Female student singing on stage

CAM Joins National Efforts to Reposition Black American Music in Music Studies

January 29, 2021

In the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and protests surrounding racial inequities, a University of Michigan music professor has gathered a national consortium of academics to critically examine and reevaluate the racist foundations of music studies in higher education.

The Alliance for the Transformation of Musical Academe’s (ATMA) Task Force on Musical Racism brings together leaders, educators, and students in music from more than 30 universities in the U.S. This includes Alana Margolis, CU Denver College of Arts & Media (CAM) student, Mark Rabideau, PhD, CAM’s associate dean for academic and faculty affairs, and Katie Leonard, CAM’s activist-in-residence.

Leonard, serving in the unique role of ATMA special advisor and activist, will promote public awareness of the work of the ATMA Task Force on Musical Racism with the media, broader Black Lives Matter circles (including on college campuses), and through workshops and presentations to organizations and communities.

The Task Force charge is to provide a penetrating analysis of the multi-dimensional nature of systemic musical racism that plagues the nation’s music schools and to advance a new vision (roadmap and exemplars) for systemic change based in the foundational repositioning of Black American Music in music studies and culture.

“I am elated and honored to be part of this task force,” said Margolis. “The representation of Black music needs to be a heavy part of education since a lot of genres are whitewashed from the original black creators.”

University of Michigan Professor Ed Sarath, author of Black Music Matters: Jazz and the Transformation of Music Studies, is working closely with Rabideau to present the Task Force’s findings through Routledge Publishing’s Emerging Fields in Music series, a forward-looking publication about the future of music, where Rabideau serves as the senior editor.

“This is a timely, critical, and exciting moment in the history of music in higher education,” said Rabideau. “We have the opportunity to reshape curricular and pedagogical practices; recruitment and hiring practices; tenure and promotion criteria, and beyond.”

He notes that because CU Denver programs are innovative and contemporary, it is easy to forget that for the vast majority of music schools across the country, the curriculum has gone virtually unchanged for the past 70 years.

“Sarath’s vision for the future is nothing short of an epistemic shift in what music and what musicians count in music higher education,” said Rabideau.