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“Show Some Love”: Youth and Teaching Artists Enacting Literary Presence and Musical Presence in an After-School Literacy-and-Songwriting Class

by Juliet Hess, Vaughn W. M. Watson & Matthew R. Deroo - 2019

Background/Context: Youth’s multiliteracies and musical practices are increasingly considered as taking place beyond school and including community-based educational contexts. Literacy scholars increasingly seek to understand the social and cultural contexts of literacy practices, underscoring youths' identities as present and future civic participants. Moreover, Small’s concept of musicking reframes academic understandings of music to acknowledge the multiplicity of ways youth are inherently musical. Yet less is known about social and cultural contexts of multiliteracies practices and musicking activities of youth of color in community-based education settings. Moreover, less is understood about how youth demonstrate academic literacies and musicking activities, already present and informed by their lived experiences, and the formal curriculum of community-based educational contexts. This article examines the multiliteracies practices and musicking activities of youth of color during open mic at The Verses Project, a community-based literacy-and-songwriting class, to explore how youth demonstrate what Tatum and Muhammad referred to as “literary presence” and what we extend as youth’s literary presence and musical presence.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study1 details ways in which youth of color extended their literary and musical presence as active civic participants through engagement in open mic, in the context of a 15-week community-based literacy-and-songwriting class. In examining experiences of youth participants and teaching artists across open mic, we ask: What academic literacy practices and multifaceted musical activities already-present in youth’s lived experiences do youth demonstrate during open-mic? And how do youth demonstrate literary presence and musical presence across literacy practices and musical activities?

Setting: Data for this study were collected at the Community Music School--Detroit (CMS-D) during an after-school literacy-and-songwriting class for youth age 9 to 15.

Research Design: Data for this 15-week qualitative study, informed by critical ethnography, were collected using videotaped observations, field notes, focus-group interviews, curriculum-planning meetings, multimodal artifacts, and researcher memos.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This article shows how youth demonstrated uses of open mic, reflecting sharing as an act of bravery; teaching artists across open mic scaffolded youth’s development of literary and musical presence; and youth, in words and music, across open mic, enacted already-present academic literacies and musicking activities. We discuss possibilities for using open mic in formal, school-based, English and music classrooms and extend the possibilities of theory, research, and teaching in literacy studies and music education that attend to the lived experiences of youths' literate and musical lives.

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All three authors contributed equally to the writing of this article.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 5, 2019, p. 1-44
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22662, Date Accessed: 11/29/2020 3:22:27 PM

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About the Author
  • Juliet Hess
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    JULIET HESS is an assistant professor of music education at Michigan State University, where she teaches secondary general methods in music education, principles in music education, and philosophy and sociology of music education. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Juliet previously taught elementary and middle-school vocal, instrumental, and “world” music at a public school in the Greater Toronto Area. Her research focus includes anti-oppression education, activism in music and music education, music education for social justice, and the question of ethics in world-music study. She has published research in music education journals that include The Philosophy of Music Education Review, Music Education Research, and The Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education.
  • Vaughn Watson
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    VAUGHN W. M. WATSON is an assistant professor of English education in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. His research focuses on the interplay of literacy and identities in the lived experiences of Black youth, youth of color, and immigrant youth. Vaughn’s research examines social and cultural contexts of youth’s practices within and beyond school, including contexts of English education, civic learning and action, and qualitative participatory-research methodologies. He has published research findings in journals including the American Educational Research Journal; Review of Research in Education; International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education; Urban Education; and Literacy. Vaughn received his Ed.D. from the Department of Curriculum & Teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University. He taught high school English for 12 years in New York City.
  • Matthew Deroo
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    MATTHEW R. DEROO is Assistant Professor of Digital Literacies for Multilingual Students at the University of Miami. His research interests include the social and cultural contexts of transnational immigrant youth, critical, digital media literacies, and citizenship, civic engagement, and belonging. Matt is a former high school English teacher. Prior to receiving his PhD, he was as an English language teacher and teacher educator in China.
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