This 3-year ethnography explored the culture of the Academy of Music and Arts for Special Education (AMASE), a university undergraduate volunteer organization offering music instruction for individuals with disabilities. We examined the organization and its impact on students, parents, and volunteers through the lens of the social relational model of disability. Findings clustered around three pillars of organizational values: ability, community, and service. The organization’s philosophy of ability cultivated a community that acknowledged the impairments of the students while actively seeking ways to break down the socially imposed barriers to musical learning that were disabling to them. The program filled a need where access to music education had previously been limited or denied. Undergraduate volunteers’ experiences raised their awareness of inequity for people with disabilities and motivated them to consider ways to serve this community in their future careers. Findings illustrate the potential impact of a social relational model on music education philosophy and practice, suggesting a need for music educators to challenge implicit beliefs about students’ capabilities and actively inquire into the ways in which music education contexts may be inherently disabling.
- ability orientation
- inclusive music education
- social relational model of disability
- students with disabilities
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