BCCM Social Justice Statement
The recent killings of unarmed Black people in the United States have generated international outrage and condemnation. These grave events affect everyone in our community of music-makers at the BCCM.
Recent protests have shown music’s unique power to unify, heal, and inspire. This past weekend in Washington, D.C., the singer Kenny Sway led a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in a collective performance of the Bill Withers anthem "Lean on Me." Meanwhile, the keyboardist and band leader Jon Batiste marched through the streets of New York City performing classic protest songs like "Down by the Riverside" and "We Shall Overcome."
But music is not free from the racism being decried by these protesters. Black musicians have endured discrimination and police brutality throughout US history. Because of her race, the great contralto Marian Anderson was barred from performing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Miles Davis was beaten by a New York City police officer for the "crime" of simply standing outside the nightclub where he was headlining. Exclusion of people of color is particularly acute within the Western classical music traditionally taught in music conservatories like ours. People of color are too often an afterthought in narratives of classical music history. The works of Black composers remain underperformed and underappreciated, while Black performers remain underrepresented in present-day ensembles.
We must do better as a conservatory, as a university, as a discipline, and as a society to undo the institutionalized fabric of racism. Declarations of solidarity, however, can ring hollow without resulting actions. By actively broadening our academic focus and demanding just treatment of the music of marginalized peoples in our concerts and curriculum, we begin to create the equality that we seek.
Though the degree of transformation needed is immense, our individual and institutionalized efforts are what makes a difference. It is up to us to actively protect the dignity of every individual in our community and to stand firmly for justice and embrace a culture of respect for all.