Music Ed Mentor Podcast #043: Revolutionary Women in Music

Music Ed Mentor Podcast #043: Revolutionary Women in Music

Those of you familiar with this podcast know that I usually welcome a guest who shares tips and tricks that you can put to use in your music program. We’re doing things a little differently for this episode. Because today is International Women’s Day – and because March is Women’s History Month – I’m going to share some stories of amazing women in music.

If you’ve ever done a music history unit with your students, you’re fully aware that the vast majority of the composers we teach about are men. White men, mostly.

Why is this a problem? Why do we need to seek out diversity?

It’s because our students are diverse. We want to show them that there are musical heroes and geniuses who look like them. Which is why we need to teach about women in music right alongside the men.

So today I’m going to talk about composers, artists, and conductors who you can spotlight in your classroom. I encourage you to share these – and other stories of women in music – with your students this month and all year long.

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Meet Some of My “Guests”

Here are some of the revolutionary women, featured in today’s podcast, that your students may not have heard of.

Kassia (Byzantine Hymns) Listen Learn more
Hildegard von Bingen Listen
Clara Schumann Listen
Sister Rosetta Tharpe Listen Learn more
Delia Derbyshire Listen Learn more
Carole King Listen Learn more
Aretha Franklin Listen Learn more
Bjork Listen


In addition to playing recordings, putting up posters, and telling stories of musicians who are as diverse as your students, it’s equally important to program music by diverse composers. When I first began teaching, resources for diverse programming were few and far between. Today we are fortunate to have much more.

One such resource is the Diverse Wind Band Composers list, compiled by Christian Folk. Check it out, and be sure to notice that there are three separate sheets to explore.

Additional Resources

Elisa Janson Jones

Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa was a top presenter at the NAfME National Conference in 2017 and will be presenting at state conferences in 2018. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

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