The Racial Politics of Classical Music

This course provides an overview of the key discussions taking place at the intersection of race and classical music.

It is intended for lifelong learners (high school age and older). No previous musical experience is necessary.

Taught by Chris Jenkins, Associate Dean for Academic Support and Liaison to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Begins Tuesday, June 14 (six sessions)

This class is now full.

Oberlin Orchestra in Finney Chapel.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Course Description

From concert halls to classrooms, explorations of race have deepened across the artistic spectrum in recent years. One result has been a wealth of books and other research on systemic racism in the performance and pedagogy of classical music.

This course provides an overview of the key discussions taking place at the intersection of race and classical music. Particular attention is paid to challenges surrounding the integration of Black American musical idioms and styles within classical music. Topics covered include the white racial frame, culturally responsive pedagogy, critical race theory, Black musical aesthetics, decolonization, and anti-racism.

CEU/Hours of Engagement: .5 CEU/5+ hours of engagement*

Course Fee: $300

Meeting Times

Tuesdays: June 14, 21, 28 and July 5, 12, 19 (six weekly sessions)

8-9:15 p.m. ET


*Oberlin Conservatory Global does not grant CEUs but does provide verification of course content, participant attendance and hours of engagement. Participants are responsible for conveying this information to their Local Professional Development Committee in a manner consistent with their local guidelines.



Chris JenkinsChris Jenkins is an educator, administrator, and performing violist. In 2017, through a Curriculum Diversification Grant from the American Society for Aesthetics, he published an annotated bibliography of works pertaining to African American participation in the field of classical music, and he presents on issues of diversity in classical music.  

In 2011, Jenkins earned a master's degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, focusing on the study of human rights and conflict resolution. His international engagement has included performances and teaching in Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, China, Colombia, and South Africa, including a performance with the Jordan National Symphony at the World Heritage Site of Petra in 2016. In the summer of 2017, he served as a guest artist and teacher at the Afghan National Institute of Music in Kabul, Afghanistan.

He is pursuing a DMA in viola performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a PhD in Historical Musicology from Case Western Reserve University, where his work focuses on the music of African American composers. His teachers have included Lynne Ramsey, Michael Tree, Martha Katz, Karen Dreyfus, Karen Ritscher, Michelle LaCourse, and Carol Rodland.