Activist Music Education: Where is the Community?

Wells, R. (2021) Transform-Download PDF

Rory Wells

York St. John University


Juliet Hess presents a framework for an activist music education for schools rooted in Freirean critical pedagogy1, which works towards social change. Hess draws on the work of activist-musicians to build this pedagogy. In many instances these musicians’ work aligns closely with community music; despite this, community music is not referenced in the text. Exploring this omission through; similarities between community music and the work of the activist musicians, differing definitions of community music, and issues with delivering activist education in school settings shows a need for further engagement with community music literature by some music educators wishing to radicalise their work. By noting this, a need is shown for more open and cooperative relations between music education for social justice and community music. Moving towards this more reciprocal and horizontal relationship could mitigate the danger of music education subsuming community music’s work and help to build better networks of solidarity and mutual aid between the fields.

Key Words: Activist Music Education, Activist-Musicians, Critical Pedagogy, Community Music,


This essay discusses Juliet Hess’ (2019) activist music education (AME), a framework rooted in Freirean critical pedagogy for exploring issues of social justice and effecting social change in and beyond school music classrooms. Through analysing Hess’ recommendations and their synergies with community music, I show instances of where AME may stray into and draw upon community music. I argue that the data collated from interviewing ‘activist-musicians’2 it shows that community music is inherent in AME. In Hess’ book, the work of community musicians (exemplified by Magali Meagher’s Girls Rock Camp Toronto) and community music scholars (exemplified by Lise Vaugeois’ inclusion as an activist-musician) are drawn upon heavily in constructing AME, showing this synergy. Through exploring a disparity in use of the term ‘community music’ in established literature of the field and in Hess’ less terminological use of the words, I show an important omission in Hess’ book. I argue that in many ways Hess’ AME is difficult to distinguish between community music, other than the insistence that it be actioned in classrooms. I suggest this insistence is misguided and holds potential harm for students and teachers. Although I aim critique at Hess’ AME and its omission of community music, I do so not to create discord and division between the fields of community music and music education, but to open a dialogue that could result in greater reciprocity and solidarity between those in the fields working for social justice. To engage in this analysis, first it is important to give an overview of Hess’ AME.

Outlining an Activist Music Education

Hess, in outlining of a framework for AME, draws upon Freirean critical pedagogy and the recommendations of living activist-musicians to construct a practice for facilitating an activist-music education praxis3 aimed at social justice. AME explores how music educators in schools may incorporate critical pedagogy and activist-musicians’ methods to facilitate, through musicking4, a ‘coming to consciousness’ (Hess, 2019, p.19) for youth. This process that Freire coined Conscientization5 refers to building awareness of the socio-political and economic oppressions students and others face, and to take action against these ‘oppressive elements of reality’ (Freire, 1970/2000, p.35). Through (1) exploring the connective power of musicking, (2) facilitating the honouring and sharing of students’ lived musical and non-musical experiences, and (3) explicitly situating musics and music education as political, Hess puts forward a tri-faceted activist pedagogy for school music classrooms (2019, pp. 150-168). 

Firstly, a multifaceted approach to a pedagogy of community draws on the activist musicians’ advocacy of an education of connection that centres the importance of building community, links musics to their historical and socio-political contexts, and connects students to unfamiliar others through engaging with a wide range of musics. In doing so, AME encourages young people to understand the music they encounter, and themselves, as situated within their location, in relation to Others6, and within historical and contemporary socio-political landscapes.

Secondly, Hess puts forward a pedagogy of expression that emerged from activist-musicians’ emphasis on ‘musicking as a way to tell stories’ (Hess, 2019, p. 152). Hess’ pedagogy of expression ‘encourages the articulation of experiences through music’ (Hess, 2019, p 153). Hess characterises this process as akin to Freire’s practice of naming the world7. Through implementing a place-based curriculum that recognises the site-specific complexities in youths’8 lives and honours their contributions, music educators can centre young people’s lived experiences and validate their perspectives on their realities. Hess draws on activist-musicians’ advocacy of song-writing and improvisational musicking as tools to actualise this pedagogy of expression. Activist-musicians looked to utilise these ‘accessible tools’ to facilitate this process, with an aim to aid youth to write their own lyrics and ‘music true to their own realities’ (2019, p. 53). Hess argues this provides young people with an opportunity ‘for processing their experiences and connecting their own lives to larger narratives in order to heighten the possible impact of their narratives’ (2019, p. 53). Hess also suggests a reframing for the role of a teacher in a pedagogy of expression away from a prescriptive banking education9 (Freire, 1970/2000) towards a role more akin to Allsup’s (2016) conception of ‘fellow adventurers’10, where educators work alongside students to explore new possibilities both musical and in wider life.

Finally, a pedagogy of noticing is advocated. This third facet of AME promotes a culture of critical thinking and works towards facilitating the empowerment of students to ‘critique the world around them, [and] to name the conditions and ideologies that shape their lives and the lives of others’ (Hess, 2019, p. 153). Drawing on Grioux & Grioux’s (2004) promotion of a culture of questioning, a pedagogy of noticing encourages young people to learn to recognise the oppressive ideologies that affect their lives individually, as a group, and the lives of unfamiliar Others. Through learning to critique the oppressive ideologies in, for example, commercialised hip-hop lyrics or the overrepresentation of white males in Western classical music, students learn to confront and critique other oppressive language and representations in other texts, discourses, and dominant epistemologies that they encounter. Educators as ‘fellow adventurers’ is again stressed in a pedagogy of noticing. Hess highlights that educators should themselves demonstrate an ‘astute practice of critique’ in the classroom, arguing that this facilitates the same ‘habit of questioning and noticing’ among students (Hess, 2019 p. 154). By engaging students in courageous conversations (Singleton & Linton, 2006) around social justice and systems of oppression, AME looks to work towards conscientization, empowerment and moves towards transforming oppressive socio-political conditions in and beyond the classroom. 

Hess also points to several limitations and dangers of her construction. Hess draws attention to the need for caution in implementing AME. Teachers are warned to be mindful of its potential to re/traumatise students, the danger of appropriation of AME by the far right, and of its potential to reinscribe some of the systems of oppression it looks to overturn, such as unwittingly engaging in harmful stereotyping and exoticisation through appropriation of other cultures’ music. Hess also draws focus to the limitations the inherited power dynamics of school music education brings when implementing AME. This is highlighted by Hess’ citing of Sloboda’s (2015) assertion that ‘music education is far from the ideal vehicle for social justice’ and that ‘music educators who value social justice may benefit from re-evaluating their professional field of activity to choose a field where they can effect more direct action’ (Sloboda, 2015, cited by Hess, 2019, p. 158). The stressing of this assertion creates a point of fissure for AME and formal music education. In the following section I position community music as a base for further analysis of AME. 

Positioning Community Music

Defining community music has been a contentious issue in the field’s literature (Bartleet and Higgins 2018; de Banffy-Hall 2019; Higgins 2012; Higgins and Willingham 2017; Rathgeber 2011). Higgins and Willingham argue ‘community music, by its very nature, defies tightly constructed definitions’ (2017, p. 3). Community music can be better understood as a diversity of context specific practices unified by a common focus on participatory musicking in aid of social justice, and by a philosophical framework that centres the ethical responsibility to the Other.11 In the U.K, which remains a key site of development of the field, the community musicians’ professional association Sound Sense, as well as international community music scholars have promoted reflection on what community music does rather than what community music is (Bartleet and Higgins, 2018a; Rathgeber, 2011). This can be seen in Sound Sense’s 1995 mission statement.12

This fluidity and resistance towards categorisation, born from a positive philosophical ideal, is a key aspect of community music, keen as a field to remain mobile, and able to respond to social injustice in both context specific situations and more macro ways. This ethos of community music can be linked to the field’s origins within the counter cultural community arts movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (Higgins, 2012; Rathgeber 2011) and thus inherits aspects of the ‘cultural radicalism’ (Higgins, 2012, p.25) of the wider political activism of the time. This marks community music’s beginnings as a ‘grassroots movement in resistance’ (Higgins and Willingham, 2017, p.xiii) against many of the features of established music education and wider society, which were considered outdated, unjust, and oppressive. Whilst still firmly rooted in grassroots practice, community music in recent decades has found its place within academic discourse. With the publication of several key texts (Bartleet and Higgins ed., 2018; Higgins, 2012; Higgins and Willingham, 2017; Veblen, et al., 2013), and the continuing development of the peer reviewed International Journal of Community Music (IJCM), has marked an emergence of the field as an international academic discourse. 

It is also crucial to see community music’s growth from a counter-cultural movement as also aligned with progressive developments in music education. The field grew into its current incarnation in part due to the platform created by the Community Music Activity Commission, one of the seven commissions of the International Society for Music Education (ISME). This longstanding historical link can be seen in an analysis of published community music literature commonly citing the writings of and being written by music educators, showing music education as ‘community music’s main corresponding discipline’ (de Banffy-Hall, 2019, p. 33).13  Viewing community music primarily as a development of music education gives space to examine some key points of departure.

Community musicians are most commonly facilitators rather than solely teachers as is common in music education. Facilitation in a community music context ‘describes the approach of enabling…and supporting musical processes and focusing on collaboration with the participants’ (de Banffy-Hall, 2019, p. 34). Facilitation in community music contexts also has a strong focus on cultural democracy14 and democratic processes aimed at radical inclusion15 (Schostak, 2019). This mode of working differs from much music education and actively seeks to disrupt hierarchical ordering between student-teacher, facilitator-participant, and formal-informal/non formal music learning contexts. However, Higgins and Campbell state ‘facilitation does not mean that we surrender responsibility for music leadership but only that we relinquish the control’ (2010, p. 7).

The multitude of contexts community musicians work across and the flexibility of the role has seen practitioners conceptualised as boundary walkers (Kushner et al., 2001; Higgins, 2006, 2012). Higgins (2012) sees this boundary walker status as a positive aspect of the practice. The ability and motivation to work between the margins of established fields and roles is seen as a vital ‘position of strength for community musicians’ creating ‘the space to question and challenge dominant forms of practice’ (p. 32). The fluidity of practice that a boundary walker status grants to community musicians enables them to inhabit multiple roles simultaneously. Veblen argues that practitioners may be ‘musicians/teachers/researchers and activists, responding to the particular situations in which they find themselves’ (2013, p.9). This reflexivity of practice makes the conditions for a tapestry of community music activity that is ‘local, personal, political, multifaceted, and, above all, fluid’ (Veblen, 2013, p.1). This enables practitioners to carry their ‘commitment to context, cultural democracy, participation and equality’ (de Banffy-Hall, 2019, p.36) to all arenas in which they work.

This flexibility is part of what enables community music to reserve at its core a commitment to work for social justice and in “’resistance to established power structures [in] the aim to empower those in society who are marginalised’ (de Banffy-Hall, 2019, p. 36). This explicitly political positioning of community music is a distinctive marker from many discourses on music education, and yet community music is often overlooked, even in music education literature focused on social justice. This is exemplified by the sparse mentioning of community music in The Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education (Benedict et. al 2015). In the book, community music is featured only twice, once with a perspective on hospitable music making (Higgins, 2015, p. 539-547) and once briefly mentioned by Roberts and Campbell (2015, p. 539-547) as an exemplar of good practice in their essay on multiculturalism and social justice in music education. This underrepresentation of community music in music education discourses around social justice seems somewhat odd given the field’s roots in a ‘grass roots, activist-led, bottom-up, anti-establishment movement’ and as an explicit ‘form of activism concerned with issues of social justice’ (de Banffy-Hall, 2019, p. 37). This activist tendency is not fully ubiquitous across all community music activity, but it is common enough to be considered a highly significant feature of the field, specifically in the U.K where the ‘interventionist model’ (de Banffy-Hall, 2019, p. 37) is the most fully formed paradigm for practice. Interventionist community music comes with ‘the intention to “interrupt” particular situations, such as social and political disadvantage, and bring about social change’ (Bartleet and Higgins, 2018a, p. 15) and is thus the most similar to Hess’ AME.

In the following section I examine Hess’ AME, through the lens of community music. I explore how community musicians may perhaps be better situated to engage in the approach Hess’ advocates, and may have been doing so for some time.  This is done through examining: 

  • the work of the activist musicians whose practices form the backbone of AME, 
  • the disparities between definitions of community music,
  • and issues with activist educations in school contexts.

Activist Music Education: Where is the Community?

Hess’ AME is built at large through the recommendations of musicians working outside formal education settings in other social justice musicking contexts. These activist-musicians work across a range of musical genres and in varying ways. Some work creating music with a political agenda, but most were engaged in some form of informal or non-formal music education aimed at social justice. The activist-musicians work on which AME is based looks very similar to the practice of community musicians. For example, Hess draws on Magali Meagher’s work as a founder, director, and workshop facilitator for Girls Rock Camp Toronto (GRCT). GRCT describe themselves on their website as ‘an inclusive musical community empowering girls through music using week-long camp programming, after school programs, and workshops’ (, n.d.), Hess summarises GRCT as ‘a program in which teenage girls learn instruments and enact musical practices that resonate with their identities’ (2019, p. 53). This focus on providing music-making opportunities for the marginalised (cis and transgender girls, and gender non-conforming youth) exhibits motivations and activity very similar to community music’s interventionist model and could be seen to be an example of community music practice. In community music literature there exist examples of remarkably similar projects. Gillian Howell’s (2019) essay in the IJCM, Making music in divided cities: Transforming the ethnoscape, examines the work of amongst others, Mitrovica Rock School (MRS), a project using rock music to facilitate inter-cultural exchange in the post and protracted conflict zone in the Kosovo city after the Yugoslav War. This project has many similarities to GRCT, specifically in its focus on extra-musical outcomes through music-making (promoting inter-cultural cooperation for MRS and gender equality for GRCT). This shows a connection between this activist-musician’s practice and community music. Whilst this is just one example of what could be considered community music practice within the work of the musicians that Hess draws from, it clearly illustrates the closeness of activity. The links between the activist musicians’ work and community music practice prompts the question, why is community music not mentioned as a field when it could be argued the discipline inhabits much of the scope of what AME advocates? 

Despite CM’s synergies with Hess’ AME, the term ‘community music’ is used differently in the text.  Hess uses the term community music seemingly to refer to musics that students engage with in their home lives, as distinct from music in the classroom, not in reference to community music as a practice in its own right. Hess applies this usage to the term a total of six times, most often to illustrate the transformation in meaning that occurs when appropriating students’ homelife musical cultures for classroom use. Definitions of community music do differ somewhat across geographical location, holding context specific significance. This could thus be seen as simply a U.S understanding of the term, where community arts (and by extension community music) refers more to the amateur arts, rather than a professional practice that would instead fall under the banner of community cultural development. However, the field of community music as laid out earlier in this paper is well established in Anglophone North America, even with examples of literature that date back to the 19th Century through the writings of the likes of Peter Dykema, an early advocate of the field (Bush and Krikun 2013; de Banffy-Hall 2019). This then makes the field of community music, which has such resonance with Hess’ AME, somewhat conspicuous by its absence and substitution for an alternate meaning. Whilst it is possible this is an oversight born from the writer’s lack of knowledge of the field, this is improbable given Hess’ position on the board of editors of The Mayday Group.16  This editorial role would have no doubt meant the writer would have come into contact with community music discourse. Hess is likely to know of community music both through the work of fellow editors Deanna Yerichuk, and specifically Lise Vaugeois, whose work Hess cites multiple times and is in fact one of the activist-musicians featured in the text, or through articles published through the Mayday Group’s journal (Ford 2009; Rathgeber 2011). It stands, then, to question again community music’s absence in Hess’ construction of AME. Given the semantic flexibility of Hess’ use of community music, I use Hess’ words on the significant change a school context can make to language’s semiotics, to question if AME may represent ‘a co-opted version of community music sanctioned for school use’ (Hess 2019 p. 74).

So, what would be the problem with this if it were true? What are the problems of delivering activist work in schools, versus in community settings if the approaches have the same aim towards furthering social justice? I argue that schools and classrooms bring with them many problematic issues that substantially limit any impact activist work can produce and may raise ethical issues for both students and teachers. Firstly, the institution of the school and its associated bureaucracies present problematic issues for teachers in implementing AME. Hess notes that the expectations carried with the role of the teacher within schools puts educators in a precarious position to implement an activist education (2019, p. 127-149). School administrations’ and governing bodies’ focus upon mandatory testing and delivering set curricula requires teachers to teach in certain ways that hopefully give students the best possible opportunity to do well in standardised testing and assessments. This creates issues for teachers, whereby they must negotiate the risk of disciplinary action or unemployment for engaging in the kind of work AME advocates without the support of the school administration and other authorities. Hess suggests this danger comes not only from the school, but also from parents and the wider community, from whom teachers may have to deal with a backlash for promoting a ‘leftist liberal agenda’ (Hess, 2019, p. 162). Given these risks for teachers, it is understandable that they would be reticent to tread such potentially dangerous waters, instead relying on tried and tested music education methods when they have both their own position and a responsibility to students’ academic attainment to consider. These very binds of school music education are, in part, what spurred the community music movement to diverge from music education. Community music looks not to simply reform the discipline of music education within the master’s house, with the master’s tools (Lorde, 2007/1984), but to step outside to new places, practices, and possibilities where social change may be needed, actionable, and sustainable. This again raises the question, why is community music not mentioned by Hess when community musicians are, and have long been, delivering the sort of work Hess recommends, but without the many limitations a formal education setting brings? This shows several dangers of AME if seen as a co-opted version of community music sanctioned for school use in that it limits the impact and scope of AME to what schools will ‘allow’, puts teachers at risk, and obscures the work of community musicians (including many of Hess’ activist-musicians) who may be better placed to action what AME sets out to achieve.

The historical and institutional inheritances of schooling not only pose problems for teachers implementing AME, but also pose potential issues for students. French post-structuralist theorist Michel Foucault (1977) saw schools as existing to serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions, there to categorise, order, control, and regulate people. Given this assessment, it is pertinent to ask if AME delivered in schools has the capacity to be liberating for students under these conditions, as is Hess’ aim. In this view, power inequity between student and teacher is unavoidable and often potentially controlling or coercive. Pace and Hemmings suggest that because school student-teacher relationships are always ‘involuntary’ that ‘trust is often problematic in K-12 classrooms’, and that teachers ‘expect students to obey them simply because they occupy the role of teacher’ (2007, pp.6-8).  This dynamic reiterates that school classrooms may be less than the ideal arena to implement AME. The presence of this power inequity in a classroom setting potentially limits students’ ability to authentically ‘build community and connect with others, express their stories and their ideas, notice injustice(s), and critique the world around them’ (Hess, 2019, p. 162). Students might do so only within the narrow confines of what normatively constitutes acceptable school behaviour through fear of teachers or other school staff reverting to their role of disciplinarian. This again shows why community musicians may be better positioned to take up the aims of AME.

Community musicians already inhabit an explicit activist arena and thus do not have to tackle such institutional limitations that fall on teachers. The community musician seen as a boundary walker is able to carry their activist impetus across multiple contexts whilst fulfilling multiple simultaneous roles, including both teacher and activist. This has enabled community musicians to engage in the sort of work AME advocates with authenticity, and without the issues around institutionally derived authority that may limit its appropriateness and effectiveness in schools. I do not raise this just to discount Hess’ AME and its use by schoolteachers as ‘not worthwhile’. Rather I do so to highlight that the omission of community music from the text is a missed opportunity for teachers, students and other readers of Hess’ book to explore the field and its activist potential in all arenas, including schools. Below I conclude this paper by exploring possibilities for future action. I look forward towards greater reciprocity in further activist musical work and aim towards building a praxis of mutual aid and solidarity between fields working for social justice through music.


In this paper I have explored Juliet Hess’ AME through the field of community music. I highlighted how community music is a fundament of AME. Also, that it is better positioned to tackle the activist work advocated due to both a history of already doing so and because of limitations placed on teachers and students by the power dynamics of the classroom. This makes community music a significant omission in Hess’ book. The omission is not just important because it obscures and potentially appropriates the work of community musicians, but that it also limits the wider activist aims. Not exploring the significance of an explicitly activist development of music education in the form of community music means AME misses much of the potential to move work for social justice forward. By skipping at least 40 years of activist music work since the founding of the Community Music Activity Commission, and not acknowledging the stark similarities between activist-musicians’ work and community music, Hess’ AME does itself and community music a disservice. 

Struggles for social justice require mutual aid and solidarity. Whilst community music practice and theory promote reciprocity both in facilitation work and in acknowledging its intersections with other fields, the same cannot be said here for Hess’ offering as a music educator. Music education is a much larger and more established field that holds significantly more power than the still-emergent community music. If important music education texts that focus upon social justice systematically exclude community music, they risk subsuming the grassroots field through music education’s position of dominance. This seems particularly relevant in reading Hess’ book due to the core of the text being built on what can be considered community musicians. This could then be seen to show the danger of community music being colonised by more established fields that Higgins (2010) warned of. I argue here that activist music writers, educators, and practitioners of all sorts must strive towards a position of greater solidarity if we are to genuinely achieve the social justice agenda, we set out to bring forth. This solidarity cannot include appropriation of smaller and emerging fields of activity by the more established. New modes of working, living and musicking can only be born from a collective effort to struggle towards more open and cooperative relations. I suggest this, not looking for a ‘hand up’ for community music from music education, but more in alignment with Petyr Kropotkin’s (1902, p. 42) assertion that ‘practicing mutual aid is the surest means for giving each other and to all the greatest safety and the best guarantee of existence and progress’.


  1. Freirean critical pedagogy refers to the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and those influenced by him. In The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) and later writings Freire explored the manifestation and reproduction of oppressive relationships within traditional teacher-student dynamics and looked to ways to disrupt them. Freire’s pedagogy advocated a democratic, cooperative student-teacher relationship that’s focus was on creating the space for students to come to a critical awareness of the oppressions effecting their lives and develop the capacities to change them.
  2.  Activist-musicians is the term that Juliet Hess gives to the 20 musicians involved in activism interviewed for the book and whose recommendations AME is built upon. A detailed background to these activist-musicians’ work and demographics is given in the introduction to the text (2019, pp.8-10) and brief biographies in the appendix (2019, pp. 169-177). Hess employs the term for the purpose of group description rather than it being how the individuals described themselves but for the purposes of summary, activist-musicians are mostly musicians who work in some form of informal and non-formal music education in North America and place importance on social justice in their work.
  3. Praxis is used by Hess in alignment with Freire’s conception of a cyclical process of action and reflection but also notes her use builds from writings on praxial music education (Elliott, 1995, 2005, Elliott & Silverman, 2015, McCarthy & Goble, 2005, Regelski 1996, 2005a, 2005b).
  4. Musicking, as coined by Christopher Small (1998), refers to the conception of music not as a thing that is, but rather as a thing people do.  The verb musicking thus centres the relational aspect of music.
  5. Conscientization is a translation from the Portuguese conscientização. In the words of Bergman Ramos the translator of Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed, it “refers to learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions, and to take action against these oppressive elements of reality (1970/2000, p. 35).
  6.  Hess writes “I capitalize the term Other to indicate that particular groups have been marked “Other” as distinct from the self in a way that typically involves a process of dehumanization. The focus on connection in this book works to bridge this distance between self and Other” (Hess 2019, p. 13).
  7. Naming the world is used by Freire to describe the process of encouraging students to identify the conditions that shape their lives though critique of the political and economic situations that affect their daily existence. This was born from a Brazilian literacy context where Freire argued that students learn to read more quickly when learning words that relate to their lived experiences.
  8. Youths is used by Hess to indicate the age range of students AME is specified for, this is K-12 education. K-12 is a term in the United States education system to mean from kindergarten to 12th grade, or ages 5-18.
  9. Banking education is a term coined by Paulo Freire in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970/2000) to frame and critique traditional student-teacher relationships that he sees as teachers ‘depositing’ knowledge they hold onto assumed docile, passive, dehumanised students. Freire writes about banking education “it turns them [students] into “containers”, into “receptacles” to be “filled” by the teacher…Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (1970/2000, p.53).
  10. Hess’ cites Allsup’s use of the phrase fellow adventurers which he takes from music education philosopher Panagiotis Kanellopoulos’ (2007, 2012), writings on free improvisation in music education but can also be seen to be built upon earlier writings on democratic education by American education philosopher John Dewey.
  11.  Higgins (2012) suggests community music can be described and understood through a philosophical framework informed by the writings of phenomenologists Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas, and readings of their works by the likes Simon Critchley and John Caputo (p. 8-10). Community music’s origins within the community arts movement also suggest a philosophical foundation in Marxist and Neo-Marxist theory (Kertz-Welzel, 2016).
  12. Sound Sense mission statement: Community Music involves musicians from any musical discipline working with groups of people to enable them to develop active and creative participation in music; Community Music is concerned with putting equal opportunities into practice; Community Music can happen in all types of community, whether based on place, institution, interest, age or gender group, and reflects the context in which it takes place (Macdonald, 1995).
  13. As well as music education, community music holds correspondences with other fields such as music therapy, community music therapy, ethnomusicology and social work (Higgins and Willingham 2017, de Banffy-Hall 2019).
  14. Cultural democracy is a concept that promotes “pluralism, participation and equity in cultural life and policy” (Adams & Goldbard, 1995) and is “concerned with widening or redistributing the means of cultural production – the resources and powers of self-expression, voice and culture-making” (Gross and Wilson, 2020). The concept can be traced back to early 20th Century American writers such as W.E.B Du Bois, but its contemporary usage can more commonly be seen in the driving force in community cultural development. In essence it implies a resistance to homogenisation and hierarchisation of cultural life, instead promoting the celebration and visibility of all forms cultural activity.
  15. Radical inclusion in education and cultural development looks to “to bring about a society where no one person is valued more than another and where each person is celebrated for their differences” (Schostak 2019). Whilst this is similar to normative concepts of inclusion, radical inclusion highlights the relationships of power that may disrupt this aim, noting that economic, institutional and cultural dominance of elites often subvert this aim of inclusion and must be reckoned with. Radical inclusion in education thus seeks to create radical practices “capable of undermining and replacing neo-liberal forms of schooling” (Schostak 2019)
  16. The Mayday Group is an “international think tank of music educators that aims to identify, critique, and change taken-for-granted patterns of professional activity, polemical approaches to method and philosophy, and educational politics and public pressures that threaten effective practice and critical communication in music education” (, n.d).



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