Diversifying Music Academia: Building the Coalition

Project Spectrum is pleased to announce its 2020 symposium,
Diversifying Music Academia: Building the Coalition

The virtual symposium will be hosted online in four sessions, on 11, 18, 25 October and 1 November 2020, from 2–4 pm Eastern.

**Register here (free of charge)**

Updates to be posted here in the coming weeks.

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 online 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, especially in support of Black and Indigenous lives. CFP here (deadline September 7).

Author Talkback (Sunday, October 18): Participants will be asked to read excerpts of an invited guest author’s work in preparation for a moderated discussion with the author. We will learn what it means to decolonize academia and build coalitions beyond the centralized networks of power and wealth in academic institutions.

Community Activism & the Academy (Sunday, October 25): This session will cover the topic of coalition building outside of the academy, tapping into histories of coalition building within local  communities. Prior to the synchronous session, we will circulate a pre-recorded conversation between scholar-activists and local community organizers. After the opening presentation, we will break out into small discussion groups to share insights and future-oriented goals for our individual roles and the music academy’s role in community activist networks. 

Roundtable on Coalition Building (Sunday, November 1): The final session will reflect on this year’s symposium as a whole and focus on the future of coalition building within higher ed music studies. Participants from different stages of music studies careers will discuss their differing perspectives on and experiences with coalition efforts in the field.

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).