Decentering and Dismantling white Prominence in Music Education: Portraits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

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Decentering and Dismantling white Prominence in Music Education: Portraits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

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As racial and ethnic diversity increases in a multicultural pluralistic society, professional music education institutions like orchestras and higher education institutions strive to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives into their programming, missions, and values. However, there is a lack of systematic efforts to holistically portray these initiatives and their outcomes. The primary objective of this study was to portray cultural change as revealed through the initiatives of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) and Augsburg University (AugU), two institutions that have undertaken specific strategies to advance DEI. Utilizing portraiture methodology, I revealed both institutions' lived experiences and the essence of their practices through the concept of “goodness” (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997) as revealed through written portraits in the form of a screenplay composed from original interviews, material cultures, site observations, and my worldview lens as the portraitist. The findings highlighted this concept of “goodness” from the two institutions' DEI journeys, rather than criticized research failures (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). The resulting analysis depicts the why and how of these DEI trajectories within each institution, including values, goals, strategies, and progress in achieving outcomes, leading to a final integrative portrait of cultural change. This study offers a conceptual framework for cross-institutional principles that may be effective in achieving enhanced DEI initiatives in institutions with differing structures, missions, and purposes. Key themes that emerged from the SPCO were defining racial and ethnic diversity as the institution’s DEI lens, including subthemes of diversifying the institution’s mission, collaborative leadership, cultivating relationships, single-loop, and double-loop learning; and controlling Whiteness. Key themes that emerged from AugU were defining equity-mindedness as the institution’s DEI lens, including subthemes collaborative leadership, establishing pipelines for historically excluded and marginalized students, inclusive communications; and amplifying lived experiences and identities. Both institutions shared a common interest and general sense of goodness through collaborative leadership and cultivating relations/establishing pipelines. Yet, both had divergent themes that illuminated imperfections. Several recommendations for future research and practice are offered, along with concluding reflections.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2021. Major: Music Education. Advisor: Keitha Hamann. 1 computer file (PDF); 293 pages.

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Diaz, Roque. (2021). Decentering and Dismantling white Prominence in Music Education: Portraits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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