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Music educator, choral conductor joins ASU faculty


Headshot of Joshua Palkki

Joshua Palkki

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June 30, 2023

Music educator Joshua Palkki will be joining the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University as associate director of choral activities and assistant professor of music learning and teaching and choral conducting.

“We are so pleased to have attracted Dr. Joshua Palkki to the choral and music learning and teaching programs at ASU,” said Heather Landes, school director. “Dr. Palkki is an internationally recognized scholar on equity, inclusivity and social justice in music education, and we look forward to his many contributions in the classroom, with our choral ensembles, and through his mentoring of our students.”  

“I'm very grateful to have this opportunity,” Palkki said. “It is a hybrid role, and I'm really passionate about both music education and conducting. It feels like a perfect fit, and I’m so excited to start.”

Palkki brings a background in music education in secondary and higher education. He has a PhD in music education from Michigan State University and was a finalist in the graduate division of the 2011 American Choral Directors Association national conducting competition while earning a master’s degree in choral conducting at Northern Arizona University. 

Palkki has been contracted as a guest conductor for choirs around the country. His work emphasizes connecting with students through encouraging joyful, expansive approaches to teaching. He said he wants music educators to look at things in new ways.

“Many things in music education get filed under the category of, ‘This is the way it's always been done,’” said Palkki. “When we train an entire generation of music teachers to ask questions and question tradition, systemic change is going to happen in our field. ASU is leading the way in this work, and I’m grateful to join this amazing faculty.”

Palkki is co-author of “Honoring Trans and Gender-Expansive Students in Music Education.” He came to his research focus while reflecting on issues of identity and a lack of discussion about queer identity during his undergraduate education. 

“The more that I got into reading the little research literature that there was, the more I realized there's still a lot of important work that needs to be done in this area,” Palkki said. 

“Education is all about relationships, and music education is really unique in that,” said Palkki. “We're artists, and unlike other subjects, we often teach students for multiple years.”

Palkki gained a love of music as a young child from his grandmother, who was a church organist.

“I started singing at a young age. I was one of those people who always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and then I had this passion for music,” he said. “I knew music education was the path for me.”

Palkki said he is looking forward to bringing that background to the students in the ASU choral conducting program.

“I think we are going to build a choral program that is unlike anything else in the U.S.,” Palkki said. “The way things are going to change in terms of equity and justice is going to be pretty remarkable, and ASU students will be part of that.”

Palkki said he prioritizes student learning and makes decisions with their best interests at heart. 

“Universities are schools, and schools are about students, so I want them to know that my door is open for them. I want them to know that I don't have it all figured out, and I want them to know that I want to always be co-constructing knowledge with them,” Palkki said. “We are a community of learners. We all learn from one another, and my favorite part about being in higher education has been the incredible amount of things that I've learned from my students.”

He also said students need to keep a good work-life balance when it comes to school work. 

“These are rigorous programs in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, but we also want our students most of all to be happy, fulfilled people,” Palkki said. “Just working all the time is not healthy — which I think I learned the hard way.”

He encourages students to take advantage of all the benefits of attending a large university like ASU. 

“Universities have an immense amount of resources in terms of people and services, and that is part of what their tuition pays for,” Palkki said. “Don't be afraid to ask for help.”

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