“Straight, No Chaser”: An Unsung Blues

Joyce M. McCall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


While U.S. music schools and their music education programs have taken some steps within the last few decades to challenge racism and hegemonic structures, in this chapter, I contend that these efforts—deficient of Black critical voices—contradict their intended aims and contribute to what I refer to as “an unsung blues,” a collection of blues stories that have yet to be performed by those to whom they belong. These programs fund this dilemma by creating and encouraging weak diversity and inclusion attempts that, in turn, have emboldened passive recruiting and retention efforts, as well as devious gatekeeping tactics. Using critical race theory, I critique how U.S. college music programs’, particularly music teacher programs’, negligence of troubling all forms of racism within their structures commissioned three choruses of an unsung blues (the recruitment and retention of people of color, the hegemonic structure of music teacher education programs, and placement and positionality of voice in scholarship). Thelonious Monk, African American jazz icon and genius, gifted us with explicit counternarratives to traditional musical concepts that have been observed as unconventional and disharmonious. Through his facilitation of innovation and change, Monk transformed the uncomfortable into thoughtful, clear expressions of artistry and sound. In “Straight, No Chaser,” a 12-bar blues, and other musical works, not only did Monk embrace innovation and celebrated difference, but he unapologetically shattered the status quo. Using Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” and his compositional and performance styles as metaphor, I illustrate how his music and other cultural artifacts could be used to confront countless choruses of an unsung blues and provide a better path forward to realizing substantive change among U.S. music schools and their music education programs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Critical Race Theory in Education
EditorsMarvin Lynn, Adrienne D Dixson
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781351032216
ISBN (Print)9781138491724, 9781138491717
StatePublished - Oct 26 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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