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Palkki lectures on LGBTQ issues in music education

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Students listen to Joshua Palkki's lecture on being both a safe person and music educator.

Students listen to Joshua Palkki's lecture on being both a safe person and music educator.

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips

Students listen to Joshua Palkki's lecture on being both a safe person and music educator.

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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Guest Lecture Joshua Palkki gave a presentation titled “Creating Safe People: LGBTQA and Gender Issues in Music Education” in Valders 206 on Sunday, April 29. The lecture focused on Palkki’s doctoral research regarding LGBTQ issues in music education, specifically challenges that transgender students face in choral and orchestral ensembles. In addition to the lecture, Palkki hosted an informal discussion with music education students in Sunnyside Cafe. The lecture was sponsored by the Lecture and Fine Arts Committee.

Assistant Professor of Education and Coordinator for Music Education Jill Wilson helped bring Palkki to campus. She appreciated how the lecture discussed issues that Luther students are currently facing.     

“I was fortunate to hear Dr. Palkki speak at a conference a couple years ago and have wanted to bring him to campus ever since,” Wilson said. “Thanks to the Lecture and Fine Arts Committee, the dream became a reality. The lecture was planned months ago, but the timing is uncanny given recent events on our campus.”

Palkki began the lecture with a photo of the first choir he ever conducted. He invited the audience to comment on things that they found problematic within the photo. The discussion highlighted issues that the transgender community faces within a music ensemble, specifically the often gendered dress codes. Palkki stressed that while dress codes are something music educators can overlook, it can play significant role in whether a student feels comfortable within the classroom.

Palkki explained that his own identity as a gay man was, in part, what motivated him in his doctoral research. The disconnect between two identities can be harmful and he used his own story as an example.

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips
Students listen to Joshua Palkki’s lecture on being both a safe person and music educator.

“One of the things that I think made me less effective as a K-12 teacher was that I could never understand how to reconcile my teacher identity and my gay identity,” Palkki said. “[Trying to] figure out how to navigate that at school . . . caused me to be less connected at school especially with the students.”

In addition to providing background on vocabulary and concepts such as the gender spectrum, Palkki gave examples of strategies that music educators could use to create more welcoming learning environments. Palkki listed examples such as calling role by last name, or naming ensembles “treble choirs” instead of “women’s choirs” as small things that music educators could do to include LGBTQ students.    

Grace Simpson (‘20) appreciated how  the lecture highlighted the importance of creating a space where students feel safe. 

“I think the biggest thing for me is that we know that you cannot learn in a place where you are afraid,” Simpson said. “If you are a minority, either because you’re LGBTQ or otherwise, if you do not feel recognized in your classroom you are automatically in a space of fear. You won’t be able to learn.”

Palkki discussed the overall importance of setting an example in a classroom: educators need to create a welcoming environment by setting a standard for behavior. He especially stressed the importance of communicating with students. According to Palkki without making students aware that the teacher is a safe person to talk to they will assume otherwise.

“More broadly, what we can do is make our spaces and our people safe for all kinds of students,” Palkki said. “Students who are struggling need sanctuaries at schools. Very often those sanctuaries are music classrooms. I think it is important for us, that we know how to facilitate those spaces.”

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