Field Advocacy Swap: Lobbying for Music Education & Ethnomusicology

For many years I’ve learned to advocate for the field of music education. The concept of advocacy seemed so important even, that it became a main proponent of my first degree program. Early on through my mentors and professors, I learned which educational buzz words to use in conversation with educational stakeholders so that if the dreaded topics come up: Why is music education important in today’s society? Why should music be part of the core curriculum and not extra-curricular? Why does every child need a music education? … then I’d be armed with the right answers, which would change depending on the political, economic, and social climate of my surroundings. In essence, I became a lobbyist for music education. I think it’s a great thing.

Now that I’m switching roles to ethnomusicologist, I’m finding that I’m having to relearn the same proponents of advocacy: What is ethnomusicology? Why should it be supported? Why is it important? How does it affect my community? …again, I need more ammunition to support, defend, and expose others to the subject.

I wonder if it happens in other areas? I’m sure it does. The only difference it seems with ethnomusicology is that as the field is said to be still new (when will we stop saying that and advocate for it as its own established field?), as are the buzz words, the definitions, and the publications. Ethnomusicologists themselves squabble about them and so there aren’t any standard answers yet. Again, a consistent pursuit of scholarship not only leads to subject knowledge but also the ability to advocate.

No one ever asked me what music education does, or what music educators do. I get it daily about ethnomusicology. At least I have 15 years of answering the question “what is a euphonium?” under my belt to be able to take the questions in stride, and in good humor…



  1. It strikes me that anyone who asks questions like these does not have a grounding in etymology, because the meaning of words like “education” (leading out) and ethnomusicology (race/cultural group + music + reason/study) really speak for themselves. The answer to the question “why study such-and-such?” is “why study anything?”

    The decision to study this or educate in that is as much a matter of culture as anything else, of course.

  2. Well not everyone on the planet, in my social circles, and/or family has a college degree. Likewise, when the word is brought up, it’s a lot easier to say “what the heck is that?” rather than spend 10 seconds thinking about the apparent etymology.

    Although I do agree about your “Why study anything?” retort.

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