International Journal of Social Policy & Education

ISSN 2689-4998 (print), 2689-5013 (online)

DOI: 10.61494/ijspe

Black Music Matters

Baruch Whitehead


Many music organizations, conferences, and schools have been struggling to find an appropriate response to the Black Lives Matter movement as it pertains to music. Musical communities in various forms—classroom music teachers, college professors, professional musicians, opera house participants, and symphony orchestra members— have been challenged to examine the institutional racism that still exists in most mainstream music schools and organizations. Recently, a group of ensemble directors from Ithaca College, where I am a faculty member, met to discuss what our response would be. Most participants in the discussion wanted to introduce more music by Black composers. The conversation also turned toward what other college and universities were doing in their schools of music and music departments. Someone mentioned that a number of colleges proposed to use only Black music for an entire semester. Although there is nothing wrong with this approach, I believe this is metaphorically trimming the branches and not digging up the roots of racism. For too long, we have allowed racial injustice to fester in our curriculum, hiring practices, admission requirements, and music programming.