Music Privilege Walk Statements

Many of you are familiar with the idea of the Privilege Walk, in which a mediator reads statements relating to privilege and asks participants to step forward or backwards to indicate their relative positions in society as defined through those privileges. A sample with many common statements can be found here.

A Privilege Walk is, obviously, ableist, given the “walk” in the name. While many people hold that the embodiment of privilege that is on display in the exercise is crucial to its meaning and success in raising awareness, this clearly leaves some people out. For those who cannot or do not want to participate in the physical walk, I suggest offering graph paper, with which participants can pick a central starting point and then track how they would move along a line. And as every Privilege Walk guide stresses, if a participant is uncomfortable with a statement that might reveal something about them if they move when it’s read, they can stay in place at any time; other participants should not read anything into other participants’ movements or non-movements.

I’ve been creating and asking for sample statements related to music (mostly reflecting US music experiences and the privileges that may be present in people’s formative years in regard to music-learning and music-making); in specific, statements that allow music professors to understand their own privilege or lack thereof and that of their students. Thanks to all the Tweeps who contributed. A number of statements were common to many contributors, and so I have not included citations in this list.

Here are the collected statements from the Privilege Walk I led as a session on Privilege at the 2017 Spring meeting of the AMS-Southwest chapter at Sam Houston State University. Please feel free to make use of this list, adapt or reorganize it, or share it. Please also feel free to add statements in the comments.

General Social Statements

  1. If you identify as a white male take one step forward.
  2. If there have been times in your life when you skipped a meal because there was no food in the house take one step backward.
  3. If you have visible or invisible disabilities take one step backward.
  4. If you attended (grade) school with people you felt were like yourself take one step forward.
  5. If you grew up in an urban setting take one step backward.
  6. If your family had health insurance take one step forward.
  7. If your work holidays coincide with religious holidays that you celebrate take one step forward.
  8. If you feel good about how your identified culture is portrayed by the media take one step forward.
  9. If you have been the victim of physical violence based on your gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation take one step backward.
  10. If you have ever felt passed over for an employment position based on your gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation take one step backward.
  11. If you were born in the United States take one step forward.
  12. If English is your first language take one step forward.
  13. If you have been divorced or impacted by divorce take one step backward.
  14. If you came from a supportive family environment take one step forward.
  15. If you attended private school take one step forward.
  16. If you have ever felt unsafe walking alone at night take one step backward.
  17. If you can find Band-Aids at mainstream stores designed to blend in with or match your skin tone, take one step forward.
  18. If you were ever made fun of or bullied for something you could not change or was beyond your control, take one step back.
  19. If you would never think twice about calling the police when trouble occurs, take one step forward.
  20. If you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward.
  21. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, take one step back.
  22. If someone in your household suffered or suffers from mental illness, take one step back.
  23. If you can make mistakes and not have people attribute your behavior to flaws in your racial or gender group, take one step forward.
  24. If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.
  25. If you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, or behavior to fit in more, take one step back.


Music Privilege Walk Statements

  1. If your parents/guardians could pay for your instrument or you had use of a free school instrument, step forward.
  2. If you had access to a professional quality instrument before age 18, step forward.
  3. If you experienced physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse by a music teacher, step backwards.
  4. If you experienced sexual harassment by a music colleague, step backwards.
  5. If you could afford to travel more than 4 hours for post-secondary school auditions, step forward.
  6. If your parents/guardians could afford the time off to drive you to auditions, step forward.
  7. If you went to summer music programs, step forward.
  8. If you owned a metronome, tuner, music stand, instrument cleaning supplies, and method books (in your language), step forward.
  9. If the language spoken in your high school music rehearsals was your first language, step forward.
  10. If you had a reliably quiet place to practice, step forward.
  11. If your high school offered Music Theory AP, step forward.
  12. If you were ever taught “music theory” as a separate concept before college, step forward.
  13. If you could afford to pay for meals on school band/choir/orchestra trips, step forward. (Two steps if the school paid for you!)
  14. If you could afford to do maintenance or repairs without sacrificing something else, step forward.
  15. If you had a reliably safe space to store your instrument when not playing it, step forward.
  16. If your parents/guardians attended your concerts, step forward (some have to miss for work or other things).
  17. If you had a piano or keyboard in your house growing up, step forward.
  18. If your musical instructions conflicted with other extra-curriculars, like sports or scouting, step backwards.
  19. If the music that is your passion is written down, step forward.
  20. If the music that is your passion is communicated primarily through an oral tradition, step backwards.
  21. If you had dance lessons or went to organized dances, step forward.
  22. If you were not allowed/not encouraged to dance, step back.
  23. If your religion/culture prevented you from singing/playing (certain instruments or all), step backwards.
  24. If you could afford to buy new music (not copy it from library, etc.), step forward.
  25. If you sang in an organized group before age 18, step forward.
  26. If you had to audition by sending in a recording because you could not afford to travel to a live audition, take a step backwards.
  27. If you had paid gigs as a musician before age 18, step forward.
  28. If you had a disability that made it difficult to carry your instrument around, step backwards.
  29. If you could name 10 classical canonical pieces and their composers before you were 18, step forward.
  30. If you took piano or organ (or other keyboard) lessons before age 18, step forward.
  31. If you played in an extra-curricular ensemble, like a local sym’s youth orch, step forward.
  32. If you were bullied (by peers, family, anyone) for playing music, step backwards.
  33. If you had to work instead of practice, step backwards.
  34. If your family/teachers encouraged you to listen to more than one genre of music, step forward.
  35. If you did not own a tux/black concert wear and/or had to borrow it because you couldn’t afford it, take a step backwards.
  36. If you could read more than one clef before entering college, step forward.
  37. If one of your family members played an instrument while you were growing up, step forward.
  38. If you have a hearing impairment, take a step back.
  39. If you had advanced instruction (beyond 2 years of “conversational” language in high school) in foreign language before age 18, take step forward.
  40. If you had any (formal/informal) instruction in “ear-training”/”aural skills” before age 18, step forward.
  41. If you played in a school-sponsored ensemble, take a step forward.
  42. If you had private music lessons before you were 18, take a step forward.
  43. If you grew up in a house with more than 25 recordings, take a step forward.
  44. If assigned an instrument because it corresponded to outdated ideas about your gender, step back.
  45. If someone explained your career options beyond “Music Teacher” and “NYPhil,” step forward.
  46. If either of your parents was/is a professional musician, take two steps forward.
  47. If your high school did not have a band or an orchestra, take one step back.
  48. If you had your own stereo, step forward.
  49. If you had dependable access/transportation to rehearsals and performances, step forward.
  50. If you attended live concerts of any kind of music performed by professional musicians before you were age 18, step forward.







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