Justine Dolorfino: Music, Technology and…Pharmaceuticals ☆

Justine Dolorfino, EdM Student in Music and Music Education

Tell us about your academic career and how you found your way to TC.
I did my undergrad at Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  It’s a tiny Liberal Arts school, and I went there mainly for their emphasis on study abroad.  Around 86% of students go abroad for at least 3 months.  I did a BA double major in Psychology and Music.  I studied abroad in London at Goldsmiths College.  It was here that I decided I wanted to go into Music Education.  I wanted to go to a school that had a certification program, and I found TC on a Google search.

Your study has focused on gender stereotypes in Music.  How did that interest develop?
In London I had great teachers.  I took Popular Music classes, which is like going to school to get a degree in pop music.  Goldsmiths is one of the only schools to offer this type of class, and it’s awesome.  In my class, we were put in groups of six and learned to perform a song.  I wound up being in a group of all women, and we did Janis Joplin.  The lecturer, who had taught there for 13 years, said that it was the first time she was able to put together an all-women ensemble.  And that hit me.  Kalamazoo is a very liberal school, and feminism was a big thing in a lot of the classes.  So it was something I was always aware of, but I really got to thinking about it in London.

When I got back from studying abroad, as a Psych major I had to do a Research Methods class.  And for my first Lit Review I did “Gender Stereotypes in Music Instruments”.  And that got me looking at Music Education, and I thought, “maybe I can do that.”  I play bass, and everyone thinks that is an instrument for a man.   I play upright and electric, and I get the dumbest questions when I’m walking with the upright on the street.  People will ask, “Is that yours?”  I get the questions because of my gender and because I’m short.  People will actually ask if I had to get a modified guitar because I’m short.  These questions made me think, for sure.  And the experience of being the only girl in a jazz band made me think.  Is it something about the instrumentation of jazz bands?  Is it because girls are less likely to play trombone and saxophone?  It really got me interested in getting involved.

How have you pursued this line of research at TC?
I arrived at TC for Admitted Student’s Weekend.  And I met Dr. Abeles, who is responsible for seriously looking at gender stereotyping in the field.   As I was talking with him, it was like there were lights going off.

During Orientation in 2009 I went up to Dr. Abeles and told him that I did my first Lit Review on his work, and that I’d really love to work with him.  I started researching with him and we put together a pilot study.  The study looked to see if different ethnic groups would have the same stereotypes or associations with different instruments.  Dr. Abeles designed the survey as a continuum.  The survey would include flute, clarinet, violin, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and drums, and the subject would need to put them in order from “feminine” to “masculine”.  That’s the order most people would put them in, by the way.  The first year we did the study with Caucasians and Asians, and there were some slight differences in order, though they were not statistically significant.  And we recently collected more data from a historically black college so now we can compare three ethnicities.  We did find significant differences between the black and white rankings, so that is interesting.  I just found out that my paper on this subject was accepted for oral presentation at a Masters Music Education Research Symposium at Penn State.  And we will be presenting another paper that is an extension of the qualitative work that Dr. Abeles has been doing.

Can you share some insights on gender and music?
Music has a very masculine representation.  For instance, look at composers.  They are mostly white men.  When you look at a lot of cultures, it traces back to the fact that men were supposed to have the lung capacity and the strength to play instruments.  Women could either sing or play piano, which allowed them to keep their image and still appear feminine.  But then somehow there is this odd dichotomy where music and Music Education is considered to be a feminine subject. From K-12, women are the majority in Music Education, but then when you go to the symphony, it’s all men.  So there is something happening there.  And when I realized that there was something happening, that’s when I really figured out my course of study.

There is this idea that it is female and degrading for males to play certain instruments (like the flute), but that it is okay, and considered “sexy” for women to take on more masculine instruments.  And I’ve seen that and heard the comments when I play bass.

Tell us about your interest in technology and how you see it in service to education.
I’ve always been interested in tech stuff.  I had a blog when I was 12 years-old, before anyone knew what they were.  At TC, this interest really took off.  Ravi learned that I had tech background and journalism experience, so she asked if I could work on Pressible (TC’s blogspot).  Now I run the Music Education Program blog on Pressible and I helped design the program’s website.

If more schools and more teachers were using tech, like Web 2.0/Social Media to facilitate their teaching and to supplement what they are already doing well, it would keep their teaching fresh and they’d be better able to relate to their students.   There are so many creative aspects that can be explored with tech and education.  Blogs and discussion posts, Wikis; Even having a website or a Twitter feed so you can instantly push class or rehearsal updates to your students.  While there is the issue of transparency—you don’t want your students to be your Facebook buddies—it is all about knowing how to use the technology and how it can supplement what you are already doing, and shifting your curriculum accordingly.

What is your trick to get reluctant or tech-phobic professors or teachers to be more open to the possibilities?
Anecdotes.  And, beyond using tech in the classroom, the amount of professional development that can be found online is amazing.

You’ve been described as an “accidental Ed.M.”  What a funny distinction!
I arrived at TC with my MA.  At Kalamazoo, we were on trimesters and we didn’t work on credits, so to be perfectly honest, I got to TC and didn’t really understand the system.  Sometime last summer I was talking to Ravi and she said, “Dr. Abeles and I think you should do the Ed.M.”  My first thought was, “why would I want to do that?”  Then I started tracking it out and saw that if I just graduated in May, I’d have an extra 12 credits, which is a lot.  So then I decided to do one more semester, get eight more credits, and have an advanced degree.

So you’ll have this advanced degree in Music Education, yet you just got a job as an off-site consultant for a medical company.  How does that happen?
I took Dr. Jim Frankel’s class, “Introduction to Music Technology”.  We had to do a new web project, and I used Twitter without knowing how much Music Education is already there.  It turns out that there is a weekly Twitter chat for Music Education people, and I got really involved with that community.  That led to my starting up an Education and Social Media website with Andy Zweibel (from the University of Miami), where people could come to us for advice.

So, my parents have a friend who is a VP at a specialty pharmacy company, and they are interested in getting involved in social media.  It was definitely cool that we paid $30 to put up our website because the VP saw the site and got in touch with me.  I met with one of the pharmacy’s VP’s and presented him with a proposal including a timeline of plans, actions and deliverables.  And I’ve been working with them since January.

Are you excited about your work with the pharmacy?
I love what is going on at the pharmaceutical company. They are developing a new strategy.  Nobody in the field is doing this type of social media, so if we can pull it off it will be awesome.  They are trying to tap into the human interest side and communicate what is new in the field, all to better serve the consumer.

You are truly the product of a Liberal Arts education.  Does your social media work somehow connect to your music?
The thing with Liberal Arts is that I want to do everything! I’m certainly keeping my options open.  If I work for the pharmacutical company for a few years, then it’ll be great experience.  I’m the type of person that if I really want to have music in my life, then in some way I’ll have it.  I don’t see anything as being unrelated.  And that’s because I went to a Liberal Arts college.  If I didn’t come to TC to study music, then I wouldn’t have fallen into the tech stuff, then I wouldn’t have the job that I do now.  So everything is connected.  At TC, we have a huge emphasis on creativity, thinking outside the box, rolling with what you have, and looking at a scenario with new eyes.  Which is exactly what I am doing.

Justine’s website: http://www.justine-dolorfino.com

Justine’s Education and Social Media website: http://education-sms.net/

Justine’s work on the Arts and Humanities Music website: http://musiced.pressible.org