I’ve been thinking a lot about why classical music institutions and organizations have difficulty adequately engaging with the artistic work of non-white musicians. I believe it comes down to the degree of intentionality we’re willing, ready, and capable to bring to not just what we do, but also how we go about it.
Below are three presentations I made in September to Choral Arts New England (CANE Conversations: Grants During a Time of Crisis), The Juilliard School's Office of Community Engagement (The Arts as Community Engagement and Activism), and during a guest lecture in a composition class at Brown University
So, 2017 was a failure by any working musician’s count.
I’ve been teaching music appreciation in some form since 2010. I look back on my lecture notes, lecture slides, and class materials from the beginning of the decade and see a scared graduate student, someone burdened by the immensity of music history, someone grounded in an extremely traditional educational experience (i.e., a near-exclusive focus on the musical, written, and philosophical work of white men, including a reliance on Schenkerian music theory).
I finally feel like I’m starting to figure it all out, though.
TI, “Whatever You Like” (2007)
Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like” (2016)
Desire is front and center in both of these songs. TI and Mars paint alluring pictures of social status-driven fantasies—“Oh, what a jealousy-inducing life we’ll lead!”—designed to tempt and charm their female conversation partners, as if they had no other desire than to fulfill the women’s every wish.
I am completely convinced of the necessity of arts appreciation in a college education.
This semester, I’ve been teaching at two different campuses, SUNY Purchase and CUNY Queensborough Community College. The student bodies are quite different, so this has been an interesting experiment in essentially teaching the same course to three different classes of students. I’ll reflect on this properly at the end of the term, but this week there was a presidential election.
Earlier this month, I attended the Resonant Bodies Festival at Merkin Hall to hear fantastic singers present compelling 20th and 21st century music that moved them. This year, the festival is kind of a big deal, and all three women headlining the well-attended opening night were unquestionably a big “get,” and the audience seemed to know it. I found the music to be lovely and the singing to be exceptional, and I was especially captivated by the exactitude and charisma of Tony Arnold’s opening set. Most reviewers gushed about the entire program, understandably.
Last night, I graduated from the CUNY Graduate Center (family in town, the hooding ceremony, all the official pomp!), and it was such a mix of sensations: trying not to dis/encourage my wildly waving brother in the audience too much, awe at the range of impressive dissertations by the new doctors from all the disciplines (Doctor of Audiology! Doctor of Urban Education! Doctor of Criminal Justice! oh, and the PhDs, too), the concentrated endurance of focusing as nearly 250 graduates were named and hooded on stage, and nerves.