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Decolonizing the Music Curriculum with Andrew Dell’Antonio at the Big XII Teaching and Learning Conference

Welcome to another special edition of the ThinkUDL podcast recorded LIVE from the 6th Annual Big 12 Teaching and Learning Conference in the Texas Union Building here on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Today’s guest is Andrew Dell’Antonio, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the College of Fine Arts and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Musicology in the Ethnomusicology Division of the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin. This episode includes a discussion of the application of UDL principles in music and arts classes as well as how taking a UDL lens to the curriculum causes us to re-examine the overstuffed curriculum as well as the traditional curriculum in the music field. Andrew gives us some very interesting ways to think about UDL as a pathway to decolonize the kind of work we do, not just accessibility and content-wise, but as a way to question the way we teach in higher education in the United States so that UDL is considered as a place of practice to question the way we do pedagogy and curriculum. Join us for a very heartfelt, art-loving, UDL-infused discussion on today’s episode of Think UDL.


“Decolonizing the Music Survey: A Manifesto for Action”

Here are Andrew Dell’Antonio’s Google Slides from his short presentation at the Big XII conference: “UDL as a Resource for Decolonizing the Syllabus: an Experiment from Music History,”

This group of folks is providing some excellent resources that are especially directed to the K-12 music classroom:
A good summary from a publication by the Association of American Colleges and Universities about the complexity of moving toward inclusion in pedagogy; while it doesn’t specifically address decolonizing, it is also very clearly pointing toward the usefulness of a UDL approach in this kind of inclusiveness work:


[Lillian]  Welcome to Think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast.  Where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind.  [Music] I’m your host Lillian Nave, and I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding, and facilitating; but how you design and implement it, and why it even matters. [Music]

Welcome to another special edition of the think UDL podcast, recorded live from the 6th annual big 12 teaching and learning conference in the Texas Union Building here on the campus of the
University of Texas at Austin.  Today’s guest is Andrew Dale Antonio, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the College of Fine Arts, and distinguished teaching professor of musicology in the ethnomusicology division of the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin.  This episode includes a discussion of the application of UDL principles in arts classes, as well as how taking a UDL lens to the curriculum causes us to re-examine the overstuffed curriculum as well as the traditional curriculum in the music field.  Andrew gives us some very interesting ways to think about UDL as a pathway to decolonize the kind of work we do, not just accessibility and content wise, but as a way to question the way we educate in higher ed in the United States, so that UDL is considered as a place of practice to question the way we do pedagogy and curriculum.  Join us for a very heartfelt, art loving UDL infused discussion on today’s episode of Think UDL.  We’re at the big 12 teaching and learning conference at the University of Texas at Austin, and I have Andrew Dell Antonio here with me and Andrew can you tell me your role here at the University?


[Andrew]   Certainly.  I am a distinguished teaching professor of musicology and ethnomusicology in the Butler School of Music.  I’m a music historian and that’s most of the teaching I do is in various aspects of music history.  I’m also an Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the College of Fine Arts.  I help coordinate various aspects of the undergraduate experience at UT.


[Lillian]   Well, thank you and we are live at the conference, so there might be some other
noises that creep in on us but please keep talking because I have a lot of questions for you.  And the first question I wanted to ask you about is in your classroom, and how is it that you are using Universal Design for Learning in your creation of your class and how you run your class?


[Andrew]  Sure, thank you.  So, I’ve been gradually building aspects of what now I realize is UDL in my music history classroom for a number of years, but in the last maybe two or three years, I’ve become more cognizant of UDL theory Adria Battaglia here at UT has been extremely helpful in my conversation as well, and so the class that I can talk a little bit about where I’ve been doing most of my UDL work is a sophomore level music history class.  It is the actually the second now in a sequence, but it’s the first class in a music history chronology sequence where the coverage if we call it that for now of the course begins about the 9th century the C.E. in Europe with the start of documented notation and musical tradition in sacred music, and ends somewhere in the middle of the 18th century.  It’s been very typical in our field–music history– to end about the year 1730-40-50 with the death of JS Bach because of course everything changed the flowing morning or not, and also frankly because we have a very good textbook which I also use which has an anthology of works and volume one ends with Bach and Handel, and so of course you end the semester at Bach and Handel because where else would you end.  So it’s– I’ve sort of come I mean I’ve known that before but I’ve come as I work with UDL more generally, to think about how the texts and the resources that we use drive the way that we teach, and how then other ways of approaching a pedagogical resources and structures can help create what might say music counterpoint, might create alternative stories, alternative ways of engaging and so one of the ways that I’ve really appreciated UDL as a resources approach, the way of moving you know as Jay Dolmage would say is in the idea of giving students choices at several different levels.  And so, over the last several years as I’ve taught this course– it’s a fall semester course– and over the years I’ve had a number of different ways that I’ve implemented choice making.   All along, these used to be, for example, that our course had a research paper as the final capstone project and that’s a very standard history sort of thing.  We historians, we just love research papers because you’ve got to do the thing, right?  And, on the one hand, it is useful to teach the students skill sets on how to do research and how to find things that are reliable and put them together.  But on the other hand, you know, just because we had to write research papers when we were whippersnappers doesn’t mean that everybody has to do it now


[Lillian]    Right.

[Andrew]   And so, one of the things that I’ve been doing for the last few years–three, I think– is giving students for the capstone this past fall three– actually four different options, or three sort of spelled out options and a fourth which is a choose-your-own-adventure option.  And, the three options are the student can do a standard research paper, bibliography, all that, but actually I don’t put that first, I put that third.  The first option is to do a performance of a work of music from the time frame that we’re studying, and it’s structured through various stages as a critical performance.  The students look at various sources, they look at what people said about the repertory, so there is in fact history happening, but the final product, the final capstone event is a concert where the students are performing for each other, and musicians– these are music majors– musicians’ language is music, and so much of their engagement so much of their energy comes from their musical engagement with these works.  And again, some of them take it more seriously than others, but so did the research papers, so that’s fine.  The other thing that I’ve been really excited about is option 2, the student can compose a musical work along the lines of a tradition from the past a drawing from a tradition in the past again critically looking at sources, looking– giving perspectives that of course is a step further away from the idea of historical factuality because a student is creating a new thing out of molds of the old, and so by doing that the student is avoiding having to write a research paper about the past, but they are engaging with the past and making it present, and we have a number of student composers who have done some really phenomenal powerful things and they also have the option of having the work performed alongside the historical works at the end of semester concert so we get this interesting combination of historical works performed with modern instruments with modern techniques, and new works that resonate with the past and that’s been really cool.  And then the final thing is the choose-your-own-adventure.  I tell the student– I give each of these projects for capstone projects has multiple stages, and the students have to do a certain set of things by deadlines for the stages so it’s reasonably scaffolded, I can monitor they’re doing a thing, they’re not waiting until the last moment, but I tell the students if you want to  ticket these possible multistage projects, the composition project, the performance project, a research paper project, if you want to look at those the way they’re sorted out into stages and come up with your own project that also has stages, come to me with that and we’ll take a look and we’ll see if it works.  And I’ve had a couple of really creative versions of that.  A couple of them have kind of crashed and burned, but it was worth it for the process.  I’m privileged enough to be, you know, tenured all the way and full professor and all that stuff, and so I don’t want to say I’m untouchable, but I can get away with experimenting with students, and I don’t need to prove to anybody that I deserve tenure, and so I can give more flexibility to the students to try and not succeed and give them all A’s anyway.  And so part of where UDL is kind of taking me– although I realized this is sort of a stretch, but I think is compatible– is towards directions like on grading and other kinds of engagement that’s about process and about making sense of what something is in terms of in terms of what it means today and why it’s meaningful, and not worrying too much, freaking out too much about what you’re going to get that A.  Because I found again I’m privileged to be able to do this, most junior faculty can’t because if they give up too many A’s, the, you know, their chair is going to get all freaked out. But I found that I don’t quite say to the students that you’re all gonna get A’s, but word gets out that if they do the work– and I believe in this– they do the work so I’m going to give them an A if they do the work, and doing the work doesn’t necessarily mean getting everything right on a test.  I’ve actually been pushing tests aside maybe too much, I’m having to rethink that some, but it for me it means engaging in a way that’s meaningful.  So sort of the, you know, sort of standard three categories of UDL I keep circling back to the engagement piece to the– what makes something meaningful for the student to engage with, and part of this is because, you know, it’s sort of as a reaction.  I’ve been teaching this music history course roughly on this timeframe for many years–decade and a half– and at nine o’clock in the morning plainchant for a student who’s never said a plainchant is a real, right?


[Lillian]    It’s tough.


[Andrew]  I can’t blame them, right, it’s tough, yeah.  And even I, I think back as an undergrad and I mean I’m a music nerd and I thought it was interesting, but I didn’t think it was that interesting and good God I mean, I became a music historian I was always interested in older repertories, and mostly students aren’t.  I can’t blame them for thinking “oh good God, what the heck’s going to happen” so I need to find ways very quickly to make them realize no or yes and right we’re going to be trying to make this meaningful for you.  I’m not going to say that it works with every student, the other thing that you know again coming from a disability studies perspective, my sense is there are always reasons for the way people do what they do and some students will show up all the time and some won’t and they have life reasons.  Some of them are pressures from outside to be in the practice room more and they’re further up in the practice room until 3 o’clock in the morning, and therefore they don’t make it every nine o’clock class, and it’s unfortunate but again, I give so the flexibility also comes in that I have for every session I have a pre class assignment where the student you know does some reading response and so forth, and I don’t make a big deal out of this, but I basically accept those all semester.  So, you know, say we’re in February and– or, not February because it’s a fall class– but say we’re in October, and you have a week that’s really crappy and you don’t turn in your pre-class assignments.  Well, you come to me, you know, a month and half later and you’re worried about your grade right haha because we all are, and you say “oh my gosh can I make this up” and I benevolently say of course you know I tell them whenever you do the work I’m going to assess it for what the work that you did is.  Now the way I structure the class, if sufficient students don’t do the pre-class, then it’s harder to have the conversations in class, and so I don’t want to put it out front that they can just blow them off until the very end, also because they will, I mean I’ve done this too, I’m a ADD person, I wait until the very end to do things so I get it.  I don’t want to make too big a deal of it, but back to this, I think of this is also UDL approach is that UDL also governs time, right,  that deadlines are actually part of the design, and the deadlines are built in as flexible, because in the end, it’s doing the work that matters, and not so much when you do the work.


[Lillian]   It seems like you really– in this grading scale and in the way you’re teaching this class, you are putting an emphasis on persistence and on effort, trying things, being creative, all of those themes seem to me– I am NOT a musicologist or a music professor– but that those are things that are really important for a musician is practice.  How are you going to get to Carnegie Hall, right?


[Andrew]    Right, exactly.  No and the practice thing is interesting, because that’s another thing again as a historian, this is separate from the UDL piece, but I come into the beginning of this history class saying we’re going to do history.  History is about telling stories, and that’s what history always has been, the creation of stories, canons about music that matters, right? And so we’re going to talk about how we do that and we’re going to do that. And I tell them this is exactly just like you say, what like– what you do in the practice room before you go to your lesson, before you give a performance.  It’s exactly what you’re doing in a music theory analysis class where you are practicing a thing and doing it until you feel comfortable doing the thing.  But in a history context it’s not obvious that that’s what you’re doing, right, it’s not obvious that what you’re doing is you’re learning how to tell stories and how to make sense of materials about which you tell stories and you’re practicing until you’re comfortable with the process of doing that.  It’s so easy and this is, you know, maybe I don’t know maybe it’s the nature of the beast to have the students coming in from high school I’m saying oh I’ve really not good at history or I haven’t liked history because I can’t memorize, right, and when I tell them and it’s true is that I can’t memorize either if that’s been one of the you know this way it was one of the crosses I bore when I was in even undergrad and grad school, I was crappy at memorizing and I worked like a beast at it and I did enough of it and I did okay but it was one of these you know I’ll never be hungry again thing right, that once I didn’t have to make people memorize I bloody well pulled back on it because I knew how much of a hassle it was for me, and also frankly how that actually wasn’t interesting to me.


[Lillian]   And, not very helpful.

[Andrew]  And, not very helpful, I mean– and, for some people it comes easily and they can be used to it– but what I want the students to think about is exactly as you say is its practice, and process, and effort, and learning how to become comfortable in a medium in a practice and way of doing.  Which is absolutely, like you say, I mean frankly it’s what we all do but it certainly is what musicians do as well.


[Lillian]  And I love that you are encouraging these students to try new things, to put  themselves out there, and maybe try something very different like composing and performing in a different way that they are assuming an older Canon or an older way of doing things, and that’s it’s so impressive on the brain, too when you act those things out, right, when you are putting your body in motion you’re actually doing a lot more than writing or typing on a computer when you’re putting your body through the motions of doing all of those things.  You’re doing so many things that’s helping that learning process yeah as well


[Andrew]   I think that’s right, and it’s especially interesting to me that you know again to– my two kids are both disabled, and on the k-12 side I’ve become so familiar with the way they that UDL works in the k-12 side of things in general in special education does and so it’s so essential for everybody frankly, but especially kids with disabilities, to encounter a strengths-based approach.  Where they’re not told “oh well you can’t do this or you well you can’t do this, you can’t do this let me make you do a thing that you can’t do well, okay now you’re going to feel frustrated, isn’t that nice” all right that’s just– that just feels it just is it’s not productive and it’s cruel.  And so back to the idea of and this I have to you know it’s not just my idea I mean I have a couple of colleagues who have a similar insight about musicians is musicians learn most strongly by engaging in their practice.   And so if I can leverage– if I can use that neoliberal term– if I can leverage you know their commitment to practice and make them understand how the commitment to practice can be enhanced by the engagement with repertory that they might never have thought they would be interested in and possibly that they will never really focus on again, although who knows right, I mean I’ve had some really interesting experiences with students who at the end of the semester said huh this was really actually more helpful to my thinking, for example, about improvisation.  There are a number of jazzers in my class, and they assume oh well this old fart music that’s– no, it’s entirely different from what I do, and there’s you know it’s all blah blah blah and I put in front of them to actually, you coming from traditions that are mostly oral that are based on improvisatory practice continuously, frankly the entirety of the semester the first semester is traditions, European traditions primarily, that are fully based in improvisatory practice, much more so than what happens later centuries in the European tradition and I help, so for example, as much as I can particularly in the smaller discussion sections because this is a medium largish class, and we meet in a room frankly that is super aggravating it’s a recital hall and I’m on stage and there are forward-facing seats and it’s dark and they’re ready to fall asleep right, so you know, I have to jump up it down a bit and have them do things and we do things in class but it’s a very forward-facing space and it’s hard with a 80ish students to do a lot of activity in that particular space.  But the students also meet once a week in a smaller group with that graduate student TA, and there we have them do stuff a lot more.  So you know I will give them instructions ahead of time here is here’s a musical resource right for example  there’s a very common 17th century 16th century baseline, it’s a harmony line that was used for improv by everybody, and it was all over Europe and it was basically the jam you know the jam tune of the seventeenth century.  It was it’s called Chaconne and and it’s it’s a bass line that goes like bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum and it repeats basically it so it’s a unit right and it’s a set of changes in the jazz world and so what I tell them is I want you to record yourself singing the bass line a few times, and then I want to record yourself building off of that before you come to the discussion section and what we’re going to do in the discussion section is we’re going to jam, right.  And so the jazz students are like whoa, and they start building jazz language on that, which is fine, because what I’m asking them to do is to be flexible.  What’s interesting is the students who study repertories that are not improvisation based get freaked out.  But again it’s a low-stakes situation because I’m not judging them on the base of the performance the way they are in their lessons or their performances, it’s like here’s a place to experiment.  And again you can hear my singing voice isn’t fabulous and I’m a recorder player and I’ll play for them and I won’t play very well but I’ll play enough so that hopefully they get the chance to see this is about trying things out.  So I mean specific story but the– your point about this is a different kind of learning experience right the not text-based learning experience and one that musicians are especially suited to, so I wanted to open up the space for them to do well what they do well, and not just that so they can succeed God forbid, but also so that they can leave having succeeded in having felt that it was worth it.  Because again in past years I mean I had some students who– nerds like me– loved the history part, loved the repertories but some students who said yeah okay thank goodness that’s done, right and I mean, you know, my ego doesn’t like that, right?  I mean I don’t want a student to leave my class feeling like they tolerated it I’d like them to leave thinking that what they – at least some of what they did it will be useful for their professional life moving forward because that’s the whole point of what we’re doing here.


[Lillian]   You know, that experiential type of learning and that jam session idea makes me think too of one thing when I was an undergrad and I took art history, so similar things, a lot of art history classes where you had to learn and memorize a big canon of works– Western art works– and go through you know hundreds of years in maybe 45 minutes, something like that, and then having to remember those works of art.  My roommates and I–and I was a sophomore– we would act out the sculptures and so


[Andrew]  How cool, there you go, you did your own UDL.

[Lillian]   It was so fun, we did our own UDL way back then and so I remember Brancusi’s Bird in Space because I would put my hands up over my head and we would try to name–almost playing charades, and Bernini was very dramatic and all of these fantastic art works and so we were just laughing and having a good time, but it was so much better than the flashcards that were black and white that you had to buy at the bookstore, but I remember that so well


[Andrew]  Right?  You remember that, right!  I mean you can actually– you can visualize in your head right now what that sculpture looked like in a way that you probably couldn’t if you hadn’t done that.  And so I think I mean that’s one of the things that that I think again these multiple modes of engagement are so powerful for and so again this is because as I mentioned before my appointment these days is half I’ve been half teaching of one of the kinds of classes that I’ve often taught but not for a few years now has been an introductory non majors class.  And I haven’t since I’ve been sort of all UDL I haven’t been able to go back and teach a lecture for that class I’ve been supervising doctoral students in that class, but I haven’t been able to kind of bring the insights that I’ve had with the majors into that into that curricula into that syllabus.  On the one hand, non-majors will be less immediately– feel less immediately empowered to perform, and so I have to think about how do these for example, can I have a composition?  But, on the other hand there are so many students out there who have engaged with music, and would take an intro music class because they love music and they want to make music, you know could I create in a capstone assignment that is not that is about making a musical something, right, even if it– the person does not feel like they’re not a performer so they can’t do that, it’s a trick I’ll face for this course it’s just just smallish largest enough that if the roughly half two-thirds of students who elect the performance option for the capstone, if they sign on and I have them work they can do solo but they can also work in groups, so that sort of helps me yeah in terms right right– there’s enough to fit them all in a three-hour exam period.  So, instead of doing a final exam, right, we have the hall and so we have a concert.  And so far, there’s enough time for all of them, but the tricky thing of course if I
had 150 students then then that applied thing gets more tricky.  And so that’s —


[Lillian]   Just have to be a little more creative and maybe filming or asynchronous something like that.

[Andrew]  Exactly and online on canvas or whatever, yep. 


[Lillian]   Yeah, that’s great.  You know, another thing that you make me think of too, when you’re talking about jazz and compositions, is on our podcast the music that leads into and ends our episodes are jazz compositions, and they are variations on a theme by a jazz group that’s almost all improvisational.


[Andrew]   Oh, cool.

[Lillian]   Yeah, and it’s my dad’s group.


[Andrew]   Oh, wow! 

[Lillian]   He cut an album at age 79, so that’s what we listen to, you know,

[Andrew]  That is fantastic, oh great, whoa!


[Lillian]   I know!  So just–that creativity, its just fantastic.  So, when you’re listening to this podcast episode you hear– you’ll hear that jazz moving in the beginning and at the end so it’s
very UDL.


[Andrew]   Okay, absolutely.  Well, I mean again multiple media for understanding, right? I mean if you’re trying to convey a certain way of moving, right, then jazz is a good way to do it.


[Lillian]   Yeah.  Now you also have hinted at this, and I really want to get into it.  You have some ideas too that UDL in your classroom has also made you think of kind of the curriculum planning, why the course is the way it is, how UDL has created a place in your mind, or a space of practice to question the way we do pedagogy, and curriculum, and your personal experience, your family has also influenced that, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on that as well.


[Andrew]   Sure, yeah.  Yeah one of the things– and this is also been influenced by some other work that our College has encountered– so the field of music history is a very conservative field.  Conservative maybe also in the good sense, and also in a complicated sense.  There’s a sense of maintaining a tradition and that needs to be preserved, and that’s one of the things that in our class we talk about, right.  Canon is about holding on to what is dear.  I mean, Canon begins with religious practice, right, and so you know the plainchant is what God wants you to sing.  And so the whole idea of how do you negotiate then adding more to that is one of the important things we talk about.  But so the–preserving is important, and preserving also excludes, right, one of the things that we were talking a little bit this morning one of the sessions was a question of inclusion and exclusion.  In my, you know, what I struggle with for example I’ve been very keen on questions of inclusion in a variety of ways.  And I’m always very cognizant of the fact that anytime you include something, if you have limited bandwidth you also– something else drops out potentially, right, is that we would like to think that including means everything always, but our brains are limited, our time is limited, and so there’s always the peril of when you bring something in, then something else doesn’t happen.  So for example, in a
really very briefly in a structural sense, in the curriculum, we recently added a new freshman level class to our music major.  Which I’m delighted about, because it helps students encounter in–for the first year– a variety of ways that music and culture operates geographically as well historically.  We talk about issues of race, of identity, of colonialism, of marketing, of mass media, of globalization, we throw the kitchen sink at these wonderful poor first-year students, and we tell them from the beginning there are no tests in the class.  There are a lot of writing reflections and we’re bringing a lot of things to you that over the next few years you’ll have a chance to digest because also we are challenging you to think of what is your role ethically as a musician in the early 21st century, right.  What–where are you going, both professionally, but also what are you doing, why are you doing what you’re doing, why are you choosing the music that you’re choosing, why, right?  Not just what, but why.  And it’s a wonderful opportunity, because the students haven’t yet realized that college isn’t about being you know well–we give them a lot of things to deal with and they don’t realize yet that they shouldn’t be reading it all, and so it’s a little overwhelming, but it lays the groundwork for them really grappling with lots of complicated things.  So, all this to say that in order to do this, because just that inclusion exclusion, we had a limited number of credit hours to work with in the major,  I’m sorry the sausage-making curricular, but people I think will relate to this in the higher education, that you have 120  hours in a major, and there are requirements of various sorts, and we started with the idea that we have nine credit hours of music history at a lower level for the students.  Well, if you want to add this three credit hour course, it’s got to come out of something.  And so, we used to have a three semester three credit hours, three hours a day Monday Wednesday Friday in the chronology from soup to nuts, going from plainchant, what I did, all the way to the present day.  And we decided okay in order to do this first course, we’re going to take one hour a semester out of the last three, and so instead of meeting Monday Wednesday Friday, these classes the following semesters only meet twice a week.  Which means you can quote-unquote cover a lot less.  And so the whole idea of course of chronological coverage, we got to talk about everything is completely ridiculous, but it’s a very convenient fiction in music history, teaching to the present day.  But faced with the idea of going from a music history second semester that was Monday Wednesday Friday, to Wednesday Friday, I was able to really grapple with the idea of, okay of course I’m not going to be able to talk about everything, I knew already, but now I even know even more.  And so I know I can bring– make even less happen in the classroom.  So, what do you choose, right, so inclusion/exclusion I need– if I want to talk about other things, then I need to figure out what I’m going to leave out, and knowing that, of course, I can’t talk of everything– I’m at peace with that– but, it’s always a question of what do you add, what do you leave out?  So, another piece that’s been really important for us recently has been again the realization that as a conservative institution demographically, our student body is 90 however many percent white, gender balance is okay, it could be better, but we have very few African-American students, really handfuls, and not even that many Latino students, which, in a state like Texas is just flabbergastingly flabbergasting.  And so there’s a longer story behind that but part of where that connects has to be in the curriculum.  And so one of the things that we’ve been talking to college and more generally is how do we do work that’s explicitly anti-racist, work that ultimately is what in our field we call de-colonizing work, work that acknowledges the reality of how the creation of contemporary European Euro-American Western society is based on settler colonialism, is based on racism, is based on slavery, and is based on the silencing of people who were understood to be less than people: women, slaves, African Americans, Indigenous folks, disabled folks.  I mean, there are all sorts of people who were not allowed to be people and they were partly not allowed to be people through the cancellation of their culture, as well as of course the extinction, and the disease, and all that.  And so part of the complexity is that when teaching music history, we focus a lot on notated music.  A lot of– you, we were talking earlier about writing, right, and of course as a lot of people have said in a variety of fields, not only were some traditions that the Europeans came and destroyed not literate, some of them were illiterate in their own way, but certainly they were not allowed to maintain literacy, or they were not– their literacy was not valued in a way that was preserved.  And the traditions that they practice well may well not have in fact have been written traditions in musical practice because Europeans are weird that way, right it says– I mean, they were you know, they were effective, they’ve spread well like with everything else because literacy has its power, but so many traditions, Native American traditions, African American traditions, African traditions, are not written traditions for the most part.  And so it’s not until the– well into the 19th century that we get transcriptions by your Euro, your Americans of these repertories and even then there’s all sorts of complexity about that.  But you know, I– if I’m telling stories up to the 17th and 20s I’ve got very little to work with, certainly on this side of the planet, but even in
other traditions that with which Europeans engage.  Which they do continuously, they engage continuously with the traditions from the Middle East, from the far East, from Africa, there are
always meetings, right of Europeans with people outside and there are even accounts of musical practices, but for the most part they are not understood or valued by those who hear them, and
they’re certainly not written down.  And so, how do I help students encounter, engage with, make sense of the existence of all these traditions that are non literate but very influential in their own way, both regionally and frankly in some ways also on the European tradition itself, in ways the European tradition might not quite be able to document.  So, for example I was just at this really interesting conference at Boston University called Atlantic Crossings which was talking about musical practices across and around the Atlantic from the 1500s to the 1800s, and musical materials, for example, the woods out of which musical instrument were made were harvested in New Spain, were harvested in Africa, some of the most valuable woods that allowed for  advances in technology instrument building were African woods and South American woods, but so is that not also the teaching of history?  It is, but how do we convey that as a historical conversation or narrative.  So that’s now having gathered some information, my challenge for the summer is what do I give my students about that, what do I have them engage with about the woods of Africa and South America in the 17th 18th century, and how they are fully meaningful to the development of the European tradition, or how do I have them engage with the idea that so many slaves who came from Africa were used as musicians, were musicians
Themselves, were trained in the new tradition, the European tradition, or had their own traditions and the fact that there were several many Africans moving into Europe before they were officially black, right, before race was created in order to build the US nation.  What– how
do we talk about identity without–and how do we talk about the creation of identity through cultural practices that include music.  So there’s some work out there that scholars have started putting out that I can show my students.  A lot of it or a certain amount of it is very deeply written scholarly languages, so we’re back to accessibility, right, that I mean my second year music students, a lot of them are going to be aren’t going to be able to process scholarly writing written for PhDs.  And so, I don’t want to give them that or I don’t like giving bits and pieces of that, so what can I offer them.  And so that’s part of the challenge, too is what do you provide students.  Now, one of the cool things about working in music is that there are performances of things, right so there are recordings and some of the recordings are of
repertories that are somewhat improvisatory, some of them are of repertories that are from areas other than Europe, and areas and with which Europe intersects, or musicians who are experimenting with the notion that hey these Europeans and these Africans got together, and there’s evidence they got together, so what could it have sounded like, let’s jam.  Now of course musicians doing that are being creative in the present.  How much of what they’re doing is historical fact.  But circling back I have a really good friend who works in music of women religious nuns and also princesses and people–women in various businesses of power in Italy in the 1500s and a lot of their musical practice is described, but not notated.  And my scholar friend very rigorously does archival work and then gets with an ensemble and performs.  And she says that the performance of this music in the present is as much of a historical exercise as the interpretation of archival documentation.  And so, that’s sort of part of the conversation for musicians, too, is how do musicians potentially make a different kind of historical engagement?  How can they engage historically trusting the interpretive skills and how can– on the flip side those of us who you know want to be historians who are getting the facts right– how can we be humble about getting the facts right?  Because fortunately, you know, plenty of us historians are realizing that a certain definition of facts is defined around European practices, and so if we want to try to acknowledge other cultures, we need to not exclude other notions of what factuality and interpretation could be.  So, I mean this is all sort of very powerful and deep and difficult stuff, ultimately it’s at the core of the ethical practice of my discipline, and my question is how do I bring that– how do I allow my sophomores–allow is wrong word– how do I empower my sophomores to be– to do be doing the kind of important work that PhD music also doing in questioning what stories we can tell and how we tell them.  So I think for me another thing that I find really cool about UDL too is UDL is also about not worrying too much about beginner and expert, right, that that there are ways of engaging that are actually very profound.
That you don’t have to do a thing before you do another thing necessarily.  And that’s something that I’m trying to– that philosophically I think has helped me think through these things in UDL as well, is that it opens up possibilities and ways of respecting student knowledge and student expertise, right, that you know students will come in with certain kinds of insight that are always really stunning and giving them the space to explore that in a variety of ways, rather than just saying no I’m sorry you have to take this test, if you don’t get this test right oh well then you’re not any good, and it’s been very humbling for me, but also a lot more fun, right, I mean I’ve been teaching here at UT now for 22 years and it’s easy to get into ruts, it’s easy to get into a sensation of oh here we go again and so regardless even before I was experimenting with UDL, every semester I taught this class I tried to do something different.  Just because I’d get bored, but also because I figure I need to update things.  But now the imperative of updating is all the more there because I know that with UDL, it’s a continuous update, right, that I’m really teaching the students who are walking in the door, opening up vistas of possibility, and then
trying to scramble to give them the kind of feedback, help, assistance, resources, guidance that they deserve.  It’s potentially more work, but again I’m privileged to be able to do it just
because of where I am in my profession, in my career.  You know, I really– these days I’m doing a fair amount of independent study, council advising, and with graduate students, but I really
teach one organized class per semester because of my administrative halftime duties, and so I can really go whole hog on this particular class.  So that’s been really interesting for me as well, because I’ve been learning a lot about the possibilities of pedagogy, and I found frankly you know UDL I mean, I realized in higher education a lot of us are finding our way.  In my field, in music history, there aren’t a lot of us yet making sense of it, so it’s a chance for me to be part of a conversation of shaping possibilities in the field at a time when there’s a lot of hunger especially among younger scholars for a better–well, for far less regimented in a less imperialist way of teaching.  And a real wish to make our field less white, to not to put too fine a point on it, and there are a number of younger scholars of color who are challenging those of us who are older and whiter and saying what’s up with the way you’ve been doing things.  And it’s a privilege to be able to try some of these ideas out and to you know to look out there and see what people are doing, and try to fold some of it in.  Again, some of the connections, the interest, the reading, the experience is about having with disability activism and disability studies has an influence that’s great as well.  You know, the idea that in the end, UDL yes absolutely is for everybody, and if we lose track of the fact that– that there are still important marginalization points, and that we’re not trying to make everybody do the same thing, in fact we need to focus  on the differences and valuing the differences from a variety of stand points, that’s been a really, you know, having UDL as a place for me to experiment with that has been a real blessing.


[Lillian]   You know I’ve seen, in the last 25 years, a similar thing happening in art history,
my background.  When we took art history in college, it was just called art history, and then we realized later that should have been called Western art history because it had excluded so many
different civilizations, and ways of thinking, and ways of doing, and ways of knowing.  And that our pedagogy was very European, and that’s the only one that we had.  And now it is a much more vast and diverse a field that is being taught.  So much so that when I started teaching art history at the college level, I hadn’t learned many of the non-Western, you know, cultures and art, so I had to teach that to myself before I taught it to others, you know, I hadn’t had that background because it was completely excluded, or it was marginalized, okay you take this and then you pick one either an African, or an Asian, or a or a New World, something like that.  But that really is changing and we have a lot more diverse students culturally that are coming into higher ed, and we can’t just stick with the old system, right, that we used to have right.  One more question for you and that is something that I’ve found too in my life, I’ve learned a lot from having three very different children.  What has informed your teaching
about having children and the children you have?


[Andrew]   Wow, so I have two children, my daughter Miriam just turned 19.  She is adopted, she was born in China.  She’s autistic, she communicates by typing.  She– in her early years, her early years were very difficult because since speech was not available to her after about age three, communication our ability to understand her communication was hampered, and at the time, I framed it as her communication was hampered.  But now I realize that in fact it was our ability to find the spaces for her to communicate.  That was– that wasn’t sufficiently imaginative.  And so it’s really been a deeply humbling experience over the last I’d say 10 years or so, because we determined her ability to– we determined that she understood language, about when she was in fifth grade, so about not quite 10 years ago, about 10 years ago.  And gradually began working with her to be able to facilitate her writing, her typing.  And so gradually that became about how do you meet people in the place in the strengths that they have.  Rather than expecting them to adapt themselves to the strengths and priorities that you have.  And so that absolutely even if as I was a relatively compassionate teacher before that, before coming to the realization, and over and over again being very helpfully called in by a
number of disability activists, disabled activists, political activists, who checked me, right, as I was coming to the community about my assumptions, about how is articulating assumptions about communication, about identity, about a variety of things, a variety of things.  And so, understanding that lived experience, and where people are is– there is where they are, and if what I was saying earlier for example, about my students, I used to be grumpy about students coming in late, about students not showing up, you know it was an affront to me.  That hasn’t been the case basically since then.  So that absolutely has shaped my teaching a great deal, and all more so the idea that different modes of communication, right, modes of acquisition, seeing certain modes acquisition work beautifully for my daughter and others not at all, very  dramatically so, has really helped me understand that regardless of how somebody presents they are trying as hard as they bloody well can.  I think that’s a big piece of it, too.  Lucian, my stepson, just turned 13.  He’s also autistic ADHD.  Autism manifests in him in a very different way.  He is extraordinarily vocal and bright and active and academically incredibly accomplished, he is you know he’s one of these kids who through this Duke TIP program took the SATs in seventh grade right and did super well.  And there are other things that are difficult for him,
impulse issues and other things that are difficult for him.  And what’s interesting is you know through then–this is a different story but in my own journey about learning about university, I myself was diagnosed with ADD about three years ago, and I’ve come to sympathize with Lucian in a lot of ways.  Now, of course with you know stepfathers and stepsons, things are always a little complicated, and we’re similar in a lot of ways, and I think we push each other’s buttons that way.  So, it’s a little more complicated for me to fully embrace the he’s doing the best he can mantra, and yet the fact that I have done so with Miriam, the fact that I’m doing so with my students, it’s a wonderful practice to really remind oneself that people do well when they can as they can, and people have very different strengths, some people can hyper-focus like crazy, I know I can, Lucian can, Miriam can to some degree too, and really know everything about a thing.  And then not really be able to care too much about a different thing that you might think they should care about, right, yeah I mean this is sort of what parenting teens is all about right, but even more generally, you know, one of the things that’s again wonderful about Lucian is that he is extremely logical, and if you give him a particular set of things that
should happen and he doesn’t make sense to him, then of course he’s not going to do it because it doesn’t make any sense, and again that’s something that I’ve learned to honor also  pedagogically is it’s a lot easier to do a thing because it makes sense, than because I say so.  Now, you know some of us are more compliant than others, I’m a pretty compliant guy and so I was pretty good at doing things because it was what I was supposed to do.  But I also now understand that when I thought that a thing was worthwhile, then I really put a lot of effort into it and really tried to do it to the best of my ability, and if I had to do something I would do it but I might not have had quite as much enthusiasm.  And so I think that’s an extremely valuable pedagogical lesson as well, and that of course circles right back to especially the third sort of wing of UDL but more generally to UDL is if you give somebody things they can do and do because it matters to them, then they’re going to do them and they’re going to do them more independently and more creatively and you’re going to have to be less of a cop to do them–to have them do it, right.  And so I did something I’ve been thinking about too is again in that medium to large class of 80 students, I was worried initially that oh my gosh I’m going to be giving them you know multiple different projects, how am I going to keep on top of them all?  But, interestingly enough, maybe I’m not doing it well enough– but interestingly enough– it seems that if they’re doing what they care to do, they’re actually pretty diligent and pretty good at staying on it because, surprise surprise, they actually care enough to do it, right, whereas it was– I remember pretty– a lot of work to keep after 80 students on research projects.  Because you know 15 to 20 % we’re really excited about them, and the rest were like oh my God.  And so of course, of course it’s going to be harder, of course it’s going to be less familiar, of course it’s going to take more work, and you know, it’s tricky because one of the things
that I mean going little in a different direction now– but you know in applying UDL in my teaching, I’ve also talked to colleagues who teach the other course in the sequence, particularly ones afterwards, to say how can some of these ideas continue to be part of the pedagogical model.  And again I have more bandwidth maybe to do this, and I’m also– I care more about it right, and I mean, I love my colleagues very much I’m not putting down, because they also have different strengths, and different ideas of pedagogy, and frankly, I don’t have all the answers.  And so part of what I sometimes struggle with is as I open up all these options for my students, what are the outcomes that I’m guaranteeing, right?  I mean, I’m thankful enough that I don’t stress out too much about outcomes, maybe I’m too cavalier about them, because I don’t think I can control them, but putting that aside, I mean, outcomes are a big thing these days, right, I mean they’re one of the things we’ve always talked about.


[Lillian] As an administrator, you have to.

[Andrew]  As an administrator, I should bloody well know about that.  And, in
a sense, it’s legitimate that you want somebody to feel like they’re leaving with more than what they came in with.  I’m good with that.  When you sequence courses, when you sequence pedagogy, you expect to be able to build, right, and I’ve been wondering, and I’m actually in conversation now with my colleagues who are going to be working with the same cohort, they’ll be– so I’ll be teaching one cohort of our sophomores in the fall, and then my colleagues will be with that same cohort for two subsequent semesters, and I’m working directly with them to say how much of my crazy experimentation can we do, and how much should I actually rant back on a little bit, what things should I keep that are a little more conventional, in order to maintain a certain set of skillset build that at this point like it or not is what we collectively have agreed that we’re going to be doing.  And so that’s something that, you know, in a way, I was thinking about that this morning, is that if UDL is all about empowering, right, am I really empowering my colleagues if I’m giving these students all sorts of crazy ideas about what they can and can’t do, when my colleagues are now left to pick up having to have them do things that I– that I couldn’t care enough to have them do, I mean I’m being flippant here, but you know I decided last year for the first time in 22 years to not have any recognition based testing in my course, right, so what you were example you were giving of you know the you know the slides they have to identify our example and that is you know we played in excerpt of music and the student has to say you know what is this and get a context right, and over time by moving away from how much– how many points you get for identifying, and how many– how much you get from describing, discussing right, but even then, last year I said okay given that I have limited sessions and try and do these things, I’m just going to punt on any kind of recognition testing at all.  Which is, you know, sort of anathema right it’s a core aspect of what we do, and so I’m actually rethinking it because my poor colleagues gave the students those kinds of tests the next Semester, and as soon as we’re saying well now the students of course were puzzled that I wasn’t giving them to it, so I think it wasn’t that huge a deal for the students, but I wasn’t helping the students any by not giving them any of that kind of practice.  And so now I have to figure out how can I enfold some of that– because I think it is a valuable skill, to listen and be able to talk critically about what you’re hearing, right, I mean, as musicians we need to be able to do that.  So, even if I drop the ID part, I do want them to sort of be able to think reflectively.  What I would– I’m still grappling with is the idea of a timed test, right, which again as somebody with disabled kids, I know is an inherently disabling thing for people who don’t do time well, and so I don’t know what I’m going to do about that.  I’m still trying to decide.  So, but the cool thing is that you know UDL has given me all these options, and because I’m a nerd that way and I love to kind of play with I mean I’ll say ADD, and I love to sort of tinker and play, and keep, you know, fussing with the thing.  What I fuss with is the syllabus and the curriculum for my course, and UDL has given me a whole new set of options with which to fuss.


[Lillian]   That’s great.  Thank you so much for your time and in all of your thoughts on this. 
I think this is going to be fabulous for folks to listen to and talk about as well, and I really enjoyed our conversation.


[Andrew]   Thank you for having me.


[Lillian]  [Music]  You can follow the Think UDL podcast on facebook, twitter, and instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the website. The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College STAR, the STAR stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aids based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the website.  Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University, where, if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple at you!  The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey Quartet, comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell, and Jose Cochez.  Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones, and our social media coordinator is Ruben Watson.  And I’m your host, Lillian Nave, thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast.

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