Kei Slaughter

Associate Professor
Affiliated Departments

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Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, Kei Slaughter is an active flutist, vocalist, songwriter, and music therapist. Having grown up in the Black church, they are often celebrated for their highly inventive compositions, soulful vocals, quiet power, and their astute ability to use music as a storytelling medium. Slaughter has performed on reputable stages across the United States both as a solo artist and with collaborative projects.

As a clinician, they have extensive experience working in behavioral health, community music, and private practice with individuals and groups. A board-certified music therapist since 2010, Slaughter specializes in music therapy with BIPOC youth, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, and survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. They earned their bachelor's degree in music therapy from Loyola University, an M.F.A. in music composition from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and an M.A. in mental health and wellness counseling from New York University. Currently, they are pursuing a Ph.D. in expressive therapies at Lesley University. Slaughter is incredibly passionate about community-engaged, justice-seeking approaches to music and health. Their research is inclusive of music therapy and queer and trans Black identities, African American spirituality, and critical arts-based inquiry.

Additionally, Slaughter is the Founder of S O U L F O L K Sounds, a music and wellness practice that focuses on elevating and sustaining Black queer and trans communities. Their work as an artist-scholar-practitioner is deeply rooted in Black/African diasporic musical-cultural lineages, as well as Black methodologies of healing, creativity, and collective care.

Career Highlights
  • Vocal Psychotherapy-trained music therapist
  • Recent publications include an artistic response "River Run (Nancy Maker Brown Song) Revisioned and Reimagined," published in Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy (2021), with other publications related to LGBTQIA2S+ identity, the Black Church, and music therapy in review
  • Recordings include Dark Fire (2017) and featured performances as a vocalist and flutist on various studio recording projects
  • OneBeat 11 Fellow, 2023
  • Inaugural Black Trans Fund Arts and Culture Fellow, 2023
In Their Own Words

As it has been beautifully articulated by the late esteemed Black feminist writer bell hooks, I truly believe that education is a practice of freedom; that it is about liberation, embracing a diverse range of voices and perspectives, challenging dominant narratives, deconstructing colonial paradigms, and imagining and embodying new ways of being. I like watching students learn more about who they are, how their cultures, identities, and lived experiences intersect and inform the way they think, create, and approach their professional and personal work. I like watching students make music together as well as joining and/or guiding them in that. I like witnessing students explore who they are musically and more deeply understand their capacities to be agents of change in their daily lives. I like to see students enjoy the learning experience and taking an active role in that process. I like when students are empowered to ask questions, tap into their creativity, experiment with something that may be new or unfamiliar to them, leaning into the unknown, even if there is a bit of discomfort, towards something generative, inspiring, and potentially transformative. I hope for my students to change and to be changed by what we (they) encounter in the learning environment, to know that we all have wisdom to share and that I’m there to learn as much from them as they are from me, and that this exchange of multiple knowledges and ways of experiencing the world is what makes learning relatively joyful and life-giving. I want students to leave classes feeling more self-aware, empowered to ask questions and to continue developing their own unique ways of being in the world, their own capacities for growth and change, and to impact the world around them. I invite students to stay curious, be playful, courageous, attuned to self and others, and enjoy the journey.

I’m a musician, singer-songwriter, and composer as well as a music therapist and mental health professional. I would say that my connection to music is active, alive, and very embodied. It is a vibrational medium through which I endeavor to communicate freely and with curiosity, welcoming authentic exploration and expression from all engaged in the (therapeutic, learning, ritual) process. As a Black, queer, nonbinary person, my therapeutic and pedagogical approach is deeply informed by African American contemplative practices, traditions of the Black church, as well as musical and cultural lineages of the African diaspora. Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, music was simply a part of everyday life, everyday struggles, everyday joys, etc. It brings people together. The art is living, and it enlivens everything around it. To this end, relational, music-centered, resource-oriented, and culturally resonant methodologies of care have always been a way of life for me and are the heartbeat of my teaching and healing praxis. I believe that education is about embracing and elevating a diversity of voices and perspectives, bringing marginalized voices to the center, and committing to liberation. As an educator, practitioner, and clinical supervisor, I believe that collaborative learning between students and faculty is central to transformative education as well as personal and professional growth. I believe in the power of music to promote social change, belonging, health and wholeness. From my perspective, it’s imperative to practice reflexivity and to be intentional about the work we do. I value every opportunity as an educator to cocreate brave, care-filled, liberatory learning spaces where we can disturb/wrestle with seemingly settled concepts, while creating, exploring, and expressing ourselves freely and authentically, together.