NAfME Awards Two, Two-Year Research Projects on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Music Education



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National Association for Music Education Awards Two, Two-Year Research Projects on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Music Education

RESTON, VA (May 25, 2017)—As part of an ongoing series of research projects that the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has funded, the leading association for music educators has awarded two new research projects to study important issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in music education. The award recipients are the University of Connecticut, Dr. Joseph Abramo and Dr. Cara Bernard, principal investigators, and Arizona State University, Dr. Jason Thompson, principal investigator. Each award carries a $10,000 stipend and spans two years of research.

Photo: Victoria Chamberlin

Dr. James Byo, Chair of the Society for Research in Music Education (SRME) which issued the call for proposals and chaired the selection committee, spoke to the importance of these projects to move forward the teaching of music for all students. “By sponsoring research that documents the ongoing state of inclusivity, diversity, equity, and access in music education and illuminates context-specific challenges and best practices, NAfME as an organization demonstrates a commitment to acting on its support of social justice in music education.”

“At NAfME, we are working for the day that the many benefits of music education are present in the lives of all our students,” adds Mike Blakeslee, Executive Director and CEO for NAfME. “Our work needs to be guided by more and better information on which we can base long-term strategies for achieving music for all.”

“Our work needs to be guided by more and better information on which we can base long-term strategies for achieving music for all.”

The aim of the University of Connecticut awarded research project is to gather best practices for creating supports for universities and public school teachers to help students of color and students from urban areas to major in music and become music teachers. “We are conducting observations and interviews in urban schools to find out the perspectives and practices of teachers and students,” explains Dr. Abramo. “In music education research, there is much discussion about changing the music curriculum to be more inclusive of different types of music-making and of students of color, and how the current curriculum creates barriers to access. However, the research has not reached out to teachers and students in urban areas to gather their perspectives and experiences around this topic.”

When asked why Dr. Abramo and Dr. Bernard chose to focus their research on collecting first-hand information from urban music students and educators, Dr. Abramo replied, “Our ultimate aim is to contribute to the efforts of many educators who are trying to foster a more diverse music teaching workforce. Research has suggested that about 87% of music teachers identify as white. As our schools become more diverse, it is important that the music teacher workforce grows in diversity as well. Music teachers coming from a diversity of backgrounds will diversify and improve music instruction. A greater diversity of ways of knowing, types of music and music making, approaches, and perspectives will improve music education for all students.”

Dr. Thompson along with his colleagues and doctoral students at Arizona State University are focusing their research project on community cultural wealth, an assets-based theory that identifies cultural resources that students and their families find valuable but may not be valued in school contexts. Through this grant, these researchers aim to explore the community cultural wealth that 13- to 18-year-olds in the Phoenix metropolitan region use to “do music” in three specific contexts: school music programs, community music programs, or on their own apart from any school or community organization.

Conducting research with young people doing music in contexts like schools, community programs, or on their own may provide useful information to music educators who often have interest in making music programs more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. In working towards this goal, Dr. Thompson adds that “members of the profession are beginning to better understand the landscape of young people who are included in and excluded from school music programs and music teacher education programs. Unfortunately, the profession lacks a theoretical knowledge base for mobilizing action because of a limited understanding of the community cultural wealth and practices of underrepresented and underserved populations.” Dr. Thompson and his research team believe that understanding how young people use community cultural wealth to “do music”, as well as where they face limitations, may help the profession develop more effective ways to bridge school and community partnerships and to create more inclusive musical opportunities during the school day for underrepresented and underserved young people.


National Association for Music Education, among the world’s largest arts education organizations, is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. NAfME advocates at the local, state, and national levels; provides resources for teachers, parents, and administrators; hosts professional development events; and offers a variety of opportunities for students and teachers. The Association orchestrates success for millions of students nationwide and has supported music educators at all teaching levels for more than a century. With more than 60,000 members, the organization is the voice of music education in the United States.