Editorial: November 2019

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Editorial: November 2019

Sebastian Ruth, Community MusicWorks, Founder & Artistic Director


In 2019, many organizations in the United States are examining societal oppressions that affect our communities, and we look for ways to adopt new practices in our educational spaces around diversity, equity, and inclusion. To make progress, it’s critical to examine our work in new ways if we are to have an impact in countering oppressive practices. 

Paolo Freire, in his analysis of the dynamics of oppression, discusses the perils of a banking model of education, where teachers view their job as filling the empty vessel of a student with information. This approach reinforces to the learner that people in positions of power hold the answers and that they as learners need to respect the system that keeps them powerless. Instead, Freire proposes an educational dynamic where teacher and student are co-investigators and that their pursuit of learning happens side-by-side.  

At Community MusicWorks we strive to teach in a manner consistent with Freire’s ideals, so that student and teacher share ownership of the learning process. We’ve created shared learning plans amongst teachers and students, where students voice their educational and performing goals. The learning trajectory becomes one held mutually, rather than solely in the mind of the teacher. 

I recently watched a colleague debrief a performance with an ensemble of middle school students. They referred to a list they had co-created of what makes a satisfying performance, and where their challenges and successes were found. Students had a voice alongside their teachers, making the process of improvement collective and transparent. 

Breaking old habits can be difficult. But the rewards of working in this way come from a student’s sense of ownership and a student’s expectation that their voice matters. They can be authors of their experience, and can have agency in their lives beyond music. 


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