Recruiting and Retaining Hispanic and Latino/a/x Music Educators: A Literature Review

By NAfME Member Ruben James Alcala

This article first appeared in the OnlineFirst articles of Update: Applications of Research in Music Education


Hispanic and Latino/a/x students encounter substantial barriers and challenges at all educational levels when attempting to find necessary resources in secondary ensembles, graduate from high school, attend college, obtain teacher licensure, and enter the music education profession. Despite data showing growth of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population in U.S. schools, music educators cannot assume that these numbers will equate to more diversity in the field of music education. Considering the overwhelming number of obstacles Hispanic and Latino/a/x peoples face when trying to enter the field of music education, more supports are needed to (a) recruit a more diverse educator population and (b) retain highly qualified educators.


Hispanic and Latino/a/x peoples in music education are disproportionately underrepresented in relation to their overall population (Elpus & Abril, 2019). Hispanic and Latino/a/x students accounted for 28% of the total student enrollment in public schools across the United States in 2020, and it is projected that these students will comprise 30% of the public school population by 2030 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022). Conversely, Hispanic and Latino/a/x educators comprise only 9% of the overall teacher population (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021) and 1.94% of music teacher candidates (Elpus, 2015). In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (2016) reported that the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population represents 19% of high school graduates but only 13% of bachelor’s degree holders, suggesting high matriculation and dropout concerns. There is a need for a more racially diverse educator population that reflects the population of our students as the gap between teachers and students of color continues to grow (Boser, 2014). By closing this gap between teachers and students of color, we can empower students through recognition of their cultural identities (Fitzpatrick, 2012) and representation within educational settings (Capers, 2019) which can be more difficult for Hispanic and Latino/a/x students who have recently immigrated to the United States or are undocumented (Gomez, 2020Kruse, 2013A. C. Rodriguez, 2018).

There are few studies within the field of music education focusing on the Hispanic and Latino/a/x experience (Arias-Garcia & Gronemeier, 2015Escalante, 2019bGerrard, 2021Hamann & Cutietta, 2021Hayes, 2020Hurtado, 2008Kruse, 2013Lechuga & Schmidt, 2017Lind, 1999Palkki, 2015), with some conducted using Hispanic and Latino/a/x as a demographic qualifier (Abramo & Bernard, 2020Dekaney & Robinson, 2014DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016Kinney, 2019Lorah et al., 20142015). Most of these researchers concentrated on students’ experiences in the classroom (e.g., experiences in ensembles, effects of role models, and enrollment) and not on Hispanic and Latino/a/x educators or their experiences in or leading to the profession.

Because limited research exists within the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population in relation to music education, researchers should address current practices to better serve our Hispanic and Latino/a/x students which can hopefully lead to a more diverse educator population. Teachers and instructors at all educational levels often lack awareness of the obstacles Hispanic and Latino/a/x students face. The purpose of this literature review was to synthesize literature from the fields of music education and general education research on the barriers and supports Hispanic and Latino/a/x music students and educators encounter during elementary and secondary schooling, college, and in their professional lives.

smiling Latine students outside holding books and folders

Photo: FG Trade Latin via Getty Images

As there is limited research focusing specifically on the Hispanic and Latino/a/x experience within music education, I chose to expand the review of research to include experiences in general education, preservice training, and in the classroom. I developed this literature review by beginning with an evaluation of literature regarding the Hispanic and Latino/a/x experience in music education, their educational experiences in PK–12 classrooms, their postsecondary experiences, their preservice teacher education, and inservice teaching. Due to the limited literature within music education regarding the experiences of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population, it was necessary to reference general education literature. I utilized scholarly databases (i.e., JSTORERICWorldCat, ProQuestGoogle Scholar) and searched specific music education journals via SAGE. I also sought studies focused on the Hispanic and Latino/a/x educational experience in targeted journals (e.g., Journal of Latinos and EducationJournal of Hispanic Higher Education). My search terms included all Hispanic and Latino/a/x identifying terms, negative educational interactions (e.g., discrimination, obstacles, barriers, challenges, cultural invalidations), positive educational interactions (supports, representation, diversity), systemic issues (policy, language, social justice, language, poverty), schooling environments (urban, community college, Predominantly White Institution [PWI], Historically Black Colleges and University [HBCU], Hispanic-Serving Institution [HSI]), and inservice experiences (teacher turnover, retention, recruitment, licensure). I did not limit literature to specific dates or use exclusionary criteria for articles due to the lack of existing research.

Hispanic and Latino/a/x Identifying Terminology

As nomenclature has evolved, researchers have used various terms including Chicano/a, Hispanic, Latino/a, and Latinx as identifiers. Each of these identifying terms has a distinct meaning and is not interchangeable. Chicano/a is a person who is native of or descends from Mexico and lives in the United States. Many Mexican Americans used the term during the Chicano Movement in the 1960s to express political views founded by a shared cultural and ethnic identity (Delgado, 1995). Hispanic is a person who is native of or descends from a Spanish-speaking country, whereas Latino/a is a person who is native of or descends from a Latin American country. Due to the grammatical conventions of masculine and feminine endings, American-born Latinos/as popularized the term Latinx in 2014 to be more inclusive and gender-neutral (Garcia, 2020J. M. Rodriguez, 2020). In this review, I included studies that used all terminologies but will refer to the population and community as Hispanic and Latino/a/x for inclusivity.

The Path to Becoming a Music Educator

Navigating Elementary and Secondary School

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students have encountered substantial barriers at all educational levels when attempting to graduate high school, attend college, and enter the profession of music education (Acevedo-Gil, 2019Ayala & Ramirez, 2019Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019). Researchers have focused on the experiences of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students in the general education setting (Gomez, 2020Vega et al., 2015). These researchers found many perceived barriers including people (faculty, teachers, peers), policies (lack of opportunities), and places (lack of safety in or around school). In addition, various authors have attempted to address the systemic issues and barriers that Hispanic and Latino/a/x students encounter in the U.S. educational system (Convertino & Mein, 2020Hurtado et al., 2020). Although most researchers have conducted their studies outside the field of music education, these authors have provided valuable insight into the experiences of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population including a lack of resources, lack of high-quality schools, lack of educator knowledge of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x experience in education, the importance of role models, educational discrimination, and perceptions of barriers.

Lack of financial resources, family responsibilities, and lack of access to opportunities have been viewed as the principal barriers facing the Hispanic and Latino/a/x community (Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019). According to Rangel-Clawson (2016), 30% of Latinx students lived in poverty and attended low socioeconomic school districts. Although not all Hispanic and Latino/a/x students attended low socioeconomic schools, they were overrepresented in the population living in poverty (Creamer, 2020). One contributing factor to these poverty rates is the result of living in single-parent homes (Rangel-Clawson, 2016). Students from single-parent households tend to have higher mobility rates, lower academic achievement, are more likely “to live paycheck to paycheck” (Rangel-Clawson, 2016, p. 44), and rely on older siblings to be employed or help support their family (Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019). As participation in music programs, especially at the secondary level, often requires commitment by the parent(s) as well as the student, families may have difficulties providing transportation to activities as these students tend to rely on bus transportation (Dekaney & Robinson, 2014).

Without adequate financial support, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students often cannot afford to participate in extracurricular music ensembles due to the costs associated with participation such as the purchase/rental of instruments or repairs (Dekaney & Robinson, 2014Escalante, 2019a). Furthermore, students participating in ensembles are often incapable of gaining access to supplemental musical supports such as private lessons (Abramo & Bernard, 2020DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016). Due to a lack of financial support and low socioeconomic environment, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students may have to overcome more school-based barriers than their peers. Despite these numerous financial barriers, some Hispanic and Latino/a/x students have overcome these obstacles and succeeded at high levels (Vega et al., 2015).

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students are more likely to attend schools that lack resources required for student success which may cause high turnover rates of teachers and administrators (DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016Escalante, 2019bRangel-Clawson, 2016). Music programs in schools lacking resources tend to receive less funding, have poor facilities and outdated materials, and limited resources (DeLorenzo, 2012DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016). Students may be limited or unable to enroll in their music electives due to remedial or “second-dose” classes (Lorah et al., 2014, p. 241). In addition, school employees in these educational settings can potentially have detrimental effects on the achievement and success of their students due to teaching practices based upon a deficit perspective where teachers prejudge student ability based upon stereotypes (Escalante, 2019aGerrard, 2021Palkki, 2015Shaw, 2015). Hispanic and Latino/a/x students often suffer from negative stereotypes from their peers and teachers throughout their educational experience (Ayala & Ramirez, 2019Durkee et al., 2019). Teachers’ negative attitudes toward their students (Vega et al., 2015) result in low standards (McQueen, 2017) and prejudgments (Palkki, 2015) which can cause educators to approach Hispanic and Latino/a/x students from a deficit perspective, resulting in lower educational outcomes (Ayala & Ramirez, 2019Escalante, 2019a).

To combat deficit perspectives, music educators have sought to incorporate culturally responsive pedagogy (Abril, 2003DeLorenzo, 2012), although scholars have also cautioned against musical stereotyping (Abril, 2006Lechuga & Schmidt, 2017) or generalizing that Hispanic or Latino/a/x cultures are ubiquitous (Armstead, 2012). Although the underrepresentation of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students is present in secondary music programs (Elpus & Abril, 2011), there have been no indications that students are uninterested in music, but music offerings in school may be irrelevant (Abramo & Bernard, 2020Escalante, 2019aHurtado, 2008). Teachers may lack awareness of the educational obstacles Hispanic and Latino/a/x students face in school and may not know how to create proper support systems (McQueen, 2017Oliva, 2008).

Low recruitment and retention of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students from the elementary level into secondary programs leave only a fraction of participants to pursue music teacher certification (Escalante, 2019b). Another possible consideration for the lack of participation may be that Hispanic and Latino/a/x students view participation in school music programs as a “White activity” (Escalante, 2019a, p. 3; 2019b, p. 8). This may be due to the underrepresentation of Hispanic and Latino/a/x culture as White, male composers dominate the repertoire students perform (Cumberledge & Williams, 2022Koza, 2008Zabanal, 2020). Dekaney and Robinson (2014) stated that “White teachers are often surprised to learn that students of color might associate a musical career with skin color” (p. 458). With a homogeneous teacher population (Elpus, 2015U.S. Department of Education, 2016), the experiences of White teachers could become the measure of student expectations in the classroom (Fitzpatrick, 2012). Experiences with barriers during primary and secondary school have substantial impacts on students’ desire and ability to gain a diploma and enter higher education. Although many students are able to overcome these educational boundaries and enter into higher education programs, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students may face more barriers of which they are unaware.

Navigating the Transition to College

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students often lack guidance on college from parents (Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019Oliva, 2008), which has resulted in additional challenges for students as many are first-generation college attendees with little knowledge of the collegiate educational system (Abramo & Bernard, 2020). For some families, difficulties attending college are compounded due to many first-time college students being DREAMers—undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children (Nunez, 2017) who are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program encompasses approximately 18,000 Hispanic and Latino/a/x individuals, including teachers who are at risk of losing their protected status (Griffin, 2018). As Hispanic and Latino/a/x students and parents have little experience in the American education system, a lack of institutional knowledge can deter students from attending college (Hurtado et al., 2020).

Family responsibility and support is another crucial barrier for Hispanic and Latino/a/x students attending college (Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019). Hispanic and Latino/a/x students tend to come from large families (average 5.2 siblings) and many older siblings help support their families causing them to drop out of school or take on adult responsibilities such as childcare (Hurtado, 2008Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019).

Positive peer influences are fundamental to the success of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students when completing high school and attending college (Hayes et al., 2015Hurtado et al., 2020). Researchers have indicated that because of the potential negative peer influence, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students oftentimes relied on mentors or role models (e.g., teachers) for support (Hayes et al., 2015Smith, 2015). Students with a positive relationship with a teacher or peers were more likely to stay in school as role models positively affect their academic experience (Hernandez et al., 2013Rangel-Clawson, 2016). These relationships may help support the transition into college to help students overcome issues of guidance and family responsibility as they encounter more difficulties when attempting to obtain their college diplomas.

Navigating College

Entering college, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students have faced many hindrances as they may lack preparation or resources while struggling to balance work, school, and family (Luedke, 2019Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019). Hispanic and Latino/a/x students have felt underprepared for college (Manzano-Sanchez et al., 2019) and may experience more issues if they have limited access to technology, reliable internet, or lack training in educational technology. As instructional practices have shifted to place more emphasis on technology, the “digital divide” remains a barrier that can accrue more financial burdens (Convertino & Mein, 2020, p. 316).

Feelings of being underprepared are amplified when students are first-generation college attendees, which may cause physical, mental, and social challenges (A. C. Rodriguez, 2018). First-generation college students tended to complete fewer credits per semester, earned lower grade point averages, and had fewer peer interactions than non-Hispanic and Latino/a/x students (A. C. Rodriguez, 2018). In addition, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students were more likely than non-Hispanic and Latino/a/x students to enter higher education later, the least likely population to enroll full-time, and more likely to attend 2-year colleges (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021Song & Elliott, 2012).

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students were more likely to enroll in community college than other students with 56% of all Hispanic and Latino/a/x undergraduates enrolled in community college in 2014 (Acevedo-Gil, 2019). Students who began their studies in community college had a lower probability of attaining a bachelor’s degree than those who began at a 4-year college (Alfonso, 2004). Although 46% of all Hispanic and Latino/a/x students enrolled in community college after high school (Smith, 2015), the students who enroll at a community college often do not earn degrees as 42% were no longer enrolled after 3 years of beginning a program (Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 2020).

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students have reported feeling a strong level of discomfort when attending universities due to culture shock (Robinson, 2018), pressure to assimilate (Hernandez et al., 2013Luedke, 2019), and discrimination (Durkee et al., 2019Kruse, 2013). When students graduated from schools with mostly other students of color, they felt culture shock when transitioning to predominantly White colleges (DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016). Participants described the experience as “not feeling like home,” feeling “singled out,” and “overwhelming” (DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016, p. 12). Furthermore, students who experienced a greater frequency of discrimination were more likely to have thoughts of dropping out of school (McWhirter et al., 2018). Students experienced issues of race, identity, and felt that schools had an “invisible culture”—feelings of not being culturally represented—at institutions where Hispanic and Latino/a/x music, food, cultural celebrations, and language lacked visibility (Ayala & Ramirez, 2019A. C. Rodriguez, 2018, p. 40).

At PWIs, it is important to acknowledge students’ culture as students may not feel that the educational system was designed for them (Hernandez et al., 2013). The lack of representation at PWIs may be the reason that the majority of all Hispanic and Latino/a/x undergraduates attended HSIs during the 2019–2020 academic year (Postsecondary National Policy Institute, 2021). Hispanic and Latino/a/x students also seldom encountered professors of color (Abramo & Bernard, 2020). For example, the Institute of Education Sciences (2020) reported that 80% of full-time faculty were White, whereas Hispanic male (2%) and female (<1%) professors accounted for only a small fraction of faculty. Hayes’s (2020) analysis of 603 National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)-affiliated institutions revealed that, during the 2019–2020 academic year, only 3% of the 10,378 faculty members were tenure-track Hispanic faculty, although the schools enrolled 7,903 Hispanic students (13%) majoring in music. This underrepresentation among college faculty can serve as another deterrent for Hispanic and Latino/a/x attending college or majoring in music education.

Navigating the School of Music

Gaining entrance into a college seldom equates to admission into a school’s music department as many collegiate music programs require a separate application or audition. The college music audition process tends to favor students who excel in classical music, receive private lessons, and attend high-performing school ensembles (Fitzpatrick et al., 2014Koza, 2008Robinson, 2018). School administrators may also expect students to have acquired music theory and aural skills knowledge prior to attending college (Abramo & Bernard, 2020) or be trained in high art traditions with no potential to audition or perform music from pop, folk, or jazz repertoire (Koza, 2008Robinson, 2018). In addition, potential future music educators may not gain entrance into programs as many colleges often do not offer a music education track with lower performance standards compared with performance majors (Koza, 2008). These high-performance standards may disproportionally affect minority students. DeLorenzo (2012) wrote,

In short, poor Black or Latino children do not stand much of a chance when it comes to the experiences needed for a college music program or professional career in music. Without continuity in music instruction, money for private lessons, or instrument rental and other resources, students can hardly develop a competitive level of performance skills that lead to participation in music camps, community orchestras, or college music programs. (p. 42)

Koza (2008) argued that these restrictive practices narrow the definition of “legitimate music knowledge” and prevent students from underrepresented cultures from entering the field (p. 146).

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students rarely interact with professors or university role models of color who provide needed support systems (Abramo & Bernard, 2020). Underrepresentation of their culture continues in the music theory and history classroom, which is often taught within a White, European frame (Clercq, 2020Ewell, 2020), and in the repertoire they are performing as individuals or in ensembles (Cumberledge & Williams, 2022Koza, 2008). Hispanic and Latino/a/x students struggle with these systematic issues—both societal and higher education music system—which provides a unique variety of barriers to overcome when pursuing a musical identity that may be different from their own.

The route to teacher licensure is also difficult because only 49% of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x student population majoring in education were able to complete a bachelor’s degree within 6 years (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). Arias-Garcia and Gronemeier (2015) reported that Hispanic and Latino/a/x students believed the process of entering a career in music education was too long, expensive, offered too few scholarships, and tended “to serve more as a roadblock than an opportunity” (p. 1). This extensive process caused students to incur more expenses which led them to pursue other careers. Students must overcome several hurdles to attain licensure including holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, demonstrating mastery of musical/instructional content, and passing a teacher licensure exam(s) (Elpus, 2015). It is relevant to note that Hispanic and Latino/a/x peoples tended to receive lower licensure scores than other demographic populations (Angrist & Guryan, 2004).

Preservice experiences help educators gain an understanding of possible environments in which they will teach (DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016). Robinson (2012) found preservice music teachers had a stronger preference to teach in suburban schools which tend to enroll smaller numbers of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students. Preservice teachers also felt underprepared by their programs to teach students from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds (Kelly, 2003Vandeusen, 2021). This lack of training may discourage preservice music educators from seeking employment in more diverse programs that need highly qualified music educators.

Navigating the Profession

Although few researchers have focused on Hispanic and Latino/a/x inservice teachers, educators have experienced barriers that include discrimination, mistreatment, unpaid assignment of additional roles and responsibilities, microaggressions, and have been frequently overlooked for advancement opportunities (Trombetta, 2019). For example, Hispanic and Latino/a/x teachers are often called on to serve as a translator for others which can make teachers uncomfortable when they are assumed to be bilingual (Griffin, 2018). Hispanic and Latino/a/x teachers have experienced assumptions that they are unqualified to be professional educators or held subordinate positions like paraprofessionals or teaching assistants (Shafer, 2018). A participant in Griffin’s study of Latino teacher perspectives Griffin (2018) described feeling undervalued:

My intellect isn’t always valued. The strategies that I use aren’t always valued because folks fall back on the ‘Well, you’re Mexican, like them, so that’s why you do better. If you weren’t Mexican, then I wouldn’t be this good . . . It’s really frustrating. (p. 10)

Discrimination can cause Hispanic and Latino/a/x teachers to leave the field early. Latinos for Education (2020) reported that 43% of Latino teachers left the profession within 4 years. As the rate of teachers leaving the field has grown recently, a survey by the National Education Association (NEA) reported that 55% of teachers planned to leave the field earlier than anticipated (Walker, 2022). Survey results indicated that Hispanic and Latino/a/x teachers reported thoughts of leaving at a higher percentage (59%), and 90% of teachers felt burned out. With teachers experiencing difficulties, there is potential for a decrease in the already disproportionate Hispanic and Latino/a/x educator population.

Implications for Music Education

Despite data showing growth of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population in U.S. schools, music educators cannot assume that these numbers will equate to improved college outcomes (Oliva, 2008) or more diversity in music education. Considering the overwhelming number of barriers Hispanic and Latino/a/x peoples face on the path to entering the field of music education, more support is needed throughout their education experience from grade school through their time teaching in the classroom. There is a need to provide more financial assistance (Latinos for Education, 2020), retain educators (Griffin, 2018), reduce negative interactions during schooling and in the teacher workplace (Turner et al., 2017), incorporate more Hispanic and Latino/a/x culture into schools (A. C. Rodriguez, 2018), integrate more culturally responsive teaching in schools (Palkki, 2015Shaw, 2015), work to remove systemic barriers (DeLorenzo, 2012), and rethink practices in higher education (Robinson, 2018).

Beyond financial support, Hispanic and Latino/a/x students and educators need to have a role model or mentor (Gomez, 2020). Although students of color tend to do better academically when taught by teachers of color (Boser, 2014), Hamann and Cutietta (2021) found that 76% of teacher role models in music were either the students’ race or gender, suggesting the importance of a role model regardless of ethnicity. Furthermore, music teacher role models are the most influential person in students’ decision-making when considering music at the college level (Hamann & Cutietta, 2021). Mentorship should continue to help individuals traverse the many difficulties faced throughout their collegiate and professional experience. Hispanic and Latino/a/x students identified music teachers as role models more than any other discipline (Hamann & Cutietta, 2021) which suggests the importance of teachers encouraging diversity in education by connecting with their Hispanic and Latino/a/x students.

Children singing songs in music class and teacher playing the guitar

Photo: Hispanolistic / E+ Collection via Getty Images

To better recruit Hispanic and Latino/a/x students into collegiate music programs, schools should broaden audition requirements to include interviews, letters of support, and allow repertoire outside of the European American canon (Robinson, 2018). As students of color often feel uncomfortable due to the overwhelming population of White students and faculty (Abramo & Bernard, 2020), it is important for universities to include professors and students of color in the audition process. In addition, teachers should create experiences for students to see other musicians of color in performance and in teaching situations throughout their schooling (DeLorenzo & Silverman, 2016). Through media, guest clinicians, or in their repertoire, it is essential that students see musicians that look like them which can help to inspire the next generation of music educators (Dekaney & Robinson, 2014).

Changes within schools of music can help attract a more diverse student body but it is important to integrate these changes into the collegiate setting through student activities, dining options, and providing culturally oriented course options (A. C. Rodriguez, 2018). As Hispanic and Latino/a/x students tend to enter college later and struggle to balance family, work, and school, colleges should consider offering classes outside of the traditional weekday timeframe to meet the needs of potential teachers (Turner et al., 2017). Universities should also consider seeking out students from community colleges as they enroll larger numbers of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students (Acevedo-Gil, 2019).

Although attracting more teachers into secondary music programs and into the profession is important, it is also vital to emphasize retaining highly qualified Hispanic and Latino/a/x educators in the profession. Music educators often leave teaching for better salaries but will also seek other teaching placements based on workplace conditions (Gardner, 2010). Retaining teachers in the profession is critically essential. As Griffin (2018) wrote,

But recruiting is not enough. Just as important is retaining and developing these teachers. Yes, Latino teachers are the fastest growing population entering the teaching profession (3 percent to 8 percent from 1987 to 2012), but they (along with Black teachers) are exiting the profession at higher rates than other teachers. (p. 1)

Hispanic and Latino/a/x students and teachers need to have positive school experiences, both throughout their studies and in the profession, as negative interactions create a continuous cycle of distancing Hispanic and Latino/a/x peoples from education (Turner et al., 2017).

Colleges should target recruitment efforts and partnerships with underserved communities to attract more educators into the classroom (Abramo & Bernard, 2020). A model for support could come from research on the practices of HSIs and HBCUs. Capers (2019) found that graduation rates of Hispanic and Latino/a/x students rose by 3.5% for campuses designated as HSIs and 12.27% at HBCUs. Capers wrote: “In sum, institutions must descriptively represent students in some capacity to substantively serve them” (p. 1123). As institutions must only enroll 25% of their population as Hispanic or Latino/a/x to receive HSI designation (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.), some schools do not embrace their label to include a focus on the Hispanic and Latino/a/x communities and take a neutral approach as serving a “multicultural community” (Capers, 2019, p. 1123). In addition, HSIs graduate 40% of the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population and invest largely into their teacher preparation programs through grants from the Department of Education (Turner et al., 2017).

As illustrated in this review, more research within the Hispanic and Latino/a/x population at all educational levels is essential to understanding how to better recruit and retain more diverse music educators. Limited investigations involving the Hispanic and Latino/a/x community within music education require researchers to focus more attention on the preservice and inservice experiences of these educators as this may provide insight for educational practices and policy. Targeted interventions with financial, social, and emotional support can help students navigate the treacherous journey to enter the field of music education. To combat inequities of marginalized populations in music education, we must be active in pursuing Hispanic and Latino/a/x peoples to grow the diversity of the profession so that students can see representative examples in their classrooms.


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About the author:

Ruben James Alcala headshotNAfME member Ruben James Alcala recently completed his PhD in Music Education in Choral Conducting at the University of Oklahoma and serves as Director of Youth Music at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church in Norman, Oklahoma. At OU, Ruben served as a Graduate Teaching Associate in Choral Music Education. Ruben graduated with a Master’s of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Oklahoma where he served dual roles as Graduate Teaching Assistant and Fellow of Music at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church. Ruben had the opportunity to conduct several ensembles at OU including: OU Chorale, Opera Chorus, Men’s Glee Club, Choral Union, and Chamber Singers, as well as, singing in the early music ensemble, Collegium Musicum. Ruben received his Bachelor of Music degree from Houston Baptist University where he served as Choral Assistant to Dr. John Yarrington. Ruben was also the recipient of the John Yarrington Fellowship in Choral Conducting allowing him to direct three choral ensembles at Houston Baptist University and was awarded The President’s Award.

Ruben has served appointments as Head Choir Director at Mayde Creek High School (TX) and Santa Fe South Middle and High Schools (OK). Ruben holds professional memberships with NAfME, ACDA, SMTE, TMEA, TCDA, OkMEA, and OCDA and was selected as a Quarterfinalist for the 2016 Grammy Educator Award. Students under his direction have received superior ratings at contests and festivals and many have been selected to Region and All-State Choirs. In addition to his work with choirs at SFS, Ruben was also an active staff member throughout the school serving as Head Coach for the Middle and High School Wrestling teams, Head Coach for Middle School Baseball, and Asst. Coach for Middle School Football.

As a conductor, Ruben has conducted choral groups across the United States and Austria in works including: Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, Joseph Haydn’s Missa Sancti Nicoli and Missa St. Joannis de Deo, and Paul Bassler’s Missa Kenya. He has also assisted in the preparation of other masterworks including Orff’s Carmina Burana, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Mass in C, Schubert’s Mass in G, Haydn’s Creation, and Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht. Ruben has also prepared choruses for several opera productions including Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, Don Giovanni, and Die Zauberflote, Strauss’s Die Fliedermaus, and Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol. Ruben also severed as Musical Director and Conductor of the 2015 MCHS production of Once Upon A Mattress, 2016 production of Chicago, 2017 production of In The Heights (nominated for 4 Tommy Tunes awards including Best Music Direction), and 2018 production of Legally Blonde (nominated for 5 Tommy Tunes awards).

As a music education researcher, Ruben has presented research at SMTE, OKMEA, and NAfME and has focused much of his research on the experiences of Hispanic and Latino/a/x/e teachers in music education.

Ruben lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, their two sons, and dog, Billie.

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

November 9, 2023


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April 2024 Teaching Music
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