Michael Jeffrey

Pine Island Public Schools

2020 FMC Graduate Study Scholarship Recipient

Studying at  University of St. Thomas

What does Critical Pedagogy have to say about my choral classroom?

  • What music should we study…and why?
  • Whose voices are missing in my classroom?
  • Is bel canto the only healthy way to sing, scientifically?
  • How can I rehearse successfully online?
  • What does it mean to be musically literate?
  • How can I assess what learners are really taking away from choir?
  • Why is Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem such a big deal in the Western choral-orchestral canon anyway?

These are some of the questions that I have been exploring, researching, and debating this summer while studying as part of the University of St. Thomas’s Master of Arts in Music Education Program. This was my second summer in the program and a very needed source of inspiration for the coming year, made possible in part by a scholarship from the FMC Endowment Fund for which I am very thankful.

In particular, with SARS-CoV-2 wreaking havoc on school district schedules and structures, choir is going to look very different this coming year. My studies over the summer have sparked numerous ideas for work I can do with my learners. For example, my choirs and I have a built-in opportunity to spend more time connecting and responding to the context of music since performance will likely remain untenable. We can also explore a greater variety of music, including the popular music my learners interact with outside of school, providing an opportunity for choir members to take the lead. Other opportunities include discussing and debating topics of social justice, student identity, and citizenship in relation to music; finding creative ways to make music both in-person and online; practicing music-making from oral traditions; and taking time to play and build community when kids need these most.

Finally, I couldn’t summarize my experience this summer without mentioning the most important part: the people. In my cohort, I have made numerous friends who are intelligent, creative, kind, and supportive. This group of people serves as another source of hope as we talk, share ideas, and find ways to collaborate. No matter what happens this year, I know that we will be able to fall back on one another—we will lift each other up. As I said in an article from the spring of 2019, we are “stronger when we work together,” and I know that I will be a stronger person and educator because of these individuals.