The Importance of Music and Social Action

Yale University

Music, as you know, plays an important role in most people’s daily lives and is woven into the fabric of society. As musicians, though, we have to ask ourselves if and how we are contributing to serving the needs of the world at large with our musicianship. To explore this idea a bit deeper, I enrolled in a course entitled Music and Social Action taught by Sebastian Ruth, Visiting Lecturer in Community Engagement at Yale School of Music.

This music and social action course introduced me to the various ways in which music and society are connected. I then set out to survey and discover musical and artistic initiatives that have been particularly focused on producing positive social impact. Mostly, we explored ideas and concepts developed by philosophers John Dewey and Maxine Greene. Their respective views on the possibilities contained within aesthetic experiences were critical to our understanding of our role as artists. Topics discussed during the course exhibited and clarified how artistic and aesthetic experiences make a more engaged public.

Music And Society


Armed with insights on where, how, and why we listen to music and the social impact of music, we set out to explore a set of ideas in the philosophy of education as they relate to the question of positive social change. How does music affect our lives? What is the relationship between the society we live in and the role, function, and position of music within that society?

This class helped me investigate and understand how these theoretical and historical issues relate to the role of artists in contemporary life. Through discussions and current examples shared in class, I gained a better understanding of how music contributes to shaping our identity, how music influences political ideas, and how music affects our norms and values. Now I am left with the question of how I can apply these concepts and ideas to my own community and my own involvement with the arts.

Music And Social Action At Yale University

Sebastian Ruth
Visiting Lecturer in Community Engagement
Yale School of Music