are some suggestions of music that you could explore this summer- I recommend picking a couple of the ones with which you are least familiar right now to focus your attention. You need to have the time to really get to know the music if you are going to get to know it well enough to use in your teaching! It can be hard during the school year to push yourself out of your comfort zone- summer is a great time to expand your horizons and try something new.

1. Local Radio

How much do you listen to your local radio stations? I know I was not always the best about this in the past, but I've found there are a couple of radio stations that the majority of my students listen to outside of school. Pick one or two local stations and set your car radio to them this summer- besides the music they play, local stations will also keep you more in tune with your community!

2. Hip-Hop

I've written already about the importance of bringing more hip-hop into our teaching. I believe it is one of the most glaring disconnects between the typical music curriculum in schools and our students' musical experiences at home. If you normally don't listen to the genre, I highly recommend spending some time with it this summer. Most places will probably have a hip-hop radio station you can listen to. You can also look up current hits with lists like this and listen to specific songs on any streaming service.

3. Current Non-Western Music

It's pretty common for music teachers to only present traditional/ folk music when we incorporate music from cultures outside our own. But doing this presents a distorted view of the rest of the world to our students (read more about how to respectfully, accurately, and holistically bring the world into your music classes in this post). One of the great things about the modern age is the ease of accessibility to music from all over the world! One of the easiest ways to find the latest popular music from any country is to type in the country name and genre in Online Radio Box- you can listen free online. You can also explore stations by region, and often you can get song information as you listen so that you can find out more about songs and artists you might want to include in your lessons.

4. Music by Artists of Color


Don't limit representation of Black musicians to hip-hop, or East Asian musicians to "world music" and string quartets! Use the summer to seek out musicians of color in all different genres to include in your lessons. For younger students in particular, start with artists like Desmond Dennis, Black Violin, and Andrew Huang. You can discover more current artists with classroom-appropriate music in this post.

I'd love to hear about what you're listening to this summer, or new artists you've discovered recently that you're looking forward to bringing into your music classroom next year! Share your ideas in the comments below.

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