the college of performing arts at the new school announces new courses and curriculum updates focused on issues of race and social justice

The college will also welcome six new faculty members to its roster this Fall


August 7, 2020, New York - The New School’s College of Performing Arts (CoPA) announced today six new courses centered on issues of race and social justice in the performing arts. In response to a request for proposals, the College of Performing Arts received fifty-five submissions and is pleased to share details about the six new courses that will be offered to students at CoPA and across its three schools, Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama.

Along with these six new courses, the college will welcome six new faculty members to its roster. 

“I had a friend, Maxine Greene, who once said to me that the ‘curriculum is a way of life.’ To that end, we seek to make changes to our CoPA curriculum through these six brilliant courses on race and the performing arts” said Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts.

This new curriculum will advance, interrogate, and deepen students’ understanding of historical and current issues of race and the performing arts professions and practices, including music, theater, opera, film, and television. These courses will be taught by highly renowned artists in their respective fields who were selected through a competitive and rigorous adjudication process conducted by the full-time faculty and administrators at the College of Performing Arts. 

“I’m thrilled to join the faculty this fall and look forward to participating in the CoPA artistic community,” said Jasmine Henry. “I’m particularly excited to teach ‘This is America’ which explores how Black popular music artists use critical race storytelling practices to musically challenge negative portrayals of Black Americans in the mainstream media and share diverse perspectives of Black life in the United States. Overall, I hope that this course plays a role in illuminating the voices of people that are too often marginalized in United States society and inspiring the next generation of socially-conscious, culturally-responsive artists.”

The new course offerings include: 

Staging Black Queer Lives: From Africa to Black Lives Matter taught by Tabitha Chester

This course will center dramatic texts and performances that stage and explore the histories, experiences, and stories of Queer Black people in the United States. The study of Black Theatre is often dominated by plays written by and/or about cis-heterosexual Black men. This course seeks to disrupt this imbalance by focusing on plays, playwrights, and performances that are often marginalized in the study of Black Theatre.

Tabitha Chester, PhD is a performance studies scholar specializing in gender, sexuality and religion in the Black diaspora. Their manuscript in progress “Always a Preacher’s Daughter: The Performance of Gender and Sexuality in and beyond the Church” (under advance contract with Northwestern University Press), interrogates the archetypal narrative of the "wild preacher's daughter." Their research uses both popular culture and the lived experiences of Black women to explore the development and performance of sexual and gender identities. 

The Jazzmeia Horn Approach taught by Jazzmeia Horn

In preparation for the many peaks and valleys of life's journey, through jazz music this course will enable the student to successfully perform comfortably within themselves no matter their race, identity, class, gender, culture, or political stance. Students will be encouraged to build a foundation for self-motivation, self-determination, and self-love and liberation.

Jazzmeia Horn is The 2020 NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Jazz Album, 2020 UK Gilles Peterson Worldwide Award nominee for Best Jazz Album, 2020 Jazz Japan Magazine Award winner for Jazz Album of The Year, 2020 Argentina's El Intruso Best Female Jazz Vocalist of The Year Award winner, 2017 & 2019 Grammy nominated artist for Best Vocal Jazz Album, 2019 NPR #1 Jazz Album Award winner, the winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Intl. Vocal Jazz Competition at Kennedy Center, a graduate of the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School, and the winner of the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Jazz Competition.

The Other Opera taught by Kamala Sankaram

This course will investigate opera’s troubled history and relationship with race, including stereotyped depictions of Black characters and the continued use of blackface make-up. Despite this, the field (especially in the United States) has generated an impressive roster of Black artists, both behind the scenes and onstage. In this course, students will use the lens of modern critical race theory to understand the impact of race on operatic storytelling.

Kamala Sankaram, PhD, is the recipient of a Jonathan Larson Award from the American Theater Wing, and has received grants from Opera America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kevin Spacey Foundation, and the MAP Fund. Residencies and fellowships include the MacDowell Colony, the Watermill Center, the Civilians, HERE Arts Center, CAP21, Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis, the Hermitage, and, American Lyric Theater. She has performed and premiered pieces with Beth Morrison Projects, Anthony Braxton, and the Wooster Group, among others, and is the leader of Bombay Rickey, an operatic Bollywood surf ensemble. Dr. Sankaram holds a PhD from The New School and is a member of the composition faculty at SUNY Purchase.

The Power Of Artists In Culturally Responsive Pedagogy taught by Wéma Ragophala

This course will focus on the powerful role that Artists have when engaging in community. This course will examine teaching methods, strategies, and expand techniques in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy through Emancipatory Arts Education.

Wéma Ragophala is a diversity, equity, and inclusion leader with community engagement experience designing, leading, and managing programs and services for people with disabilities. Ragophala has facilitated training in culturally responsive pedagogy for Teaching Artists at Brooklyn Arts Council and NYC Arts in Education Roundtable and is an Arts Education Manager at Brooklyn Arts Council. Ragophala holds a Bachelor of Arts, Theater from Pace University and an Emerging Leaders in Nonprofit Management Post Degree Certificate from Baruch College. 

"This Is America" Critical Race Storytelling in Black Popular Music Performance taught by Jasmine Henry

In 2018, rapper Childish Gambino released “This is America,” a critically acclaimed hip- hop song and music video that addressed systemic issues of racial injustice, police brutality, and anti-black discrimination in the United States. Using critical race theory frameworks, this course will focus on how Black artists such as Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyoncé develop counternarratives and stories in their music to dismantle the stereotypes and dominant narratives that systemic racism produces.

Jasmine Henry is a music educator and audio engineer. Born and raised in New Jersey, Henry is the product of years of hard work and dedication in the arts. Her passion for music and the arts led her to earn several scholarships and degrees including a Bachelor of Music in Sound Engineering and Master of Music in Music Business from William Paterson University. Currently, Henry is working on her Ph.D. in Musicology at Rutgers University and teaching music technology, business, and history courses at Rutgers University, Felician University, Brookdale Community College, Passaic Community College, and Newark School of the Arts. As an audio engineer, she has on-set and backstage experience from critically acclaimed productions such as HBO’s The Newsroom, Broadway’s Chicago, and the Blue Man Group. 

What Your Textbooks Forgot: Re-Writing American Performance History taught by Hannah Grantham

This course will focus on American performance (music, theatre, and dance) history, which has long been told from a narrow perspective that mentions a few names while omitting many black voices that contributed significantly to the development of American culture. This course will survey the black performers and black stories from 1865 to 1980 that haven’t been featured in history textbooks. 

Hannah Grantham is a DC-based musicologist currently working at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History & Culture as the Curatorial Assistant for Music & Performing Arts. Her research focuses on the history of musical instruments, jazz, folk music, and the material culture of music. She has worked with music collections at the Smithsonian, the University of South Dakota’s National Music Museum, and the Music Library at the University of North Texas.

“I hope that these courses and the faculty that created and will teach them, will play a first and important role across the CoPA-wide curriculum in changing our way of life and I am excited by these initial six courses and the prospect of much more to come this spring and beyond” said Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts. 

The College of Performing Arts at The New School (CoPA) was formed in 2015 and brings together the iconic Mannes School of Music, the legendary School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the ground-breaking School of Drama. With each school contributing its unique culture of creative excellence, the College of Performing Arts is a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration, bold experimentation, innovative education, and world-class performances. 

As a part of The New School, students across CoPA experience a supportive and rigorous environment that provides abundant opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty in a wide array of disciplines including the visual arts, fashion, design and technology, architecture, philosophy, psychology, public policy, advocacy, and more. CoPA has over 1100 students seeking degrees and diplomas in performance, composition, acting, writing, as well as arts management and entrepreneurship. New York City’s Greenwich Village provides the backdrop for the College of Performing Arts, which is housed at Arnhold Hall on West 13th Street and the historic Westbeth Artists Community on Bank Street.

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.


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