Tag Archives: praxis

A Letter to Those Co-Creating Social Change With and Through Music

Dear musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists, researchers, and anyone else who would like to join,

It has taken me a while to arrive here. It has taken me a while to piece together the many strands of what I have experienced in practice and learned in theory this past year. It is not until recently that I “caught sense” of what is this developing grassroots field we and the youth we work with are in the process of co-creating. More than ever I feel this edgy pressure bellowing down my back to share, and to make accessible the funds of knowledge I’ve gained while studying my MA at Teachers College with you all- musicians, music educators, scholars, educator-facilitators, activists,  researchers, and anyone else involved in this field throughout the world. It is the language and understanding of this field that I hope to develop in dialogue with you all who are investigating theory and who are in practice on the ground.

When asked earlier this semester by a professor of mine that I highly admire whether it was my goal to publish anything by the end of this year, I answered with a resounding, “No.” I shut that door so closed that I could feel my eyes squeeze shut. Let’s be real, putting  your discoveries down on paper and then sharing them on a public platform is terrifying. Many questions arise surrounding your validity, your right to lay down such ideas, explanations, and beliefs: Will they think it’s smart enough? Will I seem “expert” enough? Does this really matter? Who is this for?!

Several weeks ago, I had, in the words of educational philosopher Maxine Greene, “an awakening.” When will it be time for me to assume this role of interpreter, researcher, knower, doer, and sharer in this developing field? As long as I wait for the next understanding, and then the next understanding, I will find myself waiting forever. No change can come in waiting, whether boldly big or significantly small, for somebody else to tell you that the time has arrived. Along these lines, I found within my own musical and administrative work with grassroots music education-youth empowerment nonprofits that a divide arose before me between the language that I have learned in my MA and the language that is understood on the ground in practice. Overcoming this divide is critical, and the way I believe we can do this is by uncovering the existent bridge between theory and practice, so that individuals from both worlds can speak with each other.

What is theory after all but just a way of explaining ideas and understandings? What is practice after all but the carrying out of ideas and understandings? Educational philosopher Paulo Freire speaks of the idea of praxis, the conjoining of theory and practice. In other words we learn by taking action and then from reflecting upon this action. And who are educational philosophers anyway, but people who do not take what happens in the world for granted by noticing the world around them and who they are in this world. It is the re-recognizing of our everyday knowledge that exists within every one of us, while uncovering new parts of ourselves when we experience and reflect upon new things or re-experience and reflect upon past things- like the already existent bridge between theory and practice that we are unveiling.

I thought this was clear to me after all my experience in practice and now time in academia, but then felt a reverberating shock when I found myself entangled in this abyss. It became clear that my call to write could wait no longer as I found myself part of the system that continues to create this divide. I had become “the stranger” to the world of practice when my first steps into activism and social change were born in practice! And yet, could I have made this discovery if I did not find myself “the stranger” in this situation where what had been familiar became unfamiliar?

It is my utmost goal from this point on to do everything possible to unveil the bridge connecting these two worlds with you through interpreting and discovering with care, providing points of entry for those involved in theory and those involved in practice, and hopefully co-creating with you all an ever evolving space in which these two worlds meet, so we can truly foster social change through our daring work.

With love,

Shoshana