Classical Gatekeeping and Imperialism in Music Ed

Christina Bishop
5 min readDec 9, 2020

If you hate them that much, why defend the culture they are victims of?

“I don’t like 2 Set very much but I also don’t like your analysis of the situation. You make classical music out to be some great common enemy. It’s not. You make everything out to be some conspiracy against you. It’s not. You say that 2 set are both elites. They are not. You see the trend here? They have by far brought classical music mainstream and have created new listeners of music that would have never seen or played it. Adam Neely has done this for jazz. Rick Beato has done this for more recent rock music. It’s how you approach the situation that is your problem. I was not into classical music for a long time because of a stigma. Most people can learn to swallow their preconceptions and learn about it. I listen to classical music more than any other genre other than rock maybe. I am apart of a few bands and my local orchestra. I was never gate-kept. I was never turned away unless I did poorly on an audition (which is their right to do). Classical musicians are not some high society snobs, they are simply other types of musicians. The people who gatekeep classical are not actually fans of classical. They are fans of oppression. This is in every genre of music and art. 2 set to my knowledge has never put down their fans. They rib other instruments sure but they are always welcoming. Your crusade to take the fun out of music is well documented in this sub and was removed from others because of your attacks on others. Take music less seriously and it becomes fun. Stress like this and you get your current state.”- A Blocked Redditor

This was a response to an essay on Medium about how YouTubers TwoSetViolin are not only part of the problem when we talk about Classical Gatekeeping and Imperialism in Music Education but are also victims of a music culture that does not keep an open mind to other genres of music and the issues that harm their musicians rather than give opportunities to people who need good music education without hoops to jump through or weeds to pull. Just like everyone has a right to learn about literature, reading, math, and science; people no matter their circumstances should learn music and all its diversity. Although he mentions Adam Neely he is not aware he did a video on how our ideas on music theory need to be updated to include not just western classical music but also the classical and folk traditions of other cultures like Volksmusik, Ragga, Gospel, Blues, Klezmer, and how important folk musicology is for these genres to survive.

Also when we read textbooks about composers do they talk about Mozart’s Autism, Beetovan’s depression, Handel being in debt which inspired The Messiah, or about Tchaikovsky and Britten’s struggles with having gay partners? If we did discuss these issues with not only the classical composers and the jazz greats we can inspire students who do struggle with mental health issues and help vulnerable communities like people who are LGBTQ, minorities who struggle with drug abuse, and people with Autism who view going to school as something terrifying because of bullying and microaggression brought on by not only students but by teachers. Instead of analyzing Amadeus with the bad Salieri narrative; we can use it to address what happens when no one speaks up to bullying and microaggressions Autistic people face every day especially for Middle Schoolers. Mozart used his music to communicate issues he was afraid to say or even talk about and Salari is our sightreader to read the emotions and struggles of Mozart in his music.

Instead of separating jazz, folk, rock, and classical, we can use it to talk about narrative structures like the similarities between Schubert’s Der Erlkonig and pieces like Cab Calloway’s Minne the Mocher to Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. The structure of Erlkong and Minnie in terms of lyrics is that our main protagonist Minnie and the father’s son die because of a mysterious character or unseen force; for Minnie, it’s smoking opium while dreaming about the King of Sweden… POOR MINNIE! for the boy the Erlkonig kills him without the father knowing until… In seinen Armen das Kind war Tot! (In his arms the child was dead). In terms of mood, Iron Man and Erlkonig are quite similar both making us the listener feel fear and dread.

Also by learning a wide range of genres we can understand our history and the struggles of others like the Comedian Harmonist; considered the first boy band way before NSYNC they loved singing and jazz music during the early stages of Nazi Germany and oftentimes their musical silliness got them in trouble with the Nazis. However, when Hitler declared jazz was degenerate they had to flee to America but before they did they sung a song called Irgendwo auf die Welt (Somewher in the World). It was not only a song of sadness but a song of hope to many Germans who fled to America; people like my Oma and Opa Krappmann. When I hear it it makes me cry because I understand it from the German-American perspective but many people who close-minded and were not born in an immigrant family may never understand. Similar to our jodel ballads which also reflect on the loss and memory of land you had to leave behind; one I have referenced many times is the Erherzog Johan Jodel which is not only a song of pride but of homesickness and loss of those memories due to assimilation and cultural imperialism. This jodel ballad also breaks the stereotype of Volksmusik being about Beir and being Lustig all the time.

My point is you don’t have to be classically trained or have a wall full of diplomas to be a good musician. You just have to have an open mind to all music, learn about your favorite genre by doing research, ask questions, support people who are vulnerable like the victims of abuse, discrimination, and harassment at classical conservatories. I know because I too wanted to be not only an educator but a degree that said I’m a good tuba player when in reality I didn’t need one and that it was not my fault for not having or earning one. For victims of abuse, harassment, discrimination who are also musicians it feels like the voice we built up for us was taken away by someone powerful no matter how many complaints we file or authorities we tell we are afraid of not being believed. It took me a long time until I got my red plastic tuba, Hubert before I found my voice again as a tuba player. The man who helped me gain my voice back was my private instructor Chuck Russel, and now that I finally have my four-valve Hubert my voice can be even stronger than before. Too many musicians imitate others when they can be themselves and develop their own unique voice that people will recognize them for many years.

Originally published at



Christina Bishop

Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra