Changing U.S. demographics and the multitude of cultures makes it imperative that young educators prepare to meet all students’ learning needs. Seeking knowledge about students’ cultures is vital for their success as educators, but more importantly for their students’ success. As we move through time it is clear we need more knowledge about diverse cultures’ music.
Though there is historical data about Negro Spirituals, there seems to be a gap between knowing history and understanding how to teach music using these unique musical works. The purpose of this quantitative survey-based study was to examine choral directors’ preparation and continuing professional development regarding teaching in diverse settings, teaching using diversity-specific course content, and to examine how their professional training relates to their classroom practices, their self-efficacy in teaching diverse content, and their planning and teaching of Negro Spirituals.
I recruited middle and high school choral directors to participate in this study through the American Choral Directors’ Association (ACDA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and through Facebook groups focused on choral music teaching. Most indicated they received the survey invitation through NAfME or Facebook. There were 434 respondents who opened the survey and 326 completed 50% or more of the survey, which resulted in a usable N of 326. All respondents either currently teach or taught choral music in the past, and genders included female (54.5%), male (44.3%), and agender (0.3%) (three preferred not to reveal their genders). Respondents were White (71.1%), Black or African American (19.7%), Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish Origin (2.2%), Native American or Alaska Native (0.6%), Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (0.3%), and Other (4%). Three respondents (0.9%) preferred not to identify their ethnicity.
Overall, participants reported the rate of the preparation of teaching multicultural music at various levels. Specifically, they indicated that they were highly prepared to teach classical genre/styles of music, little to moderately prepared to teach Gospel Music and Negro Spirituals, and less prepared to teach Hispanic Heritage music. Participants reported they were somewhat encouraged to attend training in (a) teaching in a diverse school setting, (b) teaching diverse student populations, (c) using diversity-focused content in their classrooms, (d) teaching classical music genre/styles, (e) teaching music outside of the classical music genre, (f) teaching multicultural music (in general), (g) teaching Gospel music, (h) teaching popular music styles,
(i) teaching Negro Spirituals, (j) teaching Jazz music, and (k) teaching Hispanic Heritage music, though in some areas about 20% of the respondents indicated they were not encouraged at all to seek training. Black or African American participants indicated using Negro spirituals, Gospel, Jazz, and Multicultural Music more in class settings and concert performances than other participants. Regarding required training, fewer respondents were required to seek training in specific areas (a-k) and they felt the training was not effective to moderately effective.
A Chi-Square test of independence was completed to determine interactions based on respondent ethnicity, their students’ ethnicities, and how often they programmed Negro Spirituals. This revealed the ethnic breakdown of the students was related how often teachers program Negro Spirituals was significant. Further examination of the data revealed that Black or African American teachers programmed Negro Spirituals in more concerts versus respondents of other ethnicities.
Recommendations for future study include exploring solutions to ensure teacher preparatory programs are including training in culturally responsive education to address teaching students from all ethnicities. More professional development is recommended among public school educators and college and universities regarding the diversity of students and their educational needs. Lastly, future research should continue to narrow the cultural gap in Eurocentric music education. The results of this study could be used to inform choral music educators of students’ needs, such as including diverse music in class during the school year during a times set aside to recognize certain cultures, professional development opportunities and the importance of embracing culturally responsive teaching.