Music Education

These are the views of the musician, educator, philosopher and aesthetic advocate, Jarritt Ahmed Sheel

Music Education is in the midst of flux and change...

So has every era of educational growth in America, but today's times are different. Never has there ever been a time in human history in which people are as plugged in, yet disconnected from one another as in the 21st century. Music education has often under used the tools available to teach music, and have definitely missed the boat on contributing to the discourses around interdisciplinary studies. Using music to teach, versus teaching music are two very different focuses of action.  

I am a huge proponent of teaching musical skills and using musicking (performance, artifact, activity) to expand, enhance and develop student's understanding of the world around them. My research is first centered in helping reform America's maladies through group activity, civic engagement, and democratic action.  My research, secondly, is centered on revitalizing and renovating the music classroom through the use of popular music and culture. Hip-Hop is the most popular music, and one of the preeminent cultures in the world. Interactions with hip-hop has the capacity to transformative and catalytic in nature. I do not think that hip-hop can solve all the worries of the world, but I do believe that its relevance for the students and teachers (that are part of the hip-hop and post-hip hop generation), can have tremendous impact.

That is where I began to delve deep into the actions, activities, and topics that come out of interactions with hip-hop. I began to read, interview, and research the roles that hip-hoppers (lyricist, emcees, deejays, b-boys, beat boxers, and graph writers) engage in when they are most connected to the culture. I began to read the research of Dr Adam J Kruse, Greg Dimitriadis, Murray Forman, Nelson George, Johan Söderman, Lucy Green, A.A. Akom, Bettina Love, Chris Emdin, Ernest Morrell, Thurman Bridges, Michael Eric Dyson, Toni Blackman, Cornel West and Randall E. Allsup, whose works I have used as the cornerstone of my literature review. Of these educational artist, Dr Chris Emdin (Teachers College, Columbia University) has opened the door to my experiments with dialogue via social media (twitter, facebook, wordpress, instagram, etc.). Through his use of the hashtag #hiphoped he and his staff start conversations around the topic of hip-hop in education. Unlike Dr Emdin, I am more interested in how hip-hop music and culture have been neglected in the construction of music classrooms around the country. So, I have been using the hashtag #HIPHOPMUSICED, on the social media outlet twitter to start conversations with music educators, and students around the topic of hip-hop.

My philosophy of education is simple. I see the world through the critical eyes of a person that has had so much withheld from, opportunities stolen from, and prejudices/biases placed on because of my socio-economic status and racial background. I seek to break down power structures (M. Foucault) and to begin difficult conversations, long over due, about race (C. West) and "otherness" (A. Schutz & M. Greene) here in America. Everyone (all citizens of the republic) deserve the opportunity to learn more about life, and our shared reality through music making. Music is a powerful medium, that can be a disruptive activity that seeks to unsettle our understanding of the world around us. The only way that we can know we are free is to query whether or not we were ever free to begin with? Each student is a text, and we together in the music classroom should be seeking to create a text as opposed to replicate a work (R. Barthes). We as music educators, should be seeking to remove the shackles of injustice, prejudice and biases from our citizenry through interactions with music. We should engage in music, and further the unpacking of the aesthetic, to understand deeper the world we live in, and our place in it. My philosophy of education, is my philosophy of music education, which is that music (arts) should be a primary part of all educative systems (schools). Music is everywhere (J. Cage), just like math. They are simply the lens through which we ponder our existence. Music is a language, and a means of conveying/communicating/defining who we are. This defining is not in comparison to others, but in the forward motion (progression) toward becoming whom we are not yet (M. Greene). Music education is not my adversary, but rather it is my occupation, profession and my calling. I seek to help elevate, highlight, reform and develop the medium through which I seek to engage people in making, listening to, and appreciating the sonic art of music, and more over their love of freedom. 


My  newest educative effort is the website which I share the title of co-editor with music educator's like Dr Carla Becker (Delaware), Dr Evan Tobias (Arizona), Dr Adam J Kruse (Illinois) and Dr Johan Söderman (Sweden). This site features a variety of resources that were collected and compiled in this one space(site) in order to support music educators from around the world, in their use of hip-hop in their understanding of their musical world, relationships with students, their classroom practices & instructional approaches.


I recently accepted a full-time position at the Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) within their music education program as a assistant professor of music education. I am super excited and energetically charged like light particles, to become a member of this tremendous learning community. I look forward to contributing in various ways to the students, faculty, programs and research that are the foundations for this great institution of higher learning.