University of Rochester

Alumni Gazette

Music Education Gets a Voice

Carol Frierson-Campbell ’00E (PhD)

Carol Frierson-Campbell ’00E (PhD) spent much of her music teaching career in quiet, even uneventful rural schools in New York State. So while she was conducting research in urban and suburban school districts in New Jersey, she was alarmed by the challenges the urban district faced.

“In the urban school I visited, a student had been murdered,” she says. “But the suburban school’s biggest problem was deciding what type of fish they were going to buy for the pond in their new science room.”

And if urban school districts face greater challenges than other areas, she says, music departments in those schools have it toughest of all—the departments get the short end of the stick when it comes to funding (“Administrators think, ‘Oh, the music department can get by with less,’” she says). In addition, music teachers are not recognized as artists and, even worse, are viewed by their colleagues as babysitters for their students so the “real” teachers can have a break.

“Music teachers in urban schools are isolated—they don’t even get a chance to talk to one another. And they seldom get to conferences or other types of professional development.”

Realizing that the plight of music teachers in urban districts was going unrecognized, Frierson-Campbell decided to turn the focus of her work there. As the editor of Teaching Music in the Urban Classroom, her goal is to address the issues facing music teachers and begin the process of reform. The two-volume text is a collection of pieces by music teachers, school administrators, researchers, and policy writers—including a chapter by Kathy Robinson, who was an assistant professor of music education at Eastman—intended to establish a dialogue to incite reform in urban music education.

“It took a while to get where we are. It will take a while to make it better,” she says. “The book is a way for music teachers to have a voice. Conversation is the point, and with these books, the conversation has started.”