Cultural responsiveness: is music optional?

We speak with Dr. Anne Smith, longtime music teacher in Northern Virginia, about accommodating cultural differences. Dr. Smith created an alternate curriculum for students whose traditions don’t allow secular music-making. We discuss the extent to which parents should be able to influence what their students learn. We also talk about why music and art are treated as lesser (“special”) subjects.


00:00-00:35 Intros

00:35-07:57 A parent asks to opt her daughter out of music

07:57-09:48 Finding a balance in a class with culturally and linguistically diverse children and families

09:48-12:02 Importance of conversation between professionals and families

12:02-14:15 Are parental objections to music different from objections to literature and science?

14:15-16:39 Teachers need to articulate why they are teaching what they are teaching; importance of teaching music

16:39-19:03 Music should be part of everyone’s life—a loss if parents opt out

19:03-20:30 Importance of music foundation before children go on specific tracks

20:30-24:30 Teachers’ responses to Va. governor’s  push for parents to object to aspects of education he doesn’t like

24:30-27:01 “Old Black Joe”

27:01-29:15 Using the arts to educate and promote equity

29:15-32:22 Why schools treat art and music as dispensable

32:22-36:16 Treating the arts seriously as subjects

36:16- Outro


Click here to see the full transcript of this episode. 

Soundtrack by Poddington Bear