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On this page, you’ll find all of the installments of our “Do the Works Wednesdays” series in one place. Along with following this series, we invite you to visit our Anti-Racism Music Resources page for more anti-racism discussion and action items.

“Do the Work Wednesdays”: A Series on Anti-Racism & Music

Text Reads: Do the Work Wednesdays


Reflecting and looking ahead


As we wrap up the 2020-2021 academic year it’s important to reflect upon all that we’ve accomplished this year. The creativity and ingenuity of our students, faculty, and staff have kept us engaged in musical research, performance, and education.

This year that musical exploration has included the new “Do the Work Wednesdays” series and Anti-Racism Resources page. Through this series’ twenty-nine installments, the department has highlighted the incredible lives of great artists of color, examined issues of racial justice in the music industry and music education, and challenged readers to expand their repertoires and “do the work.” … Continue reading DWW 30

Decolonizing “Intro to World Music?”


by Assistant Professor Michael A. Figueroa

Where does “Intro to World Music” stand in an era of political crisis, globalization, and technological (post)modernity, when relations between self and other are in constant flux? In this article, I critique the colonial underpinnings of “Intro to World Music” while arguing that a recuperated curricular framework can engage students in decolonial praxis via a focus on conversations about self and other. Within such a framework, students can develop a resistance to Eurocentric thinking, and instructors can facilitate encounters with “others” in the context of experiential learning projects. In this way, the teaching strategies I describe may help students move beyond a cultivation of oppositional or analogous thinking about culture (here is how “they” are different from or similar to “us”) to an aspiration toward relational thinking about cultural difference that is other-centered, rather than self-centered. … Continue reading DWW 29

A drop in the bucket

by Crystal Wu, BMus ’13

In one of my music classes in graduate school, I had a professor who referred to some of the most famous classical pieces as “money tunes.” This brings me to my first game-show-esque challenge for you. If I were to ask you to name 3 classical “money tunes” and the composer who wrote them in 30 seconds, could you do it? I imagine you might quickly spit out pieces like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, or Pachelbel’s Canon in D… and with time to spare. But what if I followed up with this bonus challenge: in 10 seconds, can you name ONE classical piece – it does not have to be a “money tune” – by an Asian composer? It’s a little harder, isn’t it? Maybe the opera Madame Butterfly comes to mind… but oh, wait! That one is not by an Asian composer. Well, speaking of butterflies, how about the Butterfly Lovers Concerto? But who wrote that piece…? … Continue reading DWW 28

Juan Álamo’s Ensoñación

April 14, 2021

Coming soon to speakers near you: Associate Professor Juan Álamo‘s latest album project Ensoñación. Scheduled for release on Summit Records this summer, Ensoñación (Reverie), features original compositions and new arrangements of Bach and Beethoven works by Álamo himself. This incredible fusion of influences comes together to create an exciting, transformative listening experience. Learn what inspired Álamo to write this new album and what he hopes listeners will take from their experience of this new sonic journey. … Continue reading DWW 27

William Henry Curry, conductor and composer

April 7, 2021

Later this month, the UNC Symphony Orchestra, directed and conducted by Tonu Kalam, will be premiering a new work, titled Dark Testament, by conductor and composer, William Henry Curry. Curry is the current conductor and music director of the Durham Symphony Orchestra and has been the resident conductor for the North Carolina Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and has guest conducted with major opera houses, ballet companies, and symphony orchestras across the country and globe. … Continue reading DWW 26

Decolonizing the Music Room

March 31, 2021
by John Caldwell, Musicology Ph.D. Candidate and Teaching Associate Professor, Hindi-Urdu, Department of Asian Studies

In this timely post from June 2020 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. … Continue reading DWW 25

Women’s History Month Challenge

March 24, 2021

In honor of Women’s History Month, this week’s installment of “Do the Work Wednesdays” is a challenge to our department community to explore the music of a new (to you) female composer. Learn about their life, the context surrounding her work, and the intricacies of her music. Below we’ve provided resources to aid in your research, as well as ways to help lift up the voices of female musicians. … Continue reading DWW 24

ATLAS: Telling their stories

March 17, 2021
by Assistant Professor Marc Callahan, director of UNC Opera

We have seen images of the border and of the detention facilities holding migrant children. We have heard their testimony and witnessed their pain. Now, it is time that we act.

UNC Opera seeks to tell the story of one family’s journey from El Salvador to the U.S.-Mexico border with our upcoming production of Meredith Monk’s ATLAS. The following is a glimpse into our journey with this story, the music, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. The process has been one of collaboration, understanding, heartache, and hope. We have engaged with primary and secondary sources to tell this tale as responsibly as possible. … Continue Reading DWW 23

Celebrating BIPOC women musicians

March 10, 2021

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day this past Monday, we wanted to revisit some of our favorite DWW installments highlighting women this year. Do you know a BIPOC woman musician we should highlight in the future? Let us know at! … Continue reading DWW 22

Musical Change a’Coming

March 3, 2021
by Professor Jocelyn Neal

Music theory is not the sort of discipline that regularly makes headlines, but in the past year, it has shown up in the spotlight regularly. The catalyst for all this attention has been an increasingly passionate conversation about the discipline’s systemic racist underpinnings, its exclusionary tendencies, and how we can work to change them.  Last summer, journalist Colleen Flaherty’s headline declared it “music theory’s biggest imbroglio,” and freelance YouTuber Adam Neely has amassed over 900,000 views for his piece titled “Music Theory and White Supremacy.” … Continue reading DWW 21

Music and social justice

by Catherine Zachary, Communications Coordinator

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death this past summer, many musicians across the country and the world found themselves asking “What can I do?”. Here in the department, it has spurred numerous conversations about the way in which we can deepen our commitment to anti-racism in our teaching and in the administration of the department. It led to the creation of a new Mission Statement, a new Anti-Racism Resources page, and this “Do the Work Wednesdays” series. It has guided the conversations around curricula reform. It has shaped classroom discussions and concert programming. Faculty, staff, and students have asked the questions “What does it mean to be anti-racist?” and “What does it mean for musicians?”. … Continue reading DWW 20

COVID x Social Justice recordings

Assistant Professor LaToya Lain recently participated in the songSLAM Festival with Sparks and Wiry Cries in New York City. In this special interview for “Do the Work Wednesdays” she discusses what it was like to record a newly commissioned piece for the festival, and what this work means in 2021 amidst a pandemic and surge of social justice action. … Continue reading DWW 19

Celebrating Black Musicians

February 10, 2021

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s installment of “Do the Work Wednesdays” is a challenge to our department community to explore the music of a new (to you) Black composer. Learn about their life, the context surrounding their work, and the intricacies of their music. Below we’ve provided resources to aid in your research, as well as ways to help dismantle the systemic erasure of Black musicians.

In order to create meaningful and lasting change, it’s important for all of us to do our part; to educate ourselves and help change how we think of music and its creators in anti-racist terms. Black History Month is a time to reflect on the rich history of Black culture, to recognize that Black history is American history, and perhaps most importantly to take action to create a future where Black voices are celebrated and never appropriated, tokenized, or oppressed. … Continue reading DWW 18

Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST

February 3, 2021
by Dr. Erin Colleen Cooper, Assistant Director of University Bands

As we have been in remote learning for nearly a year, teachers and students have had to completely change their expectations for education. This has certainly been true for music classes but especially music ensembles. While we may enjoy making music on our own, nothing can compare to performing with others. Yet, even as many of us have been unable to play in large ensembles, we have had the unique opportunity to focus on other aspects of music and performance that are sometimes superseded by preparing for that upcoming concert.

This past semester the Symphony Band was able to spend more time learning about composers and artists along with their compositional and performance practices. One of my favorite resources I shared with them was the Tiny Desk Concerts featured on NPR. I have been an avid NPR listener and supporter for many years, and the Tiny Desk Concerts feature intimate performances by a wide range of artists from Billie Eilish and Miley Cyrus to Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis. Since the pandemic began, they have been calling the performances Tiny Desk Home Concerts, so the artists can perform at home rather than at the coveted Tiny Desk. The students in Symphony Band were tasked with viewing any two Home Concerts and commenting on them in our Google classroom. It was so exciting to see students reconnecting with artists they love but also learning about artists they did not know at all. The discussions led to students sharing additional musical recommendations and resources with each other. While we missed making music together in person, we were still able to learn and grow as musicians. … Continue reading DWW 17

Alterity in Western Classical Music

January 27, 2021
by Alterity Seminar Graduate Students

It’s right there in the title—Doctor of Philosophy. When you think of what it might be like to be a graduate student in musicology, exhaustive knowledge of European philosophers and their theories might not come to mind. Theory helps us understand large-scale phenomena in our world and, as graduate students in musicology, most of our world is music.

Last fall in the music department, a group of UNC musicology students gathered around the virtual table for Dr. Annegret Fauser’s seminar, Alterity in Western Classical Music. This seminar investigated philosophical understanding of alterity, the relationship of the self and the Other, and how it manifests in Western classical music. Because it is 2021 and we value all forms of wisdom and styles of learning, we made a syllabus, a podcast, and an ezine about it. … Continue reading DWW 16

Holding ourselves accountable with good trouble

by Professor and Chair David Garcia 

As 2020 came to an end, many of us felt hopeful that 2021 would bring much better times for our campus, our state, and our country. I remain hopeful, even though the alarming surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina continue to temper my positive outlook on our immediate future. But there is no denying that the insurrection that occurred at our nation’s Capital on January 6 more than tempered my hope; that day was one of the darkest days of my lifetime as a citizen of my country. As I celebrate today the swearing in of a new President and Vice President of the United States of America, I know that more than ever challenges lay ahead that include reckoning with the systems of oppression that this department recommitted to doing last summer. The “Do the Work Wednesdays” series is one way in which we reaffirm these commitments to students, faculty, and staff.

Some may ask, what do the events of January 6 have to do with teaching music? My answer would be to read our mission, as I have done again today. Opinions surely differ across the political spectrum on how to explain the insurrection of January 6. As a scholar of music, race, and identity, my understanding of what I saw and heard as I live-streamed reports from Washington, DC on that day resonates with the opinions of historians Rhae Lynn Barnes and Keri Leigh Merritt. Writing for, Dr. Barnes and Dr. Merritt challenge us to frame the insurrection at the Capital within what they call the “New Lost Cause.” … Continue reading DWW 15

Martha Flowers: A Black Music Faculty Trailblazer


by Professors Marc Callahan, David Garcia, and LaToya Lain

Upon listening to Martha Flower’s 1973 performance of Francis Poulenc’s Miroirs brûlants, recently uncovered in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Music archive collection, one can only imagine that this very text by Éluard was describing the performer herself. From the moment the illustrious soprano spins a perfectly crafted chiaroscuro tone on the opening text Tu vois le feu du soir, the listener hears what Maya Angelou once described as a voice like “hot silver melted.” All at once, the singing embodies an icy metal like that of mercurized glass yet containing molten passion, glowing from its confines. As the ethereal sound washes over the listener, everything seems to disappear. They find themselves alone—transported—mesmerized by the youthful voice of Ms. Flowers from a half century ago. … Continue Reading DWW 14

A Reflection and Call to Action

November 4, 2020
by A. Kori Hill, Ph.D. Candidate

Cultural appropriation is not a buzzword or hypothesis. It is a process where the creative knowledge and skills of marginalized artists are exploited by individuals and institutions with systemic privileges. Most often, this process manifests through a lack of adequate financial compensation and public acknowledgement. In U.S. history, cultural appropriation’s most popular representative is the racist, 19th century genre minstrelsy and its continued manifestation in modern popular culture. But where popular music is often the setting for these discussions, Western classical music has too often escaped the necessary call-ins. … Continue Reading DWW 13

Haydar on the Radar: Resisting Orientalism and Global Patriarchy


by Sophia Rekeibe, ’21 |

Raised in Flint, Michigan, Mona Haydar is a Syrian-American Muslim who defines herself as a rapper, poet, activist, practitioner of Permaculture, meditator, composting devotee, mountain girl, solar power lover and a tireless God-enthusiast (Haydar 2015). She started her rap career in 2017 with her ground breaking single “Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab),” which quickly gained millions of views and Billboard recognition as one of 2017’s top protest songs and later named top 25 feminist anthems of all time. In 2018 Haydar released her EP entitled Barbarican and continues to release music while actively participating in social justice. This summer, under the guidance of Dr. Michael Figueroa, I was able to explore Haydar’s music as an intervention to global patriarchy and contemporary Orientalism by analyzing three of her songs – “Barbarian,” “American,” and “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)”. … Continue Reading DWW 12

Teaching Tolerance


by El Fisseha, business manager

Teaching Tolerance states, “Our mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy.” By offering free classroom resources and professional development opportunities Teaching Tolerance aims to help educators grow young minds to be agents of change through social justice and anti-bias education. …. Continue reading DWW 11

Rap and Redemption on Death Row


by Professor Mark Katz

MAILED FROM CENTRAL PRISON was printed in large capital letters across the top of the envelope. That was the first thing I noticed when I pulled the letter out of my faculty mailbox. I read it as I stood in the green-linoleumed mailroom of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Music Department. “Dear Mr. Mark Katz,” the letter began in exceptionally neat handwriting, “I am a reformed prisoner, writer and rapper on North Carolina’s Death Row.” … Continue reading DWW 10

Some thoughts on piano teaching

October 7, 2020
by Lecturer Robert Buxton

The world is changing dramatically from the COVID-19 pandemic, and many old ways of thinking are being challenged. The flawed system of meritocracy, at the heart of US culture, must be reconsidered. In this system, the aim of so many activities is to assert superiority. Students are expected to outdo each other in order to win scholarships, prizes, and status. The western musical canon is also based on a sort of social Darwinism. Certain composers are presumed to be super-human while others are denied a coveted spot in the pantheon. These values echo a nineteenth-century concept of genius and Nietzsche’s übermensch. In classical music (which itself is an unclear term), these values lead to perfectionism, exemplified by literal interpretations of the score and the disappearance of improvisation. Many say that competition brings out the best in people, but it can also deaden the creative spirit. Racism, sexism, and classism are intertwined with a competitive, hierarchical worldview. What if we began with the assumption that every person has unique, intrinsic value, and consequently, so does every student, every composer, and every work of art. Then, the nature of education would be to elicit and develop the individual’s latent voice, a process akin to gardening or story-telling. The following are suggestions for piano students to develop their individual style. Hardly new ideas, most of these activities were once part of a typical eighteenth-century musical education. … Continue reading DWW 9

Violinists Melissa White and Elena Urioste

September 30, 2020
by Associate Professor Nicholas DiEugenio

The Sphinx Organization, founded in 1997 by Aaron Dworkin, is a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Violinists Elena Urioste and Melissa White, both first-place laureates of the Sphinx Competition, are living examples of artists who are transforming the lives of others through their music and their visionary projects, such as INTERMISSION. Co-founded by Melissa and Elena in 2017, INTERMISSION is a program that unites body, mind, breath, and music-making through yoga and meditation. Offering retreats for professionals, sessions for students, and an app for all, INTERMISSION seeks to reach musicians of various stages, levels, and life experiences. … Continue reading DWW 8

Expanding the repertoire

September 23, 2020
by Catherine Zachary, B.Mus. ’10

On our Anti-Racism Music Resources page, ‘Music Catalogs’ is featured as one of the six categories of resources and it is this week’s DWW feature. This list is by no means exhaustive. We hope that it will provide students, faculty, and community members a place to start when exploring the music of BIPOC. … Continue reading DWW 7

Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, pianist

September 16, 2020
by Associate Professor Clara Yang

Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins was a virtuosic pianist, gifted composer, and one of the most in-demand musicians of his time in America in the late 19th century. Born in 1849 into slavery in Columbus, Georgia, he was blind and autistic. People quickly discovered that he had an unusual gift for music from an early age. He was able to perform any musical piece to its entirety with little effort and amassed a repertoire of thousands of pieces over his lifetime. … Continue reading DWW 6

Kajikawa’s Call for Reform in Music Education

September 9, 2020
by Professor and Chair David Garcia, Ph.D.

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. … Continue reading DWW 5

Anthony Davis

September 2, 2020
by Ryan Ebright, Ph.D. ’14

American opera underwent tremendous changes in the 1980s. Spurred on the one hand by an influx of money from the National Endowment for the Arts and various philanthropic foundations, and on the other by a rekindled interest among musicians and artists in a genre that some had thought moribund, opera companies throughout the United States began commissioning and producing new operas. This revitalization has continued into the present. In the past five years, more than 200 new operas have premiered, whereas the first half-decade of the 1980s saw fewer than 50 premieres. As a result of this expansion, American opera has transformed in myriad ways. This transformation is the focus of my research. … Continue reading DWW 4

Philip Ewell’s “Confronting Racism and Sexism in American Music Theory”

August 26, 2020
by Assistant Professor Aaron Harcus

In this series of six blog posts titled, “Confronting Racism and Sexism in American Music Theory,” music theorist Philip 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. … Continue reading DWW 3

Sweet Honey in the Rock

August 19, 2020
by Kendall Winter, Third-Year Musicology Graduate Student

It’s been said many ways that communal singing brings people together in music, in mind, and in action. And I can think of no artist who has worked longer or harder to take anti-racist action through singing than Sweet Honey In The Rock. … Continue reading DWW 2

Welcome to “Do the Work Wednesdays”

August 12, 2020
by Catherine Zachary, B.Mus. ’10

Over the summer, the faculty and staff of the music department have been hard at work examining our internal systemic racism and looking for ways that we can begin to enact real and meaningful change. Over the past few years, the department has seen small shifts in programming and teaching towards these efforts, but we know that more can be done. Many potential actions are in discussion and we look forward to sharing more about those with you in the future. … Continue reading DWW 1