Band teacher works on expanding perspectives

Presentations focus on underrepresented musicians


Used with permission from Steve Schmitz

Danny Shope

To get students to think critically about race, gender and sexuality this year in class, band teacher Steve Schmitz has been setting aside class time every month to talk about underrepresented musicians.

“A lot of students were very positive, they were interested and seemed to engage the whole time and answer the questions (with) decent length and critical thought,” Schmitz said.

According to Schmitz, he plans to have discussed Latinx, Native American, LGBTQ+, Black and African American, female and Asian and Asian American musicians by the end of the school year. According to junior Semona Robel, Schmitz’s monthly presentations are a step in the right direction towards making music more inclusive. 

“I really enjoyed the effort (Schmitz) put into including people of all backgrounds, because music can be sort of discriminatory. (Music) is very focused on white men, so it was really nice to see people from all backgrounds,” Robel said. 

According to junior Will Dooley, Schmitz’s presentations were engaging because he learned new things about musicians he already listens to. 

If we don’t have inclusive, and really dedicated teachers, I feel like the future of this generation is really bleak. Teachers have a really, really huge impact.”

— Semona Robel

“The Latinx musicians that he talked about were interesting,” Dooley said. “There were some musicians that I was already a big fan of that I didn’t even realize had that heritage and it was eye opening to be able to say, ‘I didn’t even realize that, and I’m already enjoying these people’s music.’”

Despite acknowledging the benefits of Schmitz’s program this year, Robel stressed the importance of continuing education and conversation about race and equity in the future. 

“I don’t think this should just be a one year thing,” Robel said. “It should continue because the fight for inclusivity and justice is something that should be happening all the time, not just for this year, when tensions are high.”

Schmitz said giving these presentations is part of his professional development plan this year, but he plans to continue it into future years.

“I’ve definitely learned some things about artists like Jimi Hendrix that I thought I knew quite a bit about,” Schmitz said. “As long as I change it up in some way, I think I should continue doing this, whether it’s my project or not.” 

According to Dooley, Schmitz doesn’t only discuss difficult topics for these presentations, It’s something he always includes in class. 

“Mr. Schmitz always wants those conversations to happen, I don’t think he’s ever shied away from trying to make people think about that sort of thing, and acknowledge it,” Dooley said.

With conversations about race and equity happening across the country, teachers hold much power in shaping the future. Robel said teachers hold a large responsibility to educate students about race, gender and sexuality. 

“It’s hard to say who has the most impact (on students), but teachers in general play a huge role in educating the next generation,” Robel said. “If we don’t have inclusive, and really dedicated teachers, I feel like the future of this generation is really bleak. Teachers have a really, really huge impact.”