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Better Together with Coty Raven Morris

Coty Raven Morris Portrait

Better Together with Coty Raven Morris

Using music as a vehicle to get people talking naturally about diversity, equity and inclusion works for Coty Raven Morris.

In October 2019, Coty Raven Morris was asked to speak at the Texas Music Educators Association 2020 conference in February. She was a graduate student in the Michigan State University College of Music at the time, and she was being asked to present on diversity, equity and inclusion to music educators throughout the state.

Without a Ph.D. in the subject area, Morris questioned if she was qualified—she felt a sense of impostor syndrome. She had, however, taught choir for six years in Texas before enrolling at MSU in 2018, and had worked with youth music programs in Lansing in her time as a Spartan. So, at the urging of a mentor, she decided to present at the TMEA conference.

The resulting presentation laid the groundwork for Morris’ Being Human Together, a “budding music education community striving to normalize difficult topics in [the field of music] through conversation and connection.”

“We don’t know how to communicate anymore,” Morris says. “And I created Being Human Together because I know we can have conversations where we understand people, where we slow down and actually get to know human beings. We need to realize that it is important to practice conversation.”

Being Human Together did not hit the ground running immediately, however. After wowing the TMEA crowd with her talk in February, Morris had to figure out what was next. She was graduating in May with her Master of Music in choral conducting, but she also wanted to work on something like that DEI presentation. Then the pandemic halted the world and George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Morris knew it was time to bring her ideas to a larger crowd.

Fortunately, there was an audience. In June 2020, Morris, from her apartment in East Lansing, put on a series of events over Zoom. Using a lot of the same materials she used in her presentation at the TMEA conference, Morris dubbed it Being Human Together. Over three sessions, she met with teachers, students and anyone else who would join.

Morris focused on discussions that avoided creating tension between people having conversations. Like the name of her program, she focused on getting better together. “People reached out to me, letting me know that I was inviting them to grow,” Morris says. That growth is vital, according to Morris, and it’s something she is proud to bring to Being Human Together.

Since those three sessions in June, Morris has presented in front of  multiple classrooms and at clinics and workshops. She moved back to Texas, where she is the director of choirs at Crosby High School in the Houston area.

She is going to continue building Being Human Together—to keep discussing traditionally taboo subjects like mental health, systemic oppression, diversity and inclusivity. She credits her time at MSU for showing her that she could be a  leader in that field. “My time at MSU showed me that I do love music,” she says, “but it made me really flesh out my teaching philosophy: My life’s purpose is to touch as many lives as possible through the vehicle of music.”

With Being Human Together, Morris is on her way. 

To learn more about Coty Raven Morris and Being Human Together, visit her website. 

Author: Liam Boylan-Pett

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