SMT 2020: Committee on Race and Ethnicity Session in Minneapolis (Now virtual)

Session theme: “Stories from the Frontlines”
(Sunday, November 8, 2020, online from 2:00 – 3:15 pm, Central Time)

Issues pertaining to class in higher education today remain as pervasive as ever—whether it be in connections between poverty and lack of access to educational resources, cost of living issues faced by those with student debts, the professional and intellectual challenges faced by scholars in positions of under- or contingent employment, and so on. Moreover, even though people of color are affected disproportionately by class-related issues, this is a phenomenon that affects everyone in some fashion.

In this light, the Committee on Race and Ethnicity is sponsoring a session on issues at the intersection of race and class at the 2020 virtual meeting of the Society for Music Theory and the American Musicological Society. As evident in its title, “Stories from the Frontlines,” this session is meant to give scholars who have personally experienced or addressed issues regarding class inequality, and its intersection with race, a chance to share their stories with the music theory community. The session will feature such stories by several speakers, and also Q&As with these speakers, as detailed below:


Session description

All of the talks below (except the one by Sumanth Gopinath) will be available on pre-recorded video prior to the session, for asynchronous viewing. The first four will be live-streamed at the beginning of the session, followed by a real-time presentation by Gopinath.

Adem Merter Birson (Hofstra University): “Stifling Sameness: Hardships of Immigration, Parenthood, and Being Non-White Contingent Faculty”

Catrina Kim (University of North Carolina at Greensboro): “Assessing My Market Value: One Perspective on Contingent Labor in Music Theory”

Paula Grissom (Spelman College): “(Re)Visioning Race and Gender in Music Theory and Composition”

Noé Dinnerstein (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York): “Negotiating and Nurturing Ethnicity, Social Justice, Stress, and Trauma, pre- and post-COVID, in an Urban Commuter College”

Sumanth Gopinath (University of Minnesota): “A Perspective from the Academic Labor Union Movement”

Anna Nelson (University of Michigan): “Fighting for Class Equality Through the Power of Collective Bargaining: Toward Livable Working Conditions for Graduate Students in the Performing Arts”

Michael Berry (University of Washington): “Make Sure Your Own Mask is Secure before Assisting Others: Contingent Faculty as Care Workers”

Reba Wissner (Columbus State University): “Extreme Adjuncting: When Contingent Labor Becomes the Norm”

Patricia Hall (University of Michigan): “Navigating Academia, Single-Parenthood, and First-Gen Experiences”


After the presentations, there will be a 25-minute Q&A between the speakers and the audience.

SMT 2019: Committee on Race and Ethnicity Session in Columbus

Session theme: “Diversity in Music Theory Pedagogy”
(Friday, November 8, 2019, from 2:15 – 5:30 pm)


Handout for Part 1 of  the session.
Handout for the talk by John Roeder in Part 2 of the session.
Handout for the talk by Robin Attas in Part 2 of the session.
Handout for Part 3 of the session. 



Session description

Part 1. Instrument-making activity (30 minutes)

Quintina Carter-Ényì (University of Georgia), moderator
Marvin Wayne Allen (Morehouse College)
Ariel Alvarado (Spelman College)
Tyler Jennings (Spelman College)
Donovan Polk (Morehouse College)
Elaine Ransom (Spelman College)
Julian Rucker (Morehouse College)
Kha’Zhir Stevenson (Spelman College)
Ridge White (Morehouse College)

The above facilitators will lead participants in an instrument-making activity with materials provided by Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, commonly found on college and university campuses (e.g. laser cutters).


Part 2. Lightning talks on diversifying music theory pedagogy (120 minutes)

John Roeder (University of British Columbia): “World Music as a Resource for Teaching Music Theory”

Nancy Rao (Rutgers University): “Including Music by Diverse Composers: Redefine Modes of Analysis”

Robin Attas (Queen’s University): “Working with Diverse Student Populations in the Classroom”


Each talk will be followed by a 20-minute breakout discussion between the members of the audiences.


Part 3. Performance activity (30 minutes)

In this last activity, the lamellophones made in Part 1 will be returned to the audience after having been tuned. Once the instruments are returned, workshop facilitators will guide groups of participants through performance activities responding to the three topics of the lightning talks.

  • Learning a transcription of a cyclical process from Balinese Gamelan music
  • Studying and practicing a new composition by Emily Koh (University of Georgia)
  • Aural training exercises using lamellophones


These performance activities will demonstrate multi-sensory learning strategies for the classroom, and tools that may be used to implement the action items discussed in Part 2, without significant cost to a department or school of music.