Monday, November 11, 2019
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Are music’s biggest awards stuck in the past?

We congratulate Melissa Salguero, a music teacher at PS 48 Joseph R Drake Elementary School in the Bronx, New York, on receiving the fifth annual Music Educator Award from the Grammy Foundation on January 28. She was the first woman to be so named.

Melissa Salguero directs a chorus at PS 48 (NAfME)

She started teaching at the school seven years ago, when it had no music program. The school now has a robust music program, including a band that meets before school.

“I am who I am today because of music education!” she said in a press release after receiving the award. “My teachers instilled a work ethic in me that won’t quit until it is done right! They also taught me that sometimes the size of those steps is small, but the important part is to keep moving toward your goal. I want [my students] to experience what it is like to work as a team and overcome all the challenges they may face along the way.”

Ms Salguero was already somewhat famous before she won the National Music Educator award, as she appeared on the “Ellen” show two years ago, after her school was robbed and musical instruments taken. Ellen DeGeneres donated $50,000 at the time to replace those instruments.

“Under her direction, the students of PS 48 have experienced the significant benefits of music education and the joy of making music each day,” said Michael Blakeslee, the executive director and CEO of the National Association for Music Education. “Melissa’s dedication to the difference music education can make in her students’ lives is laudable.”

The Grammys, otherwise, lacked diversity and inclusion, according to a student’s analysis.

Jayla Butler, the graphics editor for the North Star student newspaper at Naperville North High School in Illinois, said that music’s biggest night turned out to be just another let-down.

For an award show that was commended for having such a diverse set of nominees, the 2018 Grammy Awards certainly didn’t deliver in terms of change or innovation. Instead, this year, I felt the same disappointment that I felt last year. And the year before that.

Take, for example, the fact that the only female artist shown accepting an award was Alessia Cara and only 17 women won out of 86 possible awards (if you don’t count Rihanna being featured on Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty”). … Even worse, Lorde was the only female Album of the Year nominee and the only one not invited to do her own performance.

Topping it off with the fact that the Grammys president even went as far as to say that women in music need to “step up” in order to win more awards, it seems this award show took the music industry two steps backwards in a long battle for respect towards female artists.

And she goes on from there in showing clearly how the Grammys seem to be “stuck in the past.” With the world changing all around it, with women finding their voice, with hip-hop officially becoming the most popular genre in America in 2017, the music industry continues to reward “feel-good albums” filled with chart-toppers and very little innovation.

Although Bruno Mars, whose “24k Magic” was named the best album, is certainly a talented artist, she writes, “The Recording Academy is choosing to stick to outdated notions of what makes an album the best and not considering what trends, movements, and genres reflect on our culture in the present day.”

Diversity doesn’t end with sex or musical tastes, as Devin Barge, co-editor in chief of The Lance student newspaper at Linganore High School in Frederick, Maryland, reports. There’s also diversity in religious belief, academic background, and opinion.

“I think it’s important to address society because it’s 2018,” he quotes a senior in a student focus group on diversity as saying. Music execs still haven’t figured it out. “As a changing country that accepts people of all backgrounds, we should accept everyone who comes here. It’s very important for us to have this focus group, especially at Linganore, since we aren’t a very diverse school. We have to be the ones to start and speak up to those who aren’t accepting to others.”

And so Mr Barge spoke up at Linganore, echoing Ms Butler’s voice from Naperville North, which, when it comes to demographics, looks a lot like Linganore. Their words are directed at the recording industry, at other schools, and at the larger society.

“I think that diversity is important because it provides us with a bunch of viewpoints and different thought processes,” Mr Barge quotes another student as saying. “It’s important to accept everyone at school because everyone that comes from different backgrounds can contribute to society and school discussions.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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