Critical race theory scholar joins ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre

Joyce McCall


The ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre welcomes Joyce McCall as assistant professor of music learning and teaching.

McCall is one of the few scholars whose music education research focuses on race and racism through critical race theory and double consciousness theory, as well as culturally relevant pedagogy. 

“This is my dream job in a sense, because this is an opportunity to do the work that I do and also be able to do it in a place that provides me with a space where I can thrive,” McCall said. “I have yet to find that any place else, and I believe that Arizona State University and the School of Music, Dance and Theatre might be it.”

McCall’s research centers on how race, class and culture impact educational equity in music education. She said she also examines how certain pedagogies such as culturally relevant teaching influence possibilities to engage minoritized racial populations in the music classroom and beyond.

“We are delighted to have attracted Dr. McCall to the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre,” said Heather Landes, director of the school. “Dr. McCall brings expertise and research interests that are critical to our path forward as a school focused on access, inclusion and excellence. We look forward to welcoming Dr. McCall, who earned her PhD in music education from ASU in 2015, back to our community as a faculty member.”

McCall said she is excited to work with top-notch scholars in the field of music education and for the opportunity to work with the people who contributed to her success.

“I have been abreast of all the things that the program has been doing while I was there, and even after, and have always wanted to be part of a space where folks were not only thinking about progressive work but are finding ways to do it, and then actually doing it,” McCall said.

After earning her undergraduate degree in music performance, McCall said she did not see herself as a teacher and did not want to teach. By the time she earned her master’s degree, she realized that everything she was pursuing suggested that she needed to teach. She chose Houston, Texas, to begin her teaching career. 

“During my time teaching in a predominantly Latina/Latino school district in Houston, I saw the stark disparities between where I taught and 15 minutes down the road to a totally different school district that was predominantly white,” McCall said. “With their resources, access and reputation, it was like easy street, whereas our kids had to negotiate some incredibly rough terrain.”

McCall said after realizing that in school and in society, nothing much had changed since she was in school as a child in Mobile, Alabama, she decided she needed to pursue her doctoral degree in music education.

McCall was the only African American in her doctoral program and, to her knowledge, is still the only one to finish with a doctorate in music education at ASU.

While pursuing all three degrees, McCall actively served in the military. She entered basic combat training in the U. S. Army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, after high school and served in the National Guard. McCall was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. She also proudly served as a clarinetist and saxophonist in the United States Army Bands from 1999 to 2013.

Additionally, McCall has a background in jazz and teaching jazz methods and plans to expose students to the opportunity of using jazz as a means to engage musically and critically. ASU is one of three programs that offers jazz methods to music education students, along with Indiana University and Northern Illinois University.

She is actively engaged in partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities and has presented at the American Educators Research Association, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, the National Association for Music Education and the Society for Music Teacher Education. Her publications include several journals, and her latest book chapter, “Speak No Evil: Talking Race as an African American in Music Education,” has served as a critical tool in music education toward empowering racially minoritized scholars and inspiring anti-racist work. 

McCall most recently served on the music education faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I feel I can offer a different perspective, and an informed perspective, based on experience and expertise that will hopefully provide ASU students with the tools needed to provide K–12 students the most optimal learning experiences possible,” McCall said. “Our music teacher education programs must situate themselves to provide current and future teachers reliable tools beyond teaching the music that will assist them in being responsive to their students and anticipatory to the sort of shifts and challenges that sit on the horizon in our society and education. Historically, as a collective, we were never winning on that front. It is imperative that we change that outcome.”

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