Diversifying Music Academia 2020

Diversifying Music Academia: Building the Coalition


This virtual symposium was held online in four separate sessions: on 11, 18, 25 October 2020, each from 2–4 pm Eastern, and 1 November 2020 from 4–6 pm Eastern.*

Registration is closed.

Registered participants can view session videos here, with the password emailed to them.

*Note that the session on 1 November was moved to 4–6 pm Eastern.

Symposium Objectives

Following our 2018 Symposium, 2019 Receptions, and 2020 Keynote Address at the meeting of the Music Theory Society of New York State (MTSNYS), we invite you to participate in continuing the conversations. We see the function of this symposium on coalition as twofold: 

  1. It will create space for us to critically reflect on coalition and its historical and ongoing presence  in music studies. 
  2. It will call for and empower participants to join and form coalition efforts toward the transformation of music studies—determining what actions can and should be taken to advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) within and outside of the music academy.

This symposium will highlight the role of coalition in the promotion of systemic change in and around music studies. Our goal is for participants and attendees alike to leave with ideas, stories, and resources that will help them take action and advocate for DEIA in the spaces they occupy themselves. This online symposium takes a multimodal approach, allowing for folks to participate  both asynchronously and synchronously in video screenings, readings, lectures, personal testimonies, small group discussions, roundtables, and online community discussion space. By bringing together presenters across disciplinary and institutional boundaries, the event aims to press toward the transformative potential of community, collaboration, and solidarity. To that end, each of our events will cover a sub-theme that builds toward our larger goal.

Symposium Events

Insights Session • Sunday, October 11

In considering the possibilities of coalition building within and beyond music studies, this panel will highlight personal narratives of coalition building as it relates to allyship and solidarity. The session will feature two panels of three 8–10-minute papers. Each panel will be followed by a Q&A and discussion session.

I. Building Community through Coalitions

  • “Finding the Space and the Coalitions for Imagination” Eric Hung (he/him/they/them), Music of Asian America Research Center
  • “Reflective Rhythms: A Multi-Community Educational Collaboration” Cristina Saltos (she/her), Austin, Texas
  • “Safe Space, Inclusion, and Separatism in Queer Open Mics: A Conversation on between an Artist/Activist and Ethnomusicologist” Ryan Lambe (he/him), UC Santa Cruz and Pandora Scooter (she/her), Out of the Box/NYU Tisch School of the Arts

II. Power and Inequity in the Academy

  • “Ethnomusicological Earthlings and Empathetic Futures: Personal Narratives on the Limits of Coalition Building Between Black Graduate Students and Non-Black Professors and Students” Danielle Davis (she/her), Florida State University
  • “Embodying Coalition” Vivian Luong (she/her), University of Saskatchewan
  • “Diversity, Depression, Institutions” Dan Wang (he/him), University of Pittsburgh

Author Talkback with Dylan Robinson • Sunday, October 18

Participants will be asked to read Professor Dylan Robinson’s Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies (Minnesota UP, 2020) in preparation for a moderated discussion with Prof. Robinson and Prof. Nadia Chana, affiliate faculty member of Project Spectrum. We will learn what it means to decolonize our relation to listening and sound and build coalitions beyond the centralized networks of power and wealth in academic institutions.

Order Hungry Listening through University of Minnesota Press and get 30% off with the code DMASYMP20. For those who are unable to read the whole volume ahead of the session, Prof. Robinson recommends focusing on Hungry Listening‘s theoretic contributions, and saving the case studies for another time.

Community Activism & the Academy • Sunday, October 25

This session will cover the topic of coalition building beyond and outside of the academy, and particularly the role of academics in local community activism. In the first half of the session, we will stream a recorded conversation between scholar-activist Prof. Carolina Sarmiento and community organizer M Adams discussing their collaborations through Freedom Inc., a Black and Southeast Asian non-profit organization that works with low- to no-income communities of color in Madison, WI, and the role of academics and academic institutions in community activism. In the second half of the session, we will break out into small discussion groups to discuss takeaways from the video and form personal goals for serving and building coalition with community activist organizations.

Roundtable on Coalition Building • Sunday, November 1 (from 4–6 pm Eastern; note the time change)

This virtual roundtable will round out the symposium with reflections on collective action and coalition networks in, around, and pointing beyond music studies. We invite folks from different corners of and alongside music studies to share and interrogate futures of mutual care, beyond the dominating economies of white knowledge production. 


  • Danielle Brown (she/her), My People Tell Stories
  • Philip Ewell (he/him), Hunter College CUNY
  • Anna B. Gatdula (she/her), University of Chicago, Graduate Students United
  • Stefan Sunandan Honisch (he/him), University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Krystal Klingenberg (she/her), Swarthmore College, University of Hartford
  • Leroy Moore (he/him), Krip-Hop Nation

Symposium Themes 

Through these events, we will critically explore the meanings behind “community,” “solidarity,” and “allyship” and their ties to coalition.


We will approach our conversations with a fluid understanding of “coalition,” which can take many forms and support different causes. Coalitions have radical histories and are collaborative partnerships to advocate for racial, social, and economic equity, taking place within and beyond disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Coalitions bring together individuals across different axes of oppression and marginalization, while collectively advancing toward shared  goals. Coalitions are helpful for building momentum and accountability, sharing knowledge, extending care, and building networks. 

We believe coalitions within and around music studies have the potential to:

  1. Connect minoritized and systemically disadvantaged folks with one another;
  2. Share resources normatively denied by institutions;
  3. Address issues neglected by institutional structures; and
  4. Generate criticisms of institutions, disciplines, and other sites of centralized power.


Belonging to a community and being in coalition are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Members of a community will often involve folks outside of the community in consort with the coalition. But communities and coalitions are distinct. In our view, communities are not defined by an ontology of telos—there is no “end-goal” or “finality” to a community. Communities lateralize the relations of social reproduction so that we build for each other in the present. On the other hand, coalitions are teleological, with an end-goal that galvanizes and brings together multiple factions in pursuit of completing their action.


We learned our definition of solidarity from labor activists: “Solidarity is not a matter of sentiment but a fact, cold and impassive as the granite foundations of a skyscraper. If the basic elements, identity of interest, clarity of vision, honesty of intent, and oneness of purpose, or any of these is lacking, all sentimental pleas for solidarity, and all other efforts to achieve it will be barren of results,” Eugene Debs “A Plea for Solidarity” (1914).


We learned our definition of allyship from Black radical feminists: “You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness,” Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s” (Sister Outsider, 1984).