Music Intervention

At the beginning of my journey, I remember sitting at my parent’s kitchen table seeking to come up with a name or a description of the exact place in which music and transformative change meet. No matter how much I searched, I could not decide upon an exact term. Then the idea of “music intervention” came to mind. But what is a “music intervention?” According to the dictionary, the word “intervention” has a myriad of connotations, both positive and negative, such as “to come between disputing people,” “to mediate,” “to interfere with force or a threat of force,” “to occur or be between two things,” and so forth. To this day, I am still not sure whether “music intervention” is the right term to describe the exact place in which music and transformation meet. And yet, music, musicking, music making, co-creating, and music education can meet transformative change, conflict transformation, peacebuilding and human rights education, social change, reconciliation, nonviolence, and values-based education innumerably.

This reality is a grassroots development we see in our world currently in locations of conflict, post-conflict, and systemic injustice, where music education and the expressive arts are consistently utilized in a multitude of ways to build more inclusive communities and advance the socio-emotional needs and growth of its members. Within this creative and dialogical process, it is possible to teach and learn through musicking (Small, 1999) skills for and about peacebuilding and human rights, critical thinking, creativity, empathy, nonviolent communication, solidarity, coexistence, and coresistence. Cultivating these skills through self-expression, co-creation, and musicking can enable agency, or in other words, the empowerment of individuals and communities to make decisions on their own terms concerning their needs and advancement. There are many ways to do this, and by no means will we ever finish discovering new and renewing methods in which to do this.

“Music intervention” could never summate this cross-section of disciplines, but perhaps no one term truly can, and maybe that is exactly how it should be, to leave the space open for questions, new meanings, new processes, and possibilities. I keep the term “music intervention” as a symbolic reminder of where I personally started, a reminder that we all start somewhere, and we all will continue to become. In the words of the educational philosopher Maxine Greene, “I am what I am not yet.” 

~ Shoshana Gottesman

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