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Thursday, September 17, 11:30am - 12:15pm (Panel)

Youth.EDU: Music Education 

  • School Day: Building a Popular Music History Curriculum for Public Schools, Richard Cobeen (Teacher)
  • Youth on Record: How a Major Label Hip Hop Band and Local Musicians Have Empowered and Amplified the Voices of Underserved and At-Risk Youth In Their Community, Storm Gloor (U of Colorado, Denver) 
  • High School, Musical, Gene Booth (Teacher)

 Presentation Descriptions


School Day: Building a Popular Music History Curriculum for Public Schools, Richard Cobeen (Teacher)

For the last thirty years music education has been stripped from elementary classrooms through a combination of drastic budget cuts and an emphasis on “core” subjects through the institution of state, and now national, education standards. Music, and the arts in general, are not viewed as essential parts of a child’s education by the powers that create the standards and curricula used throughout the United States.

My paper will focus on how the current reinvigoration of teachers’ unions in areas ranging from West Virginia and Oklahoma to Chicago and Los Angeles, and a correlative slight loosening of scripted curricula indicative of a return to trusting teachers’ judgement, makes it possible to change this direction. This pendulum swing opens an opportunity for the creation of a popular music curriculum to bring a form of music education back into elementary schools. The framework of current social studies standards, which in some states allows a fuller telling of American history, can be used as an entryway into acceptance of a new music curriculum centering on the dominant influence of African Americans and immigrants on popular music and how it both mirrors and contrasts with the general trajectory of the last century of American history, distinct from the music education of previous generations, which focused on classical and a white-washed version of folk music. Using the few scattered examples of current classrooms that teach about popular music as a starting point, I will map out a possible 6 year curriculum which could be used by current classroom teachers to emphasize the racial, gender and class diversity of major genres, performers and creators.

Youth on Record: How a Major Label Hip Hop Band and Local Musicians Have Empowered and Amplified the Voices of Underserved and At-Risk Youth In Their Community, Storm Gloor (U of Colorado, Denver) 

‘We believe in the power of music to create positive change in the community’. That’s one way Jami Duffy, executive director of Youth On Record, describes the mission of an organization that provides music education and resources to youth who face challenges in their lives and would otherwise find it nearly impossible to pursue a music career.

Based in Denver, Colorado, the non-profit empowers youth to “find their voice and value through music”. It was first established in 2008 by The Flobots, a band that soon after achieved national notoriety with their hit song “Handlebars” after signing with Universal Records. Though the band eventually turned over leadership to other individuals, they remain actively involved. In fact, lead singer Stephen “Brer Rabbit” Brackett was recently appointed director of special programs. Twenty One Pilots, One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, and Big Gigantic are among other well-known artists who have supported the organization.

Youth On Record is located in what once was a far more impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhood. Inside its confines young musicians have access to rehearsal and performance spaces, as well as to state-of-the-art recording and production studios. They are taught and supported by professional musicians from the community, some of whom were once students there.

The organization works with a thousand teenagers every year. Eighty-five percent of its students have shown an increase in school attendance. Seventy-one percent have improved their GPA.

Has this model be replicated in other communities? Is it sustainable? Given that it was founded by the Flobots, how key is the participation by established artists? In this presentation we’ll examine how this organization has found its success and explore those questions and others with the hope that even more disadvantaged youth may have an opportunity to pursue their art in a program like this.


High School, Musical, Gene Booth (Teacher)

Norman Malone taught music at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago for twenty years, with the use of only one hand due to an incident from his abusive childhood. After retiring he returned to classical piano, his first love, and performs one-handed recitals of his favorite pieces and original compositions for one hand. His experiences as teacher and student offer lessons in surmounting childhood trauma. Mr. Malone was passing it on, generation to generation—he saw his own music teacher as a father figure. Viewed through a pedagogical lens, these lessons expand to considerations of how children learn in actively antagonistic milieux. This paper will apply education theories of John Dewey (democratic transmission of knowledge) and Homi Bhaba (unspoken marginalizing classroom power dynamics) to Mr. Malone's teaching and performing careers to mirror Jacques Rancière’s revolutionary pedagogy in which students are forced to teach themselves. The effect of trauma on the brain and music’s role as a supportive, rehabilitative structure will be considered here.

This idea will then be applied to instances of significant high school music teachers who worked with students who became notable musicians. Prince took his Central High teacher Jimmy Hamilton’s music Business class three years in a row. His teachers would let him into the music room at lunchtime and lock the doors behind them so he could stay and practice. Malone and Prince both had chaotic childhoods and made music and music instruction into a refuge, a safe space.

Chicago, Malone’s home, will be discussed as a teaching city in the context of Walter Dyett, who has his own high school named after him. At DuSable, Dyett taught Bo Diddley, Nat King Cole, Joseph Jarman from AACM, and members of Sun Ra’s Arkestra.