A Woman on the Margins


Jessica Gross | Longreads | May 2015 | 17 minutes (4,223 words)

I first encountered the work of the memoirist, critic, and journalist Vivian Gornick in graduate school when we were assigned The Situation and the Story, her handbook on personal writing. Gornick explains that the writer must create out of her real self a separate narrative persona. The narrator has wisdom and distance the writer may not, and can craft a meaningful story out of the raw details of life. This slim book cracked open my understanding of what it means to write.

In Fierce Attachments, her 1987 memoir, Gornick wields her narrative persona to construct an incisive, nuanced portrait of her conflicted bond with her mother. She describes the Bronx tenements where she grew up, the early death of her father, the complex relationship with their neighbor Nettie and, at the center of it all, a…

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How Do Music Teachers Use Hip-Hop Music in Their Classrooms?

I have been reviewing the literature on hip-hop pedagogy and its uses in the music classroom, and many of them see the use of hip-hop music and culture primarily as a means to foster intertextual and subjectivities within the domain of literacy, the written word. However, there are a few scholars that have written about the potential for the music’s use within music education. These music education scholars are Greg Dimitriadis and Adam Kruse. There a plethora of scholars (Akom, Morrell, Duncan-Andrade, Emdin, Soderman, Folkestead, etc) from a variety of educational areas that have written about hip-hop’s pedagogical uses in the classroom, but the focus of these articles are main centered on the cultural relevance and understandings that are created when teachers and students interact with hip-hop. I am interested in finding what is happening in the music classrooms all-around America in regard to the uses of hip-hop music and culture. Why is there a huge gap in the literature in regard to the uses of hip-hop in the music classroom, and what does this mean for its future uses?

I started to dig further and found that my initial response was one of disdain toward to the academy for not valuing the music that I so loved. I later started to wonder why there really wasn’t any data reflecting a serious study of the music’s effects on music education. Where was the empirical data? Where were the studies demonizing or reaffirming the power of the music within the walls of k-12 or post secondary school? I search and I searched and found that the researchers writings mainly reflect the experiences and interests that they have. I know anecdotally that there are teachers all across American that use hip-hop music culture in their classrooms, but no one has really taken the time to report it. Most practitioners are busy doing, and most researchers are busy experiencing and chronicling the outcomes. There are areas that are not communicated by either group. Hip-hop is one of those areas. Sam Seidel wrote a powerful book called “Hip-Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education” which recounts the story of a successful arts program in Minnesota that uses the study of the culture as a means to educate youth. So, I know that if there is one model for the infusion of hip-hop into music education there must be at least one more. As the demographic of the teaching forces changes over the next 20 years, we must be prepared to change the types of ensemble formats that pre-service teachers have access to while in college. The average 18-25 year old student is part of the post-hip-hop generation, and even if there are not huge fans of the music or culture, they have never none a time when the music did not exist. I often relate to those who know me well, that I didn’t know any Beatles music until I was in the early thirties, because the experiences and music I had at school and home were heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder, Andre Crouch and many jazz legends. So, what would my conception of relatable music and musical experiences have been if there was band or ensemble at school that was part of my enculturation as a educator? I can also recount my visit to Dillard School of the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They have recording arts program headed by one Israel Charles has developed a great program around the use of music technology to do project based learning. There have been several successful hip-hop artist that have come out of the program, as well as musicians and lovers of music that have graduated from that program, myself included.

So, how do music educators use hip-hop in their classrooms? According to Kruse (2014) and Dimitriadis (2009) there are currently three forms of Hip-hop pedagogies that have been identified by scholars 1) hip-hop as a bridge 2) hip-hop as a lens and 3) hip-hop as a practice. Each of these can be used in the musicking classroom (Chris Small). I recently shared a google survey with music educators of all levels, via social media. Link provided here —–> https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Ku6DGBwBl3VLKg6LSENP3iiuE_OVbjCVbkJcTmv17yk/viewform?usp=send_form  Please feel free to fill this out, if you are a teacher, past or present, and have or are interested in using hip-hop music/culture and its pedagogies in your classrooms. When I am finished collecting data in the upcoming days, I will share the results of what teachers are or are not doing with hip-hop.


P.S. I have been using the term “cultural appropriation” as of late and will start using another term to express my wishes for the use of hip-hop music in education. I have recently seen the term “musical exchange” and think this is

Maria Schneider BONUS Track Featuring Toots Thielemans available to fans April 29 Thielemans 93rd Birthday




With The Thompson Fields, composer, arranger and bandleader Maria Schneider celebrates a long-awaited reunion with her vaunted jazz orchestra, a homecoming nearly a decade in the making.  Featuring eight new original works by the leader, The Thompson Fields makes brilliant use of Schneider’s 18-piece jazz orchestra, a long-standing ensemble that spotlights such first rank players as Donny McCaslin, Rich Perry, Frank Kimbrough and Lage Lund.  The performances reveal an ever-deepening relationship between Schneider and her musicians, many of whom she has worked with over a quarter of a century.  The album follows a momentous year that found Schneider’s recent album Winter Morning Walks garnering three wins in the classical category of the 2014 GRAMMY Awards, making her one of the rare musicians to win GRAMMYs in both the jazz and classical categories.

Schneider has long been known for her autobiographical music, and with The Thompson Fields, she goes further, sharing a deep relationship to southwest Minnesota, her childhood home.  Although the music reflects her love of native landscape, birds, and prairie, Schneider delves not just into her own roots, but also into what “home” means in broader terms.

The album opens with “Walking by Flashlight,” a poignant expression of an early morning walk as depicted by poet, Ted Kooser in Winter Morning Walks.  “I think this may be the only time that alto clarinet was ever featured on a big band album,” Schneider claims.  “Alto clarinet has long been relegated to use almost exclusively in wind ensembles, but Scott Robinson elevates this instrument to a place of very tender expression.  I can actually hear Kooser’s poetry in Scott’s expression of the melody.”  Now reorchestrated as an instrumental work, this song was also featured in Scheider’s GRAMMY-winning song cycle, Winter Morning Walks.


Schneider’s most recent work,“The Monarch and the Milkweed,” features Marshall Gilkes on trombone and Greg Gisbert on fluegelhorn.  Inspired by the beauty and abounding life found in Minnesota native prairie, this piece is specifically dedicated to the monarch.  “This butterfly is one example of a creature we love and are inspired by, but that depends upon certain dwindling aspects in the environment – in this case, the milkweed – without which the monarch will go extinct.  Four generations of monarchs and over 3,000 miles of flight from Mexico complete its life cycle, with milkweed as the only plant it can eat.  The piece is inspired by these incomprehensible, complex cycles and interrelationships in nature, reflecting on how they largely depend upon attraction and beauty, and ultimately now how they depend on our appreciation and valuation of beauty,” Schneider explains. 

The title, “Arbiters of Evolution,” refers to the remarkable mating rituals  and performances of the birds-of-paradise species native to New Guinea.  Schneider sets up each solo section for McCaslin and Robinson to conjure up their own highly evolved and spectacular performances.  This work was inspired by Maria’s love of birds and the environment and her involvement with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The title piece, “The Thompson Fields,” was inspired by a beautiful multi-generation farm near Schneider’s home in Windom, Minnesota.  Pianist Frank Kimbrough improvises bitonally in a unique harmonic environment that creates an evocative depiction of the view from the Thompson silo overlooking bean fields billowing in the wind.  “From the vantage point of the silo, I felt the wind carrying all the intersecting stories of my youth, along with the stories of a whole community,” Schneider says.  “I felt a convergence of past and present generations and tried to put that magic into this music.” 

“Home” also speaks vividly of the open landscape that is home for Schneider.  She dedicated the piece – first premiered at The Newport Jazz Festival – to George Wein, one of the most influential forces in the discovery and development of jazz musicians.  “Even though this music is highly personal to me, the concept of home is universal.  Wherever we are first rooted, or whatever place gives us our sense of ‘home,’ not only nourishes our life, but nourishes those with whom we share it.  George’s home, the Newport Jazz Festival, has been a home for jazz for musicians and audiences for decades.  Jazz has been well nurtured within George’s loving home, and he most certainly helped to nourish my development, and the development of countless others.”  This work features the universally admired voice of Rich Perry on tenor sax.

“Nimbus” evokes the drama of the Midwestern sky and weather.  Schneider elaborates, “One can see the Midwest prairie landscape as unspectacular, but we certainly dole out high drama when it comes to weather.  For instance, seeing a ominous roll cloud looming on the horizon simultaneously instills one with awe and an instinctual fear.  Given this imagery, it is fitting that saxophonist Steve Wilson be featured on this piece because he can play with such intensity, bringing a captivating power and presence to his solos through his rock solid sense of groove, his surging sound, and his unexpected but thoroughly satisfying lines.”

“A Potter’s Song” is dedicated to Laurie Frink, who has played with Schneider’s band on every recording. Frink’s death in 2013 was a great loss to the music community.  A fellow Midwesterner, Frink was not only highly regarded as a trumpet player, having played with Gerry Mulligan, Benny Goodman, Mel Lewis and many others, she was also among the world’s most in demand trumpet and brass teachers.  But the title of this work came from Maria’s additional admiration for Laurie’s skillful ceramic work.  Gary Versace’s accordion, which has been a mainstay in Maria’s orchestra since she first wrote for him on Concert In the Garden, creates beautiful and lyrical lines over Schneider’s winding, ever-evolving harmonies, and highlights the influence of Brazilian music on Schneider’s compositions.


“Lembrança” is a dedication to the universally loved Brazilian musician, Paulo Moura, who gave Schneider the once-in-a-lifetime experience of hearing his old samba school rehearse in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of his youth.  The work includes layers of powerful Brazilian percussion played by Rogerio Boccato alongside drummer Clarence Penn. Featuring an exuberant trombone solo by Ryan Keberle, as well as a lyrical and tender bass solo by Jay Anderson, the piece conjures up the experience of standing in a dark street in the crevasses of Rio, hearing the power of a samba school rehearsing in the night. 

“Watching Paulo proudly standing there, looking thoroughly at home and grounded in that powerful experience on a very ordinary street in Rio, was something I fully understood,” Schneider says.  “I feel the same way when I climb atop a silo in Windom and view the landscape that is home to me.  I can’t help but feel tremendous emotion and gratitude, looking back in time, remembering all the forces that shaped my life and so many lives that I know.”


Schneider’s deeply personal statement carries into the visual realm with this beautiful package.   The stunning photographs by Briene Lermitte were all taken on and near the Thompson farm this past August.   Uniting with Cheri Dorr’s elegant design, the album’s graphic elements allow Schneider to share another level of personal connection with those who listen to her music.

Schneider continues to involve her fans in her music on an even broader level.  Four of these eight works were commissioned directly by individuals through ArtistShare.  Schneider has used the new means of production since her first ArtistShare album release in 2003.  “The relationship I have with these people is deeply meaningful to me,” Schneider states. ” They make it possible for me to create and record music, and I’ve come to know many of them quite well.  I cannot overstate how deeply important they are to my life.  I could no longer do this without them.”


Over a decade ago, the ground-breaking company ArtistShare broke the mold when it demonstrated, through Schneider’s successful example, how music could be funded and released.  ArtistShare crowd-funded before “crowd-funding” was a word, and Schneider’s first ArtistShare album, Concert In the Garden, not only won the first GRAMMY with Internet-only sales, but heralded the crowd-funding era..  Over the following thirteen years, Schneider has developed a growing concern for intellectually property rights.  This brought her to engage with lawmakers, the Library of Congress, and others to protect the rights of music creators.  These efforts have included testifying before the Congressional subcommittee on intellectual property in April of 2014, and speaking out against Spotify and streaming on CNN.  Schneider is often quoted in national articles on music creators’ rights and the perils of current streaming services.


Transcript: Read Full Text of President Barack Obama’s Speech in Selma


President Obama spoke before thousands on Saturday during a commemorative ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the events of “Bloody Sunday” when over 600 non-violent protesters were attacked by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.

Here is the full text of Saturday’s speech, as prepared for delivery.

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what…

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Woody Shaw feat. Wynton Marsalis: Now’s The Time


Crownpropeller's Blog

Ever since I wrote this post, a lot of people – among them Woody Shaw’s son, Woody III – asked me if could possibly put up one of the tracks with 18 year old Wynton Marsalis featured with the Woody Shaw Quintet at Fat Tuesday’s. So here for your pleasure are Woody Shaw (tp), Wynton Marsalis (tp), Carter  Jefferson (ts), Larry Willis (p), Stafford James (b) and Victor Lewis (d) playing Charlie Parker’s “Now’s The Time”, a tune requested by Marsalis. Recorded on April 10, 1980 at Fat Tuesday’s in New York City.


P.S.: If you are interested in the music of Woody Shaw, you may want to check out the Official Woody Shaw Website, kept up by his son, Woody III, who also maintains the Woody Shaw Legacy pages on Facebook.

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Teacher Orientation to Popular Music #HipHopMusicEd


Music educators your lack of experience w/ and/or interest in popular American music limits not only your experience, but that of your students in the musicking classroom.

As I get older I am starting to understand that the only limits that exist in my classroom are those that I and my students create. I am currently researching the preferences and dispositions of preservice teachers and the education programs they are involved in. It’s important that we all understand that teacher orientation is typically dictated by teacher pedagogy and methods courses they are engaged during study. This is sets the foundation for what many teachers (professionals) will use as their teaching premise for the rest of their careers. The more limited, or shallow, these types of musical experiences that student-teachers have, the more likely they are to replicate them in their future teaching. This is evident in the limited selection of performance formats found throughout American music classrooms.

Teaching programs should in theory, be a place where student-teachers muddle through diverse experiences that are suppose (purposed) to help bring the unknown into the space of the known (Dewey). We have to stop replicating what we think is unequivocal permanent fact, and start trying to meet our students where they are and engage in relevant learning activities. Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogies are a wonderful set of approaches to bringing in relevance into the music classroom. Let’s help children find relevance in our classrooms by we ourselves, as teachers, tackling difficult topics with hip-hop pedagogies (practice, lens, bridge). Most teachers only replicate the experiences they have had in their learning experiences and rarely move outside of this paradigm. So, how do we repair this rigid range (limited) of experiences?

Let’s take the clarion call of such educators, ethnomusicologists and scholars like Adam Kruse, Barbara Lindquist, Randall Allsup, Lucy Green, and many others that ask us to question the familiar, and engage in a search of the practices of popular music and musicians. There is so much rich, diverse and important topics that can be uncovered in working with popular music. The first step is that teachers con not simply stay in the lane of practitioners, but have to also move into the lane of researcher. Practicing these popular forms of music can have deep benefits, and can help us gain so much through critical reflection. Students are worried about you being cool because you are authentic, they are in your class to learn and grow. They relate to you because of the level of honesty and how you share the ways in which you came to understand the topic. Reading a chapter and simply sharing this isn’t enough. Popular music forms have to be taught in various formats in undergraduate programs in order for change to happen. Let’s start now, to honor the great music of America. Let’s celebrate the J-Dilla’s, Stevie Wonder’s, Stephen Foster’s, Irving Berlin’s, Kanye West’s, Eminem’s, Katie Perry’s, James Brown’s, Johnny Cash’s, Wille Nelson’s, Louis Jordan’s, Miles Davis’, Wynton Marsalis’, Pete Seegers, and Kendrick Lamar’s of the music world. If we start with our teachers we can open up spaces of inquiry in our music classrooms that have never really existed before. Let’s tackle these forms, genres and topics.


TI:ME/TMEA 2015 Conference #MTLA











This conference was pretty cool, and I really enjoyed the people, the products and my time here in San Antonio, TX. TMEA is ridiculously large, at least two times bigger in attendance (exhibitors & attendees). The Technology in Music Education conference also opened my eyes and gave me a lot to chew on in regard to my future research. Music education is up for a surprise in the coming years as demographic change in this great land of ours. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2043 America will no longer by majority “white” but will become majority Latino, African-American, Asian and other in population. There are so many important topics that will and have begun to surface in regard to education in America. I am, and the other Music Technology Leadership Academy interns look to combat this issues and support change the creating programming, instruction and curriculum that seeks to integrate technology into the music classrooms all across America. This definitely impacts all programs seeking to integrate hip-hop pedagogies into music education, because hip-hop from its inception has had a great relationship with innovation required by the dire socio-economic situation of the groups (minorities) that created the American art form in the Bronx (NY). I can’t wait to do that pilot study this summer….