Current and former Mead Witter School of Music students are participating in The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) 2020 National Conference, “Land and Equity: The Art and Politics of Place.” Beginning October 15 and held throughout multiple days, the a2ru conference is an opportunity for practitioners and researchers from across the higher education spectrum to share innovations and perspectives in the arts.

Thea Valmadrid and Mat Rodriguez are presenting Undoing Classical Whiteness: Incorporating Anti-Racism and Social Justice into Classical Music Courses at UW-Madison. Their session begins at 1 pm October 19.

Midori Samson is presenting “In C”: Using Terry Riley’s masterpiece to operationalize a social justice approach to music pedagogy with refugee children. Her session begins at 3 pm October 29. 

Thea and Matt’s session explores a course proposal that demands a required education on the relationship between Western and Non-Western music cultures while maintaining a focus on anti-racism and social justice. They note that at the Mead Witter School of Music, the present curriculum requirements for B.A., B.S., and B.M. degrees have a heavy emphasis on the education of Western music. B.M. degrees require a single Non-Western music course, but this course is a survey of Non-Western music cultures without a primary focus on social justice.

Further, there are two elective courses that address elements of racism in Western music, but they are electives that have only been offered recently and are upper-level courses that are typically only available to upperclassmen during undergraduate years.

The purpose of Thea and Matt’s course is to create visibility of the experiences of POC musicians in the classical music world, educate non-POC musicians on their privilege, and ensure that supportive race discussions are held early into undergraduate studies and in the classical music field.

Midori’s session explores the compositional structure that Terry Riley uses in “In C” is ideal for reconstruction and experimentation when teaching music composition to children. Midori will describe her work using “In C” as a point of entry for composition lessons with refugee students. She will also introduce a new framework for a social justice approach to music pedagogy that motivates these composition lessons.

At the core of Midori’s work is the idea that learning music comes with powerful benefits, including boosting confidence, communication, and teamwork. But music can only guarantee these benefits when students have access to an anti-oppressive classroom. She observes that western music’s pedagogical tradition has harmful tendencies: it can undermine students’ voice and musical ideas, and it largely excludes students who lack training.

It can even perpetuate colonialist ideals of white hegemony through practices like forcing the use of conventional notation, teaching exclusively western instruments, exposing students to music by white male composers only, and emphasizing tradition and discipline over individuality and experimentation.

To urgently respond to these observations, Midori has created a framework that reimagines music pedagogy through a social justice lens. Inspired by related frameworks in the social work literature, she names principles of socially just music pedagogy and explains how teaching artists can exemplify them, particularly when making music with refugee communities.

Thea Valmadrid is a 2020 graduate of UW-Madison.  She received her Bachelor’s of Music in Violin Performance under the direction of Soh-Hyun Altino.  During her time at UW-Madison, Thea was a Writing Fellow, B.A.S.E.S. mentor, and member of the Mead Witter School of Music Symphony Orchestra and chamber music program.  Additionally, she has written an award-winning research paper addressing discrimination that female Asian American writing tutors face at UW-Madison, and currently is pursuing a paralegal degree.

Mat Rodriguez is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Clarinet Performance with plans to graduate in May 2021. At the Mead Witter School of Music, Mat studies clarinet with Alicia Lee and performs in the Wingrito Wind Quintet, Symphony Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble. Outside of music, he is a melanoma oncology student research assistant in the Sondel Research Group and a resource navigator for medically underserved patients at local community health clinics.

Midori is a bassoonist, educator, activist and scholar. She is a doctoral candidate and Collins Fellow in bassoon performance and social welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Lecturer of Bassoon at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and a member of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. As a soloist and orchestral musician, she has performed across North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Additionally, she is a teaching artist with Artists Striving to End Poverty and is the Founding Artistic Director of Trade Winds Ensemble, an organization that teaches music composition in partnership with social impact organizations around the world. Her research investigates how music pedagogy and social work can integrate to create a more anti-racist and anti-oppressive classical music landscape. She holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the University of Texas at Austin.