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Inclusion in the Arts: Grant to Help School of Music Incorporate More Diversity in Curricula

Inclusion in the Arts: Grant to Help School of Music Incorporate More Diversity in Curricula

The inclusion of diverse viewpoints in musical curricula can be a challenge for educators—one that is often made harder by a lack of funding.

As Hillary Herndon, associate professor of viola, pondered various ways to overcome this challenge, she found the Sphinx Venture Fund—a fund that invests money in a wide variety of music areas to aide in transforming the future of cultural diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts. The fund seeks to invest $1.5 million over five years.

Herndon knew how transformational the grant could be for the School of Music, as well as music educators around the world, in advancing the music of underrepresented composers.

“Audiences only hear music written from one viewpoint,” Herndon said. “This has to change.”

After working with the UT Office of Sponsored Programs to complete the grant application, the Sphinx Venture Fund committee met with Herndon to discuss the School of Music’s plans for the grant money. And they announced the School of Music as a recipient shortly thereafter. 

Herndon is already working with the string area to celebrate diversity and feature underrepresented composers. This will entail collecting material by composers of color, representing as many eras in history as possible, and arranging the works to create three levels of books—beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Each instrument will have its own solo compilation, and there will be ensemble books for use in the School of Music orchestra classroom.

The grant will allow the School of Music to print and distribute over 800 of the books to educators around the country. There also will be books reserved for schools that serve large populations of Black and Latinx students.

The overall goal for the grant is to get books in the hands of students and educators, so they can begin to incorporate more diversity into educational programming.

“In an increasingly global world, we can do better,” said Herndon. “The goal is not to abandon the rich history of our craft, but to provide additional repertoire for students to study and perform that are written by those not well represented in our musical canon, by ethnicity or gender.”

The students assisting with the project will gain direct experience with researching the composers, as well as transcribing and arranging music for skill-level appropriate students. 

“All of our students will benefit from the enhanced understanding we collectively are gaining from working on this project,” said Herndon.

Herndon and the entire string faculty hope to start a national and global initiative to celebrate diversity in string music. The Sphinx Venture Fund is only the beginning.

“The recognition from the Sphinx organization places the School of Music firmly in the vanguard of music schools proactively seeking to address systemic racism in the United States,” said Herndon. “It provides a vehicle for innovative leadership in string pedagogy, both nationally and internationally.”

Now, the work begins.

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Contact: Jeff Roberts (865-974-8935, jrobe126@utk.edu)

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