Action Ideals

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Action Ideals 

The Action Ideals are an articulation of MayDay Group’s aims, beliefs, and overall vision for music education. We provoke inquiry and change through these ideals, which ground our annual colloquia, publications, dialogue, and practice. Our work in and related to music teaching and learning is guided by the Action Ideals as articulated herein.

Important to the context of this document are the terms “music” and “musicians.” While we recognize that many species produce sounds that hold meaning for them, we delimit our definition of music to sounds that humans embody, create, interact meaningfully with, and learn from, situated in social, cultural, spiritual, geographical, historical, and political contexts. Consequently, we define musicians as humans who interact with or produce music through learning, teaching, and creative activities. Musicians engage with diverse musical actions that mirror and create value systems and ways of knowing. 

Through the Action Ideals, we examine historical and contemporary ontologies (ways of being), axiologies (values), and epistemologies (ways of knowing) to consider how musicians may contribute to producing and maintaining inequities, and/or challenge taken-for-granted practices in order to open up possibilities for change in music education. We also actively work against—in our field at both local and global levels—entrenched, hegemonic colonial ideologies and practices that alienate many individuals and collectives. 

MayDay Group’s Action Ideals are not intended to be hierarchical, rather are iterative and dialogic, and can be read in any order. To that end, we list them alphabetically to denote equal prioritization and increase ease of accessibility. Each keyword/phrase will hyperlink to the specific Action Ideal on the website: anti-oppression and justice; collaboration across cultures; collaboration across disciplines; curriculum; ecological consciousness; policy; technology and digital media; theory and philosophy.

Anti-Oppression and Justice

We engage in anti-oppressive actions that challenge and oppose injustices and hate crimes, including white supremacy and cultural elitism, and contribute to equitable experiences in teaching, learning, and musicking. 

We create, sustain, and contribute to ways of knowing, doing, and using music in order to address, transform, and/or embrace the conditions of our world. Musical activity and educational conventions—dynamic, living processes rife with power asymmetries and individual and collective biases—develop within diverse contexts and communities of practice. All participants in the teaching and learning process bring a knowledge base that has the potential to extend benefit to one another.

Collaboration Across Cultures

We engage in mutually beneficial collaboration(s) and thoughtful inter-, intra-, cross-, and trans-cultural exchange(s) with musicians outside our own cultural practice(s) to further understanding of one another’s worldviews and related ways of being and doing.

Music and its modes of transmission take place in contexts created by the relationships that connect us to one another and to the myriad modes through which we construct knowledge. Acknowledging that power differentials are embedded in each inter-, intra-, cross-, and trans-cultural exchange, we commit to ethical ways of engagement, which support multiple modes of thinking and doing that lead to meaningful musical actions. Because we participate and collaborate in living cultural praxes, discussions of music’s meanings and educative values must concern not just sound itself and how we listen to it, but also how we engage with, respond to, and perpetuate music’s (de)humanizing functions.

Collaboration Across Disciplines

We collaborate across disciplines to seek new forms of knowledge and spheres of activity and interest. 

Issues in music education are inextricably linked to knowledge and inquiry in other disciplines. Therefore, we embrace opportunities for insight and innovation presented by encounters with multiple disciplines that question normative discursive paradigms. Because music takes place in networks of social practices in action, and these practices are connected with and reflective of peoples’ beliefs and theories, our collaborations must continuously examine regimes of truth and taken-for-granted practices. 


We conceptualize music curricula as reflexive, dynamic, and lived cultural practices that reflect, enhance, and are relevant and responsive to the lives of individual and collective members of our diverse communities. 

We enact living, flexible curricula that reflect the needs and strengths of our classrooms and communities regardless of whether institutional policies enforce prescriptive and top-down mandates or promote grass-roots activism. As music-making is a trans-disciplinary and diverse global practice, we employ an acute criticality towards cultural bias and hegemonic educational practices embedded in the development and implementation of curricula. We problematize the restrictive concept of “curriculum as document,” and the language of outcomes, standards, and assessment involved in the a priori construction of curricular policies.

Ecological Consciousness

We commit to a Land-conscious, environmentally sustainable, and regenerative music education.

Music education is inescapably bound to relationships with Land and exists within ecologies. We challenge taken-for-granted practices that do not consider the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization on such relationships. An environmentally sustainable music education examines how decisions might negatively impact relationships to ecologies (e.g., the mass production of instruments or excessive travel to and from conferences and performances). A regenerative music education is attuned to cultural and physical commons, the inherent value of non-human beings, and people musicking for environmental activism. Thus, music education plays an essential role in acknowledging and alleviating environmental crises—holding greater potential for critical reflection on the ecological impact of former, current, and future musical and cultural practices.


We investigate systemic decisions, contributions, and policies of institutions to determine the extent and directions of their influence on music learning and teaching. 

Teaching and learning are inherently political endeavors, as are decisions and mandates by various arts, educational, and governmental organizations. The current climate of privatization, competition, and profit undermines a vision of education that fosters an ethic of care and social wellbeing. Through corporate lobbying, policymakers have inserted neoliberal frameworks into educational spaces that often induce harm and alienate participants. Such frameworks hold individual stakeholders accountable while providing corporations latitude to shirk responsibility. In order to improve existing structures and influence institutional change, we actualize a frame of mind oriented toward policy, with inquiry that leads to action, adaptation, and implementation made manifest through practice.

Technology and Digital Media

We critically examine ways in which humans and technologies interact, and how these interactions contribute to the development and/or destruction of forms of musical knowledge and practice.

Technologies evolve within socio-cultural contexts as responses to shifting needs and modes of encounters among humans and their surrounding environments. The use of technologies alters the very ways in which we interact, communicate, and make meaning of our world—transforming individual and collective perceptions of knowledge, truth, and justice. Yet, surrounding the creation, introduction, manipulation, and use of each technological tool is an ideological bias with the potential to induce benefits and harms. Implementation of existing and emergent technologies must be balanced with ongoing critique of the commodification of musics, teaching, and learning; inequitable distribution of and access to technological resources; and concerns about corporate power and overreach. 

Theory and Philosophy

We actively engage with and generate theory and philosophy to understand the relationship(s) between musical actions and their contextual meanings and values. 

We account for the fullest range of meanings and modes of thinking inherent in individual and collective musical actions. This requires asking new questions and developing robust toolkits for understanding and theorizing how we position and are positioned as part of larger groups and practices operating within multiple layers of social, cultural, spiritual, geographical, historical, and political contexts. In so doing, we work to avoid the trappings of narrative frameworks that may oppress or misrepresent the contexts in which we seek greater theoretical and philosophical understandings. We embrace pluralism in knowledge construction (e.g., Indigenous, queer, feminist) which promotes interpretations of musical actions from multiple worldviews and creates more equitable representation.

For a history of the evolution of the Action Ideals click here.