Never has there been a more urgent time to foster cultural humility, diversity, and community dialogue while addressing systemically exclusionary teaching practices in vocal music.
Singing Down the Barriers offers readers from all ethnic backgrounds a space in which to better understand the historical and cultural barriers to researching, programming, and performing repertoire by composers from the African diaspora. Emery Stephens and Caroline Helton present a pedagogical guide for singers, singing teachers, students, and administrators that will assist not only with programming but also in creating sustainable, brave spaces for critical conversations on race, equity, and American music. The book is divided into three parts:
This book is a seminal resource for higher education, community music programs, private studios, and beyond, and will help support DEI initiatives for vocal music programs.
Emery Stephens, baritone, is an assistant professor of voice at St. Olaf College. He has delivered presentations for the College Music Society, Race and Pedagogy National Conference, African American Art Song Alliance, National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music, and the Singing Down the Barriers Institute.
Caroline Helton, soprano, is a clinical associate professor of music at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Through her teaching, recordings, and publications, she is a tireless advocate for integrating the canon of song repertoire to reflect and respect its true diversity. Along with Emery Stephens, she co-founded the Singing Down the Barriers project.
List of Figures
Section I: Historical Foundations and Context
Chapter 1: What is the “Singing Down the Barriers” Project?
Chapter 2: American Music in the 19th Century through an Inclusive Lens
Chapter 3: The Early Twentieth Century: Race, Music, Popular Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
Chapter 4: Post-War, the Civil Rights Era, and Beyond
Section II. Institutional Interventions
Chapter 5: The Academy as an Agent of Restorative Justice through Pedagogy, Performance, Research, and Community Engagement
Chapter 6: Influence and Inspiration: Understanding Context and Cultural Influences in Classical American Vocal Music
Chapter 7: Centering the African American Experience: Spirituals and Non-classical Genres in the Voice Studio
Section III: Strategies for Creating Community and Building Music Ecosystems
Chapter 8: Allyship, Permission, and Informed Performance Practice
Chapter 9:Facilitating Meaningful Conversations and Building Relationships: How to Create Vibrant Music Ecosystems in the Academy
Chapter 10: Community Engagement, Data Collection, and Audience Development
Selected Bibliography and Resources
Selected Song Anthologies and Collections
About the Authors
Singing Down the Barriers, which is intended for people of all races, challenges assumptions and provides a thoughtful road map intended to correct the glaring omissions in our vocal canon. Their work presents a respectful approach to music and approaches difficult conversations about our racialized, exclusionary past while offering practical advice intent on engendering authentic conversation.
7/26/23, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: The "Recent Books of Interest to African American Scholars" July feature includes Singing Down the Barriers. Link: https://www.jbhe.com/2023/07/recent-books-of-interest-to-african-american-scholars-38