Indigenization and decolonization efforts within university music programs are nascent, limited to individual scholars and isolated projects. In my dissertation research—Engaging Indigenous Voices in the Academy: Indigenizing Music in Canadian Universities—I engaged with six self-identifying Indigenous musicians who have studied music at university to hear their lived experiences as students and faculty members and their visions for an Indigenized and decolonized higher music education. Within this research, higher music education encompasses all formal music instruction within the university with particular attention drawn to departments, faculties, and schools of music. One of the primary intentions of this research was to understand the systems, processes, and practices within higher music education that continue to uphold settler colonial constructs, to begin to conceptualize what an Indigenized higher music education might look like, and to understand the roles and responsibilities that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples have in this process. There is a severe disparity between non-Indigenous and Indigenous participation in university music programs, whereby few Indigenous musicians choose to attend university music programs. The reasons for this disparity are many: gatekeeping practices (including the audition process), racism, an almost singular focus on Western art music, materials used and musics studied, pedagogical practices, to name a few.
Now in my role as a postdoctoral research fellow, under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Kovach, I am designing a large research project that will extend the work of my dissertation. For this multi-stage research project, I am applying for funding through a SSHRC Connections grant. The project first brings together the research participants from my dissertation (they did not meet each other during my dissertation research) so that they have an opportunity to talk together about the themes that emerged in the dissertation research: racism, underrepresentation, barriers, gatekeeping, curriculum and curricular change, faculty hiring, compartmentalization of Indigenization efforts, and broad criticisms of the institution. These participants will then be joined by a group of Indigenous scholar-musician collaborators to further the discussions and to plan Stage 2 of the research project. Stage 2 will be a four-day event that brings together the core group of Indigenous scholar-musician collaborators and research participants with Indigenous musicians, community leaders, and Elders for two days of discussions. On the third and fourth days, deans, chairs, directors, and other leaders within Canadian university music programs will be invited to participate; these two days of programming will include panel discussions, guided response opportunities, and an exploration of a decolonized music event.