On Saturday, March 5, 2022, senior music student Paul Rose delivered his TEDxCSU talk, “Music Education: Creating a Canon as Diverse as We Are” at the Colorado State University Lory Student Center.
Rose was inspired to create the talk after many conversations on diversifying music in his classrooms at CSU. Rose said, “after many of those conversations, we would still perpetuate the same, white-centric curriculum. There is a point where we can acknowledge that these issues exist, but if we aren’t taking steps towards correcting them, simply acknowledging them isn’t enough, which stood as the basis for my Tedx Talk.”
The TEDxCSU theme “Retrace” was meant to inspire attendees to retrace their thoughts and engage in new ways with their daily practices. A passion project for Rose, he wanted his talk to challenge those involved in the music education conversations to put more of what they discussed into practice.
“Representation matters, and that is something we say all the time; from the perspective of a music student, I wanted to challenge music educators to embody the mantra,” Rose said.
Rose believes his topic “confronts the norms of how we teach music and instead of continuing to perpetuate those same white-centric topics.” Rose continued, “we retrace it.”
Surprisingly, Rose learned that many of the issues surrounding Western Musical Canon and white-centric curriculum are known. He found that educators and institutions existing in the current system talk about change but often fail to achieve it. This drove Rose’s research into why the current curriculum is upheld in these circumstances.
“Music education is something that is so important to young minds; it molds the way we think, subverts our world views, and sparks creativity in all facets of our lives. However, we are seeing programs across the country get cut because people don’t grasp the wide-reaching effect it has on us, and I believe that is partially due to music not being taught in a way that promotes diversity in its own field. How can we ask people to self-actualize and reflect in music, if we aren’t teaching it in a way that allows space for that?” Rose said.
Dr. John Pippen, assistant professor of Ethnomusicology at CSU, who regularly writes about struggle in the United States classical music scene said, “This is a crucial area of inquiry for music educators at all levels. Writ large, the field has been pursuing ways to re-imagine music education based on the breadth and depth of human practices. This is meant to contrast the relatively restricted canon of music normally at the core of much music education. It’s an area that all of us here in SMTD are working to address.”
Rose knows that music doesn’t have one singular way of understanding the art and practice. His hope for his audience was that they would feel compelled to act in reframing the curriculum. He called on the music students in attendance to seek out pieces from different cultures and promote diverse programming during his speech. He called on the general audience to look for composers of color and support more BIPOC artists.
“Paul is a smart and charismatic speaker. In consultation with contemporary research, he crafted a very nuanced outline of the lack of racial equity in music education,” Dr. Pippen said.
When asked about the process of giving a Tedx talk, Rose was grateful for the gracious and helpful individuals who organized the 2022 Tedx. It took three months of research and composition to put the speech together. During the work, Rose felt privileged to work with his music history professor, Dr. John Pippen.
“Paul is a very hard-working student. This project was a challenging addition to his normal scholastic obligations. The quality of his speech speaks to a depth of commitment that we should be proud of,” Dr. Pippen said.
While conference day was filled with support from the Tedx committee, giving a fifteen-minute speech from memory could be a challenge. Rose said, “the most nerve-wracking part was making sure that I was presenting something representative of my own values and that I could stand behind it. Delivering this speech that is going to live on the internet for people all around to see, I wanted to ensure that it was concise and could offer a fresh perspective.”
The talk, “Music Education: Creating a Canon as Diverse as We Are,” can be found at minute twenty-three of the TedxCSU link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOuWsXPNyaY
The School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is proud to recognize the contributions that work like Rose’s talk provides to the campus and the music world at large. Rose’s 2022 Tedx additionally provided vitally important research and dialogue to the SMTD student body. Dr. Pippen said, “Paul helps show other students how they can be involved in building a more just world. This is no small thing, and will take time. Paul’s example can help empower students to imagine what they might do in their specific practices and studies.”
“At its core, TEDx strives to foster conversation and connection; getting to be a part of that made the months of work worth it,” Rose said.