Anti-Racism Music Resources
On this page, you’ll find resources that have been used and recommended by our faculty, staff, and students in anti-racism work, specifically in music pedagogy and performance. This list is not exhaustive and will continue to be updated regularly. We acknowledge that anti-racism work must be an ongoing and intentional effort, and we are striving to make systemic changes that will last beyond the tenure of any individual currently in the department.
If you have a resource you’d like to recommend, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the resource and a short paragraph explaining how/why this research has helped you in your anti-racism efforts.
Articles, Book Chapters, and Blog Posts
Alexander Lloyd Blake. “Art for Art’s Sake: Steps to Prevent Tone Deaf Social Justice Concerts” icareifyoulisten.com. June 2020. https://www.icareifyoulisten.com/2019/08/art-for-arts-sake-prevent-tone-deaf-social-justice-concerts/?fbclid=IwAR1EAS0fpXUN8tHYtBPdIp9VT-f3rKWG437h7AXBKNna_9F5zB8jNwLbVTA
“This article helped me see the ways that we can take our empathy and compassion and turn it into action. Even a concert can become a place for social justice when we not only program a diverse set of work, but also create space for audience members to take steps towards justice in the moment. This can be signing up for the mailing list of a social justice movement, registering to vote, donating to a cause, etc. When we combine movements and music, we can create real change.” -Cat Zachary, Communications Coordinator
Brown, Danielle. “An Open Letter on Racism in Music Studies.” Decolonizing the Music Room: In Practice. June 2020. https://decolonizingthemusicroom.com/in-practice/f/an-open-letter-on-racism-in-music-studies
“In this timely post on “Decolonizing the Music Room,” Danielle Brown reminds us that it is not going to be enough for us as educators to jump on the bandwagon of BLM without making drastic and courageous changes in our classrooms, departments, institutions, and fields. As she points out, it is extremely difficult for white people to cede authority to black, indigenous, and other people of color, especially when that authority derives from many years of research and experience. Brown outlines a fundamental dilemma: the Academy is not (yet?) a place where white privilege can be overthrown by force, but most diversity and inclusion initiatives are doomed to be superficial, cosmetic, and top-down. Brown’s critique of ethnomusicology is especially acute: at last year’s SEM there was a lively panel discussion about the future of the field by past Society presidents (none of whom were POC), and the consensus seemed to be that “ethno”-musicology as we know it, is not a sustainable concept in today’s world. Does this mean we can no longer study the music of the Other? Perhaps, but in any case, Brown’s message of the moment is that white folks just need to be quiet, step back, and let other voices be heard.” -John Caldwell, Musicology Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Associate Professor, Hindi-Urdu, Department of Asian Studies
Ermolaeva, Katya. “Dinah, Put Down Your Horn: Blackface Minstrel Songs Don’t Belong in Music Class.” gen.medium.com. October 2019. https://gen.medium.com/dinah-put-down-your-horn-154b8d8db12a
“We often think of “Someone’s in House with Dinah” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” as playful children’s songs. But these melodies, and many others, have undeniably racist origins in black minstrelsy from the 19th- and 20th centuries. These musical theater shows, which involved blackface by white and black performers, engage in degrading stereotypes about Black dialect, intelligence, and appearance. The modern lyrics, which seem harmless now, have been altered and updated to hide their troubling origins and offensive tropes.” -Professor Evan Feldman
Ewell, Philip, “Confronting Racism and Sexism in American Music Theory,” musictheoryswhiteracialframe.com. June 2020.
- “The Myth of Race and Gender Neutrality in Music Theory“
- “Racism, Sexism, and Their Intersection in Music Theory”
- “Music Theory’s Quantitative and Qualitative Whiteness”
- “Beethoven Was an Above Average Composer—Let’s Leave It at That”
- “New Music Theory”
- “Music Theory’s Future”
“In this series of six blog posts, music theorist Phil Ewell examines the ways in which the institutional structure, underlying ideologies, and aesthetic value systems of music theory continues to perpetuate gender and racial oppression in our field. In doing so, he draws especially on sociologist Joe Feagin’s concept of a white racial frame, Ibram X. Kendi’s notion that one can either be a racist or anti-racist when it comes to the eradication of racial and gender oppression, and Sarah Ahmad’s work on the role of citational practices in either reproducing or challenging gender and racial hierarchies in our intellectual work. The first two essays work toward dispelling the myth of gender and racial neutrality (or “colorblindness”) in almost aspect of the functioning of our field, such as which scholars win awards from our societies; which scholars, texts, and composers are canonized; what languages are required in graduate programs; and the general structure of undergraduate and graduate curriculum which overwhelmingly centers on white males. The main point is that this emphasis on white males is not a natural state of affairs, but, in fact, is the product of and reason for the continued reproduction of racial and gendered hierarchies and the resulting ennobling of white male artists, disparities in hiring and publication awards, and the limited participation overall of racial minorities in the field. The next two blogs, “Music Theory’s Quantitative and Qualitative Whiteness” and “Beethoven Was an Above Average Composer—Let’s Leave It at That,” as the provocative titles suggests offer further evidence of these inequities in our field as well as the ways in which our selection of who we consider to be “great composers” continues to be “propped up” by this white racial frame. The last two blogs, “New Music Theory” and “Music Theory’s Future,” offers race- and gender-conscious solutions to transforming the field away from its grounding in a white racial frame toward a more equitable future, while also acknowledging current barriers to obtaining that future.” -Assistant Professor Aaron Harcus
Hill, A. Kori. “Out of Context #10: A Reflection and Call to Action.” icareifyoulisten.com. October 2020. https://www.icareifyoulisten.com/2020/10/out-of-context-10-reflection-call-to-action/?fbclid=IwAR0fl_YF6X3X_BlOdAoNA9bU4-s0VZPL63Dnrlbtpvh0yYRGFjwwUExpjho
Maust, Paula. Expanding the Music Theory Canon: Inclusive Examples for Analysis from the Common Practice Period. State University of New York Press, 2024.
A print anthology of 255 works arranged by music theory topic written by 67 women and/or people of color active between c.1600–1925. The book also contains biographical entries for each composer and a bibliography for further reading and research.
Wesley Morris. “Why Is Everyone Always Stealing Black Music?” The New York Times, August 14, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/music-black-culture-appropriation.html
Kaskowitz, Sheryl. “Before It Goes Away: Performance and Reclamations of Songs from Blackface Minstrelsy.” theavidlistener.com. July 2017. https://www.theavidlistener.com/2017/07/before-it-goes-away-performance-and-reclamation-of-songs-from-blackface-minstrelsy.html
“Several black performers today are confronting old minstrelsy songs through contextualized performance and new lyrics that reflect the black experience. The idea is the reclaim music that was appropriated by white performers for blackface minstrelsy and to reframe it on their own terms.” -Professor Evan Feldman
Loren Kajikawa. “The Possessive Investment in Classical Music: Confronting Legacies of White Supremacy in U.S. Schools and Departments of Music.” In Seeing Race: Countering Colorblindness Across the Disciplines. Edited by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Luke Charles Harris, Daniel Martinez HoSan and George Lipsitz, 155–74. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2019. https://catalog.lib.unc.edu/catalog/UNCb9615444
“A statement of diversity and inclusion is not enough nor is a one-credit hour global music requirement so long as the core of our BMus and BA degree programs perpetuates the myth of a “legit” music that stands apart from all other musics. As Dr. Kajikawa asserts, a hierarchical organization of music mirrors a “hierarchy of human types with racialized bodies at the bottom and white people on top” (159). This reading will challenge almost everything many of us have taken for granted in what we have required music students take and what we have not required. The purpose of his essay, as Kajikawa makes clear, is not to “condemn the ongoing study and performance of Beethoven and Mozart as inherently racist” (157). No. Its purpose, rather, is to compel all of us to understand how we got here. How and why we came to identify what music is required study and what music is not. Some questions the essay invites us to ask ourselves are: What does it mean to be musically proficient? What else can we study to attain musical proficiency or proficiencies? How might a music curriculum come out of our surrounding communities as the department and university move toward a reparative mission as we reckon with our racist history? These are questions whose answers can and should materialize into what we teach and require for study if we want to make systemic change.” -Professor David Garcia
Katz, Mark. Build: The Power of Hip-Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2020.
Neal, Jocelyn. “Musical Change a’Coming with Dr. Jocelyn Neal.” iah.unc.edu. January 11, 2021. https://iah.unc.edu/impact-story/musical-change-acoming/
Rastas, Anna, Seye, Elina. “Music and Anti-Racism: Musicians’ Involvement in Anti-racist Spaces” Popular Music and Society, Volume 42, Issue 5. 2019. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03007766.2018.1526527
Roberts, Jasmine. “White Academia: Do Better.” medium.com. June 8, 2020. https://medium.com/the-faculty/white-academia-do-better-fa96cede1fc5
Thurman, Kira. “Singing Against the Grain: Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter era.” The Point, Examined Life, Issue 17. 2018. https://thepointmag.com/examined-life/singing-against-grain-playing-beethoven-blacklivesmatter-era/
Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Science. Waiting Game. Motéma Music, 2019. https://open.spotify.com/album/6lNjGEiDCIb1Zy7FU0yQR3?autoplay=true
“On my daily hour-long walk, I have been searching out music that speaks to and out against racism and the systems of oppression that need wider dissemination. It is a solemn time when listening to music or a podcast is a powerful tool.’Waiting Game is story-filled, groove-music performed by a group of accomplished musicians who improvise, rap, and sing over complex but highly crafted and accessible instrumental motifs. A perfect synthesis of jazz, indie rock, and hip-hop influences, the songs address important, culturally relevant protest narratives: mass incarceration, collective liberation, police brutality, and Native American genocide.'” -Professor Emeritus Jim Ketch
McBride, Christian. The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons. Mack Avenue, 2020. https://open.spotify.com/album/6sxsZhMo8LBx3IIcqhtR13
“On my daily hour-long walk, I have been searching out music that speaks to and out against racism and the systems of oppression that need wider dissemination. It is a solemn time when listening to music or a podcast is a powerful tool. ‘The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons is a studio album by American jazz bassist Christian McBride. The album was recorded in September 2013 but released only on February 7, 2020. This album is dedicated to African-American history and presents sonic portraits of such black civil icons as Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Barack Obama. To record the new album, he invited an 18-piece big band as well as a gospel choir. The new album was premiered in the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This is his magnum opus that has been 20 years in the making; it explores social themes that are just as actual today as they were over 50 years ago.” -Professor Emeritus Jim Ketch
Roumain, Daniel Bernard. [Opera Philadelphia] We Shall Not Be Moved. (2020, May 10). [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/KE51lVBPeB8
“It is no doubt that opera and classical music, in general, have a history rife with problematic story-telling, cultural stereotyping, and systemic racism–both in its creation and production. While many of us think of opera as an elitist art form created by and for the most privileged members of society, the past twenty years, in particular, have seen an important shift within our industry. Though this shift–like our society–is an ever-evolving and reflective process that will take still more action to truly create an anti-racist arena, large strides have been made to create opera on issues of social justice and those that push equal representation both onstage and behind the scenes. From regularly performed operas like Dead Man Walking to newly composed ones like Blue, and pieces recently and currently performed right here on campus, like As One and ATLAS, opera has become a vehicle of social justice, telling stories of those whose stories are not told enough and use music as a way to create common ground and empathy between the audience and the humans being portrayed on stage. I felt that Daniel Bernard Roumain’s (DBR’s) opera We Shall Not Be Moved was a poignant, topical, and urgent story for us to experience as musicians in this time of unrest and reflection. Not only does this opera defy genre, tell an important story, and ask us to reflect on systemic racism, it was also written, composed, and directed by Black artists, breaking the mold for many an opera company.” -Professor Marc Callahan
THE TALK | Sonny Kelly, PhD. https://www.sonnykelly.com/the-talk
“Dr. Sonny Kelly (recently graduated) wrote and acts in a one-person play entitled The Talk. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Dr. Kelly perform this live on several occasions. In addition to the content and moving performance, Dr. Kelly hosts an open conversation with the audience after each show. It’s a safe and open dialog. He frequently has a guest panel with him. Some of his guests have included Chapel Hill Police Cheif Blue, Kevin ‘Kaze’ Thomas of Intelligently Ratchet, and Beth Vazquez – Ombuds, Town of Chapel Hill.” -Jay Harper, Media Technician
University of Michigan Glee Club. [University of Michigan]. (2020, May 28). Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/od6DMd3sP4s
Works and Progress at the Guggenheim. [Works and Progress at the Guggenheim]. (2019, February 12). The Glimmerglass Festival: Blue by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson. [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/FMH4imgyHVw
Jonathan Woody. [doctorfate77] (2019, May 7) Nigra sum sed formosa: A Fantasy on Microaggressions. [Video] YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfLTms_JTLg.
“This piece is by Jonathan Woody, who is also the bass soloist in this performance. He was an undergraduate when I was a doctoral student at U of Maryland, and I’ve admired his talent since then.” -Teaching Professor Jeanne Fischer
Institute for Composer Diversity. https://www.composerdiversity.com
“This website, database, resource “dedicated to the celebration, education, and advocacy of music created by composers from historically underrepresented groups” including women, composers of color, LGBTQIA2S+ composers and disable composers is curated by a team centered at the School of Music at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Not only does the site contain tools for searching the works of some 4000 composers by various search criteria and for submitting new work, its pages include an extensive bibliography and links to other advocacy organizations.” -Professor Allen Anderson
Beyond Elijah Rock: The Non-Idiomatic Choral Music of Black Composers. https://www.mlagmusic.com/research/beyond-elijah-rock
“Beyond Elijah Rock is a catalog of choral music by Black composers that goes beyond the idiomatic canon of spirituals, gospel, jazz, hip hop, and rap. Search by voicing, composer/arranger, title, or more. As the author says, this list is not exhaustive, but it is a starting point – check back often for new entries.” -Assistant Professor LaToya Lain
Latin American Art Song Alliance. http://www.latinamericanartsong.com/index.html
-Recommended by Teaching Professor Jeanne Fischer
Music by Black Composers. https://www.musicbyblackcomposers.org/sheet-music/repertoire-directories/
“From the website: Music by Black Composers’ repertoire directories are designed for performers, conductors, programmers, researchers, teachers, and students. Whenever possible, they include links for acquiring the sheet music, links to recordings, and other helpful information to aid in programming.” -Assistant Professor LaToya Lain
Programming Resources Catalogs by Alex Shapiro. https://www.alexshapiro.org/ProgrammingResources.html
“Composer Alex Shapiro maintains a webpage of databases of works by underrepresented composers (scroll down to view the databases).” -Professor Evan Feldman
Removing Racist Songs from Performance. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1k4G98nFyDJqBpH3aogYx62EWiFL-Ij4vuodZhiQoiy0/edit?fbclid=IwAR1AnH2-LLx9fYbIfxH_qov3kEnBDXfR8nYJi-MQI17yLJmP5Y0C9DE31cc&urp=gmail_link#gid=0
“Beth Cox, Band and Orchestra Director at Northwest Guilford Middle School, notes how many children’s songs, American folk songs, and educational melodies have roots in racist and otherwise troubling histories. In response, she has compiled a helpful spreadsheet. For each melody there is a reference link describing its history and a suggestion of an alternate tune that offers the same pedagogical advantages.” -Professor Evan Feldman
The Spirituals Database. http://spirituals-database.com/#sthash.M2VzPmiP.TkJOSUFL.dpbs
“The Spirituals Database provides access to a large database of concert recordings of spirituals by solo Classical vocalists. It also goes beyond the recordings to give history on the Negro Spiritual, celebrates the spiritual through poetry and art, and lifts up the great arrangers and performers of the genre.” -Assistant Professor LaToya Lain
String Repertoire by BIMOC. https://www.gabrieladiazviolin.com/bimoc
“Violinist Gabriela Diaz is updating this database on a weekly basis with contributions from musicians all over the world. This list builds upon the previous work of Rachel Barton Pine and Dr. Megan E. Hill and also includes works catalogued in the Living Black Composers Directory. Comprising historic and contemporary musicians, this living document can serve as a jumping off point in discovering, exploring, programming, and championing solo string and mixed chamber music by underperformed composers and unheard voices.” -Associate Professor Nicholas DiEugenio
Choral Conductors Colloquium, Volume I, Lecture IV. “Music: Speaking Truth to Power and Seeking Justice.” https://youtu.be/5-gycPAZ0i4
“The intent of this talk is to propose that Music is the great equalizer and not a divider.” Maestra D’Walla Simmons-Burke speaks her truth as she proposes dismantling racist systems in the music academy that hold back the oppressed while promoting others. The systems include but, but are not limited to, auditions, curriculum, repertoire, ensembles, professional organizations, and boards. “The discussion doesn’t end here. Talk with someone who doesn’t look like you and begin to have a conversation. You may not agree on everything, but it is your truth. Keep music as the equalizer, not the divider.” -Raul Dominguez, Founder of the Choral Conductors Colloquium
Racial Equity in Online Environments, USC Center for Urban Education. https://cue.usc.edu/events/.
“This webinar series from the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education offers practical tips and discussion to centering racial equity in online teaching environments. The series is structured as six panel discussions (with transcripts) by faculty and students about course design, student support, and authentic care as anti-racist, equitable teaching practice. I recommend this resource to inspire ways of thinking through teaching in the online teaching environment that is new to so many of us.” -Elias Gross, Graduate Student
Stratford Festival Artists. [Stratford Festival]. (2020, June 6). Black Like Me, past, present and future: Behind the Stratford Festival Curtain. [Video]. https://youtu.be/xJK85IRtzYM
“This conversation amongst Black artists at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada from June 6, 2020 provides an insightful look at what it means to be a Black artist in the world today. They explore their past and present experiences and their hopes for the arts to be an agent of change in our society. As the description says, ‘A panel of Black artists and artisans will discuss how the last few weeks have affected them, the experience of living in conservative and 95% white Perth County and the complexities and challenges they have faced while working at the Festival. Stratford Festival patrons are invited for a singular look at what it’s like to be Black in the world, and in this town and company.'” -Cat Zachary, Communications Coordinator
African Diaspora Music Project. http://africandiasporamusicproject.org/.
“The African Diaspora Music Project was started by Dr. Louise Toppin, UNC Alumna and former Chair of the Department of Music. The project’s mission is to increase awareness of, access to, and performance of music by African Diaspora composers. The African Diaspora in this context is defined as those composers throughout the world descended from people of West and Central Africa.” -Teaching Professor Jeanne Fischer
The African American Art Song Alliance. https://artsongalliance.org/.
“One resource that has been very helpful for me is the African American Art Song Alliance. They have a wealth of information on scholars, composers, and performers, as well as news about competitions and conferences. I have been using this website for several years to help find repertoire and other information for my students. They also have a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/artsongalliance/?hc_ref=ARTWuHZKkL2la_c6-VBMQmG1kbLo8OxaRvtvJ4UxvtdgcFynnnLgt3NBnsl_y1kV41I, with excellent online events – this is a link to one, but there are many more https://www.facebook.com/darryltaylorct/videos/10158572821165948/.” -Teaching Professor Jeanne Fischer
Alterity in Western Classical Music. https://music.unc.edu/alterity-in-western-classical-music/
Created by Dr. Annegret Fauser’s Fall 2020 graduate seminar, which investigated philosophical understanding of alterity, the relationship of the self and the Other, and how it manifests in Western classical music.
Decolonizing the Music Room. https://decolonizingthemusicroom.com.
“Decolonizing the Music Room is a nonprofit organization using research, training, and discourse to help music educators develop critical practices and center the voices, knowledge, and experiences of Black, Brown, and Indigenous People in order to challenge the historical dominance of Western European and white American music, narratives, and practices. While primarily focused on addressing K-12 music education (the background of many of the contributors), this site includes thoughtful essays, insightful interviews, vlogs, and resources that are broadly useful.” -Professor Allen Anderson
Diversity in Music Theory: Teaching Tools. http://diversity.societymusictheory.org/pedagogy/
“This extensive list of resources, compiled, vetted, and edited by the Committee on Race and Ethnicity for the Society for Music Theory, includes reflective essays, scholarly research on the philosophies and contexts of music theory pedagogy with regard to diversity, and practical resources for the hands-on practice of teaching music theory in the classroom.” -Professor Jocelyn Neal
Expanding the Music Theory Canon. www.expandingthemusictheorycanon.com
“One of the challenges in music theory pedagogy is broadening the repertory from which we draw musical examples for our teaching and assignments. For too many years, many teachers and resources have relied on the same, comparatively small list of composers and pieces to introduce many topics in western tonal theory of the common practice period. Expandingthemusictheorycanon is a great tool for teachers who want to find examples of particular concepts or topics in western tonal theory, but from a more diverse range of composers. This is opening the eyes and ears of so many more students to the range of people who were creating music in those styles.” -Professor Jocelyn Neal
Teaching Tolerance. https://www.tolerance.org/.
“Teaching Tolerance is a great resource for K-12 educators on how to address issues of tolerance. With resources for topics on race & ethinicity, religion, ability, class, immigration, gender and sexual identity, bullying and bias, and rights and activism, Teaching Tolerance provides educators with resources to meet a myriad of needs.” -El Fisseha, Business Manager
“Videmus is a not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to drawing attention to the repertoire composed by African American, women, and other underrepresented composers. The site offers access to the “African Diaspora Music Project” which features biographical information about and work lists for art-music composers of African descent, features videos of lectures and concerts, and integrates numerous other resources. Since 1998, the director of Videmus is Dr. Louise Toppin who—before moving to the University of Michigan in 2017—served as the chair of the Department of Music at UNC-Chapel Hill.” -Professor Annegret Fauser
We encourage you to seek out anti-racism resources beyond music. Below are a few places to start.
UNC Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Anti-Racism Resources Page
National Museum of African American History and Culture, Being Antiracist
The Department of Music recognizes our imperfect, and sometimes harmful, history towards Black students, faculty, and staff. This history is provided as a starting point for the reckoning work that must be done.