Visible, legitimate, and beautiful justice: A case study of music education formalization within a Haitian NGO

Kevin Shorner-Johnson, Elizabethtown College


When music education is formalized within schools and non-governmental organizations, it often becomes aligned with justice-oriented aims of providing universal access to music education. This qualitative case study examines the formation of a marching band within a Haitian school in northeastern Haiti. Data sources collected and analyzed included participant-observation experience, participant interviews, non-governmental organization Facebook posts, and newsletters. Findings indicate the marching band became a form of justice, solidarity, organizational legitimacy, and community leadership. The marching band was related to justice because it made the honorable humanity of participants visible and satisfied a moral calling for talent development. A case study of the cholera epidemic in Haiti reveals how the marching band afforded the school a forum for legitimate community leadership. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators had differing views about the purpose of formalized music education. Students saw music education as important because it cultivated the beautiful.