Antiracism Task Force

Luther College is engaged in ongoing work to study, disrupt, and do our part to address the disease of racism and to seek justice, equity, and peace.

President Ward charged each department at Luther College during the academic year 2020-21 to initiate a review of program requirements, outcomes, and course content using the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

On Thursday, October 1, 2020, the Music Department faculty voted unanimously to create a music antiracism task force to take on this charge. Consisting of faculty, staff, and students, the group meets weekly to study the intersection of racism and music, and to make policy recommendations to the music faculty. An advisory board with a  broader constituency of students and faculty also meets regularly and serves as a sounding board for the members of the task force.

The task force has the following goals:

  • Conduct listening sessions with students, alumni, faculty and staff about the student experience of racism in the music department and barriers to participation for BIPOC students.
  • Evaluate current recruitment pathways and barriers to recruitment, participation and retention of prospective BIPOC students in the music department, and make policy recommendations to the faculty based on information collected.
  • Review the music program curriculum, using the lenses of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to ensure that non-Eurocentric musical styles, traditions, and practices are valued and taught. Make curriculum revision recommendations to the faculty based on information collected.
  • Propose to the faculty new language for the departmental mission statement to reflect the department’s commitment to antiracism work.

The task force members believe that the first step of antiracist work is to hear from members of the Luther community, as systemic racism affects us all. We recognize there are demands for change and for voices to be heard; to this end, the task force serves as a line of communication between students, alumni, and music faculty. As the task force listens to the community and studies the issues, we will develop policy recommendations to present to the music faculty for discussion and a vote.

Systemic change takes time. Members of the task force are committed to sustained, long term work toward creating a more equitable department. Current students and alumni are invited to contact members of the task force with any questions, comments, and suggestions for consideration. Anything shared in this manner will be kept confidential between members of the task force.

1. Draft a list of recommendations based on topics explored throughout the Task Force’s first year that will be given to Music Department faculty and staff. (In progress)

2. Recruiting, scholarships and retention

  • Review recruitment strategies to ensure that our activities (off-campus auditions, tour itineraries, outreach programming and education, etc.) are reaching diverse student populations.
  • Assess current scholarship procedures and policies to determine how hidden biases may affect decision making. Determine methods by which scholarships might be awarded to students who bring unique musical gifts/traditions to Luther that don’t currently line up with our ensemble or applied studio options.
  • Study the reasons why a significant number of BIPOC music students drop the music major/minor or leave their ensemble. Develop mentorship or check-in programs to ensure that these students feel valued, and that they get the tools they need to succeed.

3. Curriculum development and decolonization in the classroom

  • Theory/Ear-training/Conducting Curriculum Add more diverse repertoire in these classes, including concert music by BIPOC composers as well as music from outside the concert tradition. Consider which musical skills are important to foster in these classes, and realize that some important instruction may fall outside of the concert music realm.
  • Music History Incorporate curricular changes from MUS 346 throughout all music history courses/sections.
  • Incorporate more of the elective curriculum into the music major/minor requirements (for example, require either the History of Jazz, World Music, or Jazz Theory and Arranging course).
  • Encourage classroom instructors to pledge to include more diverse repertoire and musical styles in their syllabi.

4. Inclusive practices in ensembles and applied studios

  • Compile diverse repertoire databases and link to them on the Task Force website.
  • Explore the possibility of entering into a consortium with other ACM or Iowa based music departments to help share resources and support one another’s antiracism work.
  • Create more diverse performing opportunities for students outside of large ensembles and chamber music (e.g. drumming circle, ukulele ensemble, Guaguancó ensemble).
  • Encourage ensemble directors to pledge to include more diverse repertoire and musical styles in their programming.
  • Encourage studio instructors to pledge to embrace opportunities to work with students on more diverse repertoire and support students who wish to diversify the repertoire that they learn

5. Continuing education/professional development

  • Continue to invite guest speakers from sister institutions to lecture/present on topics related to antiracism and develop an archive of talks/presentations
  • Schedule round-table discussions for faculty, students and staff on topics related to antiracism and request they count as recital card events. Consider the facilitator of each session to rotate between faculty/staff/students.
  • Devote one side of the kiosk in the lobby to antiracism education/events/messaging.
  1. Creating a webpage to help us communicate with the community and to provide a mechanism for others to easily communicate with us. (December 15, 2020)
  2. Appending an antiracist statement to the Music Department’s mission statement. (In progress)
  3. Offering a community forum for current students. (November 1, 2020)
  4. Offering a community forum for alumni. (November 22, 2020)
  5. Hosting a brainstorming session for Music Department involvement throughout Black History Month. (February 4, 2021)
  6. Co-hosted Zoom watch party with Luther BSU of “Rhythm and Revolution: Expressions of Struggle, Collaboration and Peace.” (February 19, 2021)
  7. Focused conversation on DEI in visual marketing communications at Luther with Marketing and Communications staff members. (March 3, 2021)
  8. Offering a community forum for music faculty and staff. (March 9, 2021)
  9. Met with the Music Recruitment staff member to learn about current admissions practices and hear about their experience recruiting students. (March 26, 2021)


  • Brown, Julie. (2007). Western Music and Race. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kendi, Ibram X. (2019). How to Be An Antiracist. New York, NY: One World.
  • Southern, Eileen. (1997). The Music of Black Americans. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.
  • Tator, Carol and Henry, Frances. (1998). Challenging Racism in the Arts: Case Studies of Controversy and Conflict. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

  • Raise Publishing Company – Raymond Wise Series (music for children, youth, and adult.)
  • N’Time Music (one of the largest retailers of African American gospel sheet music.)
  • GIA Publications (publishers of the African American Hymnal and African American Choral Music Series.)