17. Challenging Power Structures in Music Education w/ Meagan Dissinger

In Episode 17, Dan and guest host Stephanie Renée Payne talk with Dr. Meagan Dissinger about using culturally responsive teaching in music education, deconstructing power structures and bringing social justice to the music classroom, and teaching music virtually during the current moment.

Dr. Meagan Dissinger currently holds the position of High School Choir Director and Special Education General Music Teacher at the Oyster Bay – East Norwich Central School District on Long Island in New York. This will be her twelfth year servicing the students of New York State where she has taught all grades Pre-K-12. In addition to NYS professional certification, Dr. Dissinger is a National Board Certified in Music for early adolescents to young adults. Dr. Dissinger is an active accompanist and guest conductor for honors ensembles. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education with minors in Special Education from the Pennsylvania State University, a Master’s degree in Piano Performance from CUNY Hunter College, a second Master’s degree in Music Education from Columbia University, and a Doctoral degree in Music Education from Columbia University. Dr. Dissinger’s research interests include culturally responsive teaching in secondary school choral ensembles, how teachers establish equitable music curricula through student choice and autonomy, autoethnography for developing teachers, and performance-based assessment in music.

Scholars Mentioned in the Episode
  • Geneva Gay
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings
  • Constance McCoy
  • Anne Geller
  • Paulo Freire
  • Vershawn Ashanti Young
  • bell hooks

“It is not easy to challenge things that are so rooted in ourselves […] During this time that we’re in right now with this virtual learning, this is even more of an exciting opportunity where we can really learn from our students. I think it’s really important to posit ourselves as lifelong learners with them, not above them.” -Meagan Dissinger

“I really try to challenge those power structures and reconsider what music can look like for my students and my classroom.” -Meagan Dissinger

“I don’t think we can really move anywhere as a society if White people don’t start checking themselves.” -Meagan Dissinger

“Even when I’m presenting this [autoethnography] research, I’m putting myself under a microscope and I’m talking about my own personal flaws, my own biases, my own stereotypes that I work through […] I think it’s important for me to model that work especially for the students in my classroom who are privileged.” -Meagan Dissinger

“One of the questions I get often is well, ‘What are you gonna do next?’ Is there a next? I mean, just because I did this one autoethnography, does that mean now I’m done interrogating myself? I don’t really think that. The project is meant to be lifelong.” -Meagan Dissinger

“In my class, we really come from an angle of social justice. We work towards creating music with purpose.” -Meagan Dissinger 

“A big part of my class is not just the music-making, but the discourse […] If we can give them the tools on how to talk about it [race, gender, etc.], they’re so much more willing–at least from my experience in my classroom–they’re so much more willing to participate in the conversation, and then that opens up opportunity for some transformative learning to happen because some of the students are rethinking how they think about race or gender or sexuality or religion.” -Meagan Dissinger

“Music is an incredible platform for change.” -Meagan Dissinger

This episode was recorded on May 19. Please be aware that, because we recorded via Zoom, there are occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @writingremixpod.

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