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Immigrant Families, Music Education, and Social Mobility in Canada. (recurring motifs: Canadian music in education/education musicale canadienne: Pat Shand Canadian Music in Education Essay Contest).

During recent decades, rapid demographic changes have taken place in Canada with increased numbers of immigrants entering the country (Boyd, 2011). These immigrant families face extensive difficulties entering a new society such as learning a new language, adjusting to new cultural norms, and transferring educational credentials. Research shows how music often serves as a constructing element in the formation of individual and collective identity for immigrant students. Music can be used as a vehicle for preserving homeland memories and unity among students (Karlsen, 2013) which music educators have a crucial role in helping to develop. Music can help immigrant families adjust to their new society and culture, collectively engage with other immigrant families, and can be used as a tool to advance in North American society.

Immigrant parents engage in social mobility as they strive to create a more positive future for their children in North America. Using music as a tool for 'class remobility'--efforts to regain their homeland social class position--and social integration (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015), immigrant parents tend to have high educational aspirations for their children (Ichou, Oberti, & Waine, 2014). Borjas (2006) provides a clear definition of social mobility in immigrant families:
   From a broad perspective, social mobility in immigrant
   households includes the cultural adaptation that immigrants
   and their children make to their new environment,
   their adoption of social norms and attitudes
   that may differ widely from those in their home countries,
   and their accumulation of 'human capital investments,'
   such as education, language skills, and geographic
   relocation, which improve their economic
   status in their new country, (p. 57)

This paper seeks to investigate how music education combined with an immigrant's community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) and concerted cultivation parenting techniques (Lareau, 2003) can lead to class remobility. Concerted cultivation parenting techniques can be understood as a type of "interventionist" parenting, where parents intentionally "plan strategies for the cultivation of their children" (Vincent & Maxwell, 2016, p. 272), treating them as a "developmental project" (Irwin & Elley, 2011, p. 481). Lareau's (2003) theory of middle class, concerted cultivation parenting can arguably be displayed through the intentional, involved parenting evident in immigrant families (Ichou, Oberti, & Waine, 2014). Lu's (2013) study emphasizes the importance of immigrant communities working together to increase cultural wealth and upward mobility, according to Yosso's (2005) theory of community cultural wealth. These theories, combined with Hofvander Trulsson's (2015) research can be fitted together to understand how music can be used as a tool to class remobility and greater levels of upward social mobility. Similar to Hofvander Trulsson's findings in Sweden, it can be argued that music education involving Western classical music can be used as a tool to channel immigrant children and their families toward greater academic achievement and social mobility in Canadian society.

Immigrants and the Culture of Mobility

To make economic or social gains, many immigrants must leave some of their native habits and cultural characteristics and cleave to new attributes that signify higher chances of success in the North American economy (Borjas, 2006). Lu (2013) describes a minority culture of mobility to be one where minorities must develop sets of tools and strategies to apply in managing the problems of interracial and inter-class relations that they may face. Immigrant families learn over time how to use these tools and strategies, combined with their knowledge, to their advantage.

Downward social mobility is a reality for many immigrants who have lost cultural, social, and economic capital when leaving the country of origin (Hofvander Trulsson, 2010). Much motivation is required when entering a new culture and there are considerable adaptations required in terms of new customs and cultural norms. The lack of economic or social success some may experience in a new culture does not correlate to immigrants being unmotivated or lacking in effort. Immigrants often have the skills to thrive in Canadian society, but their credentials obtained in another country are often not recognized by Canadian employers (Grant, Abrams, Robertson, & Garay, 2015). Many disadvantages are present and downward social mobility can be humiliating in front of children, relatives, and friends. While upward social mobility can bring with it new possibilities for ownership, status symbols, adoption of new opinions on society, music tastes, and individuality, downward social mobility can quickly bring with it a loss of self-confidence, lower standards of living, changing consumption habits, and fewer employment possibilities (Hofvander Trulsson, 2010).

Even though immigrant parents often face substantial societal disadvantages in their new cultures, studies indicate that they are often more involved in the education of their children than non-immigrant parents. Ichou et al. (2014) conducted a survey of four working-class suburban high schools to measure the relationship of immigrant families with the school system. Findings indicated that immigrant parents tended to make greater use of local educational support than non-immigrant parents, they had relatively higher educational aspirations for their children, and were more likely to ask for educational support. Furthermore, many immigrant parents had a more advanced level of education, such as a doctorate degree, than non-immigrant parents (Ichou et al., 2014). These results may indicate a reason for high levels of immigrant parental involvement in the education system. If immigrant parents themselves have prestigious degrees that are not recognized in Canada, it is only logical that they would encourage their children to obtain high degrees and strive for social mobility.

Lareau (2003), a dynamic sociologist who is extensively involved in studying social class and its effects on children, developed the terms 'concerted cultivation' and 'natural growth' in reference to two different social class-based methods of childrearing. Lareau argues that middle-class parents who engage in a childrearing pattern of concerted cultivation "deliberately try to stimulate their children's development and foster their cognitive and social skills" (Lareau, 2003, p. 5). Her concept of concerted cultivation childrearing can be related to immigrant parents such as those in Wang's (2008) study that looked at Chinese immigrants' home-school relations in the United States. They value academic success, hard work, and diligence, and their intentional methods of parenting combined with high educational aspirations for their children may indicate their adoption of Lareau's concerted cultivation method of childrearing rather than the working class approach of natural growth. It is perhaps this adoption of the concerted cultivation method of parenting, which could provide a driving force behind the upward mobility of children of immigrants (Kasinitz, 2008).

Throughout my teaching in both the private and public education systems, I have often noticed how intentional and involved immigrant parents were in the education of their children. Even with barriers such as language and unawareness of cultural norms at times, immigrant parents appeared to want to be very involved and engaged in open communication with the educator. In my observations, immigrant parents tended to be very interested in their child's academic achievement and how they were adjusting to the new classroom environment. Regardless of how much parents themselves may be struggling, these parents constantly put their children first, wanting to help create a better life for them in the new culture. Hofvander Trulsson (2015) explains this concept as intergenerational mobility, the changing levels of social mobility between generations, parents and children. Although parents may be disadvantaged as they enter a new culture, changing levels of social mobility can occur for their children. These parents recognize the degree of equal opportunity in life's stages and understand that motivation developed in childhood can successfully be carried into later life (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015). Immigrant parents encourage the development of talent and motivation and, therefore, are excited to be part of their children's education. The culture of mobility is an inescapable reality for immigrant families. Parents will do all that they can to ensure the possibility of upward mobility in Canadian culture. They choose to attach themselves to new attributes or characteristics that will help them thrive in this economy (Borjas, 2006). Using Bourdieu's terms, education is often used as a tool for reconstructing cultural and social capital lost in the move from one culture to another (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015).

Bourdieu's Cultural Theory, Community Cultural Wealth, and Music Education

Bourdieu's cultural theory, originating in his Theory of Practice (1977) consists of three key concepts: capital, habitus, and field. The four forms of capital- cultural, social, economic, and symbolic, are seen as resources capable of accumulation and exchange significant in the understanding of identities of class, as well as the understanding of the structural relationship between individuals and society (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015). The concept of habitus can explain how cultural capital is reflected in or central to one's identity. Hofvander Trulsson (2015) writes that language, culture, religion, and music can greatly contribute to the formation of one's identity, or habitus in accordance with Bourdieu's theory. Bourdieu's concepts of field and location indicate how capital and habitus position the family within the social arena and also how "different societal groups fight to influence family norms" (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015, p. 32). Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, field, and capital are all reflected in his interest in social inequality and how individuals are socialized differently according to their social location.

Cultural capital can be interpreted in a variety of ways, including its support of the notion that immigrant families have an array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts that can be an advantage to them in society (Yosso, 2005). Yosso (2005) critiques the common understanding of Bourdieu's theory that students of colour come into the classroom with cultural deficiencies. Immigrant families may face more disadvantages than born-Canadians, but they are able to use 'community cultural wealth', specifically music lessons for some, as a form of cultural wealth, to gain cultural capital and therefore engage in social mobility. Community cultural wealth consists of an "attempt to shift cultural capital analyses of social mobility from an individual to a social level" (Lu, 2013, p. 308). While contradicting the traditional Bourdieusian concept that cultural capital is only an "individual determinant inherited from the family" (Lu, 2013, p. 305), Lu emphasizes the importance of collective agency in the accumulation and creation of cultural capital. His study focuses on how community-based music schools develop a cultural strategy and use elite cultural capital in Western classical music to guide Chinese immigrants in their application and enrollment in prestigious colleges. Lu's work helps make us aware that music lessons are also a tool that can be included within the community cultural wealth available to immigrant families and may be used to develop cultural capital and encourage upward social mobility.

Music as a Means to Afford Social Mobility

Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital assumes that particular cultural knowledge holds power. As evident in Bourdieu and Lareau's writings, white, middle-class families tend to hold a type of elite cultural capital that permits them to accumulate specific forms of knowledge, skills, and abilities which are particularly valued by our society (Yosso, 2005). In our North American society, it can be argued that certain types of knowledge are valued over others, and to gain social mobility and move up in society, one must possess certain knowledge forms. Although immigrant children tend to be at a disadvantage when entering Canadian society, current research indicates that immigrant families are using different tools, such as private music lessons, to help place their children on the right track for upward social mobility (Lu, 2013).

As discussed above, music can be used more often as a tool for 'class remobility' and social control or integration (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015). With the help of intentional, involved parents who strive for better futures for their children, immigrant children are using a Western classical music infrastructure to pursue class 'remobility' and pursue higher Canadian education. Hofvander Trulsson (2005, 2010, 2015) conducts several studies that investigate immigrant families in Sweden and their practice of music as a decisive tool for the social integration of children. Her studies demonstrate how some minority parents in Sweden make a significant investment in their children's future, specifically through such music lessons. It is also evident however that parents have a large impact on their children's levels of discipline, evident in their practicing of music. Hofvander Trulsson (2010) exemplifies this in her study investigation that revealed the levels of discipline in many immigrant children which comes with a cost of significant pressure from parents and a lack of socialization. Immigrant parents often restricted their children from socializing with friends for the purpose of practicing their musical instrument for three to four hours a day. These parents spoke of their belief that the music education available in Swedish society was not challenging their children enough to reach to their full potential (Hofvander Trulsson, 2010). Two parents' statements in particular were published in Hofvander Trulsson's (2010) study where they spoke of restricting their children's time with friends to weekends. It appears from one mother's explanation that her son is young and expresses worry that he will not have time to meet his friends. The mother explains that once her son completes his practice sufficiently, then he can play with his friends. However, his practice often takes at least two hours because, as the mother explains, "His teacher thinks that he could play at a high level, so more work than normal is needed, not just twenty minutes per week" (Hofvander Trulsson, 2010, p. 33). The children's opinions on their amount of practicing is not clear in the study, but the study certainly narrates the pressure of performance evident in these immigrant children's lives. The children's social lives are limited and their parents' directions are followed in order to succeed in society. While success in society may result, one may question if this pressure of performance is too much to impose on children along with their lack of socialization with other children.

Lu (2013) conducted a similar study consisting of participant-observation fieldwork at a Taiwanese-owned music school, a local affiliate for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), in Flushing, Queens, New York City. He observed interactions between students, parents, and teachers, paying careful attention to how information was transmitted between those networks. When asking various parents about the importance of their children learning music, one parent responded to Lu emphasizing how important music education is for her child's education in the United States. Another parent highlighted the importance of music credentials and how music related to his daughter's academic performance. A major theme evident in the parents' responses was their initiative to make their children pass ABRSM exams. Lu carefully looks at underlying reasons or motives for using a British music credential program and why parents express so much interest in these exams.

Music schools such as the Mozart Music School investigated in Lu's (2013) study often use Western classical music as a tool to help increase social mobility. Chinese immigrant parents believe that obtaining British music credentials will result in a display of cultural competence in their children. Parents of long-term students quickly hold on to the belief that British music credentials signify class status and can assist in elite college admissions (Lu, 2013). North American prestigious universities and colleges often look at an applicant's well-roundedness, rather than simply their academic scores for possible admittance to a program. Western classical music is upheld as an effective sphere within which to obtain music credentials, therefore indicating the well-roundedness of an immigrant student. According to Lu (2013), the knowledge of the hierarchy of college and university rankings is well-known in North American Chinese communities and music education, in their minds, is a significant tool in reaching the top of the educational hierarchy.

Lareau's (2003) concept of 'concerted cultivation' parenting is strongly evident in families where immigrant parents are extremely involved and intentional about making sure their children advance musically. Although I believe parents can act differently within the 'concerted cultivation' realm, it can be argued that immigrant parents highly invest in private music lessons as a tool for upward social mobility using particular childrearing techniques. Although immigrant families face countless disadvantages when entering a new society, the 'concerted cultivation' parenting techniques employed by some, combined with involved, invested parents who encourage self-discipline and regulation especially in private music lessons, has resulted in upward social mobility for many immigrant children in society.

The cost of this process, however, must be addressed as well. The concerted cultivation approach involving Western classical music can quickly turn into an assimilationist tactic to suppress the cultural heritage of students in favour of hegemonic Western elite culture. Many children and parents appear to reject their own homeland's music and pursue the development of skills in Western classical music. Skills in a variety of other musics from immigrants' homelands are unable to be measured or assessed within a Western art music dominated music education system. Many elite universities still predominately favour the traditional genres of music composed for the Western elite: Western art music. Furthermore, extreme engagement in concerted cultivation parenting techniques raises questions concerning healthiness as a parenting strategy (Schiffrin, Godfrey, Liss, & Erchull, 2015). The outward appearance of immigrants' upwards social mobility through music may therefore come with a significant underlying cost.

Perhaps a shift in thinking about musical cultural capital in North America can occur with a focus on how participation in musical activities specifically aids immigrant families in additional ways beyond their upward social mobility. Immigrants lose capital on many different levels when moving to a new place, especially emotionally (Hofvander Trulsson, 2015). Music's connection to one's identity, as well as one's homeland can lead to a deep sense of joy and comfort. Hofvander Trulsson (2015) mentions also how musical activity is sometimes encouraged by parents for their children because they themselves were not able to experience musical activity. Parents may want children to experience the gift of music beyond the means of social mobility. Supplementary music education may fill other emotional needs for immigrant parents. Music schools, such as the Mozart Music School in Lu's (2013) article, or even other supplementary ethnic-language schools can be a positive source of community for immigrant families. Some of these schools serve as community centers that meet immigrants' social and cultural needs (Zhou & Kim, 2006). Immigrants do not necessarily live in communities where there are other immigrants from the same homeland. Often schools that provide supplementary education or ethnic organizations greatly aid in the transition to a new society and culture. The increase of one's music cultural capital has benefits beyond its leading to an increase in social mobility.

Music plays a variety of roles in the integration of immigrants in their new culture and it is crucial for music educators to understand both how music can help in the process of integration, as well as how immigrants often use music for integration and social mobility. Musical activities can positively impact the process of acculturation and integration for immigrants. Marsh (2012) documents an Australian multi-case study that investigates the role of music in immigrant children's lives. Students at the Freemont Intensive English Centre, where the study took place, had a large amount of freedom of choice and collaboration together to decide what types of music they were going to study. The Freemont Intensive English Centre consisted of a post-migration educational environment for students. For some refugees, this was their very first encounter with an education system. Students were able to elect to be part of music and dance activities, where choral singing of popular music and music from around the world was prevalent along with drumming and band accompaniment. Later hip hop dance classes began which stimulated lots of interest among the immigrant students. A recurring theme in music from this education centre was that music selection for the elective music and dance groups was constantly evolving and was related to the students' interests. The music teacher worked with students who knew how to play particular instruments or specialized in specific genres to provide them with performance opportunities. The open-ended and multicultural nature of the music selection process multiplied and more students wanted to contribute to musical collaboration (Marsh, 2012). This is a contrasting approach to concerted cultivation childrearing techniques while still appearing to consist of some structure and organization within the students' interests. Concerted cultivation childrearing techniques could be expanded in this way, while also leading to musical collaboration between immigrant students.

Inclusive musical processes evident in Marsh's (2012) study provided both a road for developing feelings of community and belonging as well as a sense of trust and cohesiveness. This study provides a meaningful example for music educators today. A variety of studies such as Marsh's (2012) publication indicate a variety of positive roles that music can have in immigrant students' lives. Although research implies the importance of music as a tool for social mobility in immigrant families, music can also be incorporated in the classroom as a tool for other results. An awareness of how music is used by parents in a new culture is necessary. Immigrant students who are highly encouraged to practice piano for hours at home would probably appreciate a change of setting in music class at school. Music classes should be an outlet for both immigrant and non-immigrant students to openly express themselves. If immigrant students wish to highlight their cultural heritage, that can be incorporated within lessons. But if immigrant students do not seem to want to highlight their cultural differences, that is to be respected as well. Perhaps using examples from a number of different cultures to highlight key ideas or themes in a subject area could be beneficial when students do not wish to have attention drawn to them. Themes of inclusiveness, collaboration, and openness to new ideas need to be expressed more in Canadian music classes. Marsh (2012) points out how repertoire selection was steadily evolving in her study and was specifically related to the interests and capacities of students. It is possible that music educators are not comfortable with additions like Marsh's (2012) ideas in their music program. However, changes can be small and can slowly happen over time.

Implications for Music Educators

Family musical cultural capital can significantly contribute to the use of music as a tool for upward social mobility and its role in one's identity in immigrant families. Some children may come from families with higher levels of cultural capital in the area of music (Valenzuela & Codina, 2014). Music in their family may play a variety of roles including an emotional role, helping bridge the gap for families from life in their homeland and the cultural habitus that is formed in one's upbringing (Hofvander Trulsson, 2010). Immigrant families may have a difficult time balancing the two different worlds where they have lived and are now living. Music can help diminish some of the difficulty of that task. Music from one's homeland can strengthen national identity and stir up feelings and memories (Hofvander Trulsson, 2010). In this way, music can bring communities of immigrants together and help strengthen community cultural wealth. The inclusion of various music cultures in music education curriculum can successfully help in the task of transitioning to a new culture and bring students together (Karlsen, 2013). This process may help children in Canadian education systems feel stronger and more capable to advance academically and move up socially. Many immigrant parents understand the importance of music as both cultural capital and as part of their identity, a connection to their homeland.

As music educators in the school system, we must realize the level of commitment many immigrant parents show to their children's musical involvement. Sensitivity to the significant role that music may have in their lives is necessary. We need to find a way to meet the needs and musical interests of as many students as possible especially because many Canadian students are not pursuing higher levels of music education. There is nothing wrong with trying to incorporate music from different homelands of immigrants especially if they feel an emotional connection to that particular genre of music.

Karlsen (2013) speaks of the necessity for a multitude of music cultures to be included as part of the curriculum and for music to also be used as an act of inclusion, playing an important role in the inclusive school. Many believe that music should be a subject area where students feel free to express themselves and highlight their different backgrounds. Diversity can openly be celebrated in music selections and performances. Many students with different backgrounds have high levels of commitment to music; lack of feelings of adequacy or comfort should not be limiting us in our music teaching. Karlsen (2013) refers to J.A. Banks' suggestions from the Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education where he suggests using examples and information from several different cultures to illustrate key principles or concepts within the subject area, rather than the conscious inclusion of concepts from immigrant's homelands. He later proposes several subjects in which it tends to be easier to incorporate various ethnic and cultural content, including social studies, language arts, and music. Karlsen (2013) suggests the inclusion of ethnic and cultural content in music classes through the use of today's advanced technology. Instead of teaching information from different cultures in a Western, 'white' way, resources are available online that may help demonstrate those specific concepts effectively. Simply by including notations of songs from different cultures, one cannot accurately represent the world's musical complexity (Karlsen, 2013). As evident in research of how music from immigrants' homelands should be incorporated into the music classroom, there are a variety of ways in which that is possible. I would argue that it depends on the type of classroom that one is teaching in, taking into account the backgrounds of the students who are present. Some students may not be open or comfortable to identify with a particular culture, while other students may want to endlessly share facts and samples of music from their homeland. I believe educators need to apply sensitivity to situations, open their eyes to students' respect and levels of comfort, as well as to be aware of social codes that may be present in the school system.

Music has a significant role in the construction and reflection of one's identity. Music is often viewed as a "medium through which identities and frames for action are negotiated" (Karlsen, 2013, p. 163). Music is not an isolated object but rather is part of individual and communal positioning, seen as an essential part of construction when habitus and cultural capital are developed (Hofvander Trulssen, 2015). Music can serve a purpose of cohesion among individuals or help create a collective identity. The concept of music's impact on collective identity could contribute to Yosso's (2005) concept of community cultural wealth.

This paper demonstrated the many functions or roles music plays in the lives of immigrants. Music can often play a constructing role in the formation of individual identity and collective identity between immigrant students, it can be used as a vehicle for homeland memories and unity among students, and music can help immigrant families adjust to their culture while collectively engaging with other immigrant families. The culture of mobility evident in the lives of immigrants is investigated and several case studies support the evidence of the increasing number of immigrant families using music as a tool for social mobility and social integration. Marsh (2012) and Karlsen (2003) both provide strong models for the integration of music from other cultures into the classroom. Music being used as a tool for social mobility has its positive implications, bringing immigrant families together and bridging emotional gaps, but also has many drawbacks as music is not being performed and studied for music's sake; rather, music is being used as a tool for a greater end and comes with a cost.

Written as a challenge for music educators today, I strive to open up the eyes of individuals to understand how immigrant families in Canada, despite the many disadvantages they may face, are able to use music combined with intentional, concerted cultivation methods of parenting, to begin a new life here in North America. While using music as a tool for social mobility has many benefits, it also comes with a cost. Music educators have a responsibility to help students develop their musical cultural capital and open themselves up to new ways of conducting a music class that would apply to all children's backgrounds. While Western classical music has a significant role in the culture of mobility among immigrants in Canada, it is my hope that music educators can focus, rather, on the integration of immigrants' cultures and backgrounds within their music classrooms.


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Laura Benjamins is a first year PhD student in music education at Western University in London, Ontario. She holds a B.A. in piano performance and a B.Ed. from Redeemer University, an A.R.C.T in piano performance through the Royal Conservatory of Music, as well as a M.Mus. in music education from Western University. Laura is an occasional music educator both in the public and private school systems while also working as a private piano instructor in her home studio. Laura's research interests include informal music learning, church music, social mobility and music education, as well as music curriculum.

First Place Winner--Laura Benjamins

Faculty Advisor--Dr. Ruth Wright, Western University
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Title Annotation:recurring motifs: Canadian music in education/education musicale canadienne: Pat Shand Canadian Music in Education Essay Contest
Author:Benjamins, Laura
Publication:Canadian Music Educator
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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