As 2021 comes to a close and I reflect on my first year as Dean, I’m filled with gratitude for our College of Music family and all we’ve accomplished in a new and evolving hybrid learning environment.
I’m especially proud of our progress to ensure an increasingly welcoming spirit within our beautifully expanded Imig Music Building. Achieving Diversity, Equity + Inclusion (DEI) is a deeply thoughtful culture shift sustained over time, yet I’m already wowed by the early enthusiasm of our faculty and staff to incorporate DEI into everything we do—from our academic curricula to our performances, presentations and other programming.
For example, Professor of Flute Christina Jennings now requires a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) piece for all flute auditions and Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano Alexandra Nguyen recently shared that she integrates sight-readings and “quick learn” pieces by women composers of the 18th and 19th centuries in her freshman sightreading class. Nguyen is also directing a dissertation project on Black composer Margaret Bonds and coaching students in works by Amy Beach, Rebecca Clarke, Valerie Coleman, Gabriela Lena Frank, Adolphus Hailstork, Ulysses Kay, Florence Price and others. Stay tuned for information about Chinese-Canadian composer Alexina Louie’s residency in spring 2023, organized by Nguyen and including cross-departmental collaborations that benefit both composition and instrumental faculty and students. (Louie is this year’s recipient of Canada’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.)
At the same time, our choral program recently organized residencies with guest artists Joan Catoni Conlon (the college’s director of choral research emerita) and Cheryl Anderson, director of choirs at Cabrillo State University. In April, our choirs also hosted virtual lectures with Jeffrey Murdock, associate director of choral activities at the University of Arkansas and Craig Robertson, choral director at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. A virtual summer colloquium organized by Raul Dominguez (DMA Choral Conducting) further featured women and ethnically and racially diverse guest lecturers.
The college’s composition faculty, too, have hosted Vietnamese American composer Viet Cuong and Castle of Our Skins Founder Ashleigh Gordon while working to rebrand our new music series to be more inclusive of genre, aesthetic and style, and to become more engaged with our larger community. As Assistant Professor of Composition Annika Socolofsky puts it, “My number one priority is overhauling syllabi and class structure to make my classroom as inclusive as possible. This includes using compositional examples written by women, trans, gender non-conforming, two spirit, BIPOC, non-European composers and the many intersections of those identities, but it also means reaching outside of the classical genre entirely for musical study and compositional examples relevant to course material. My personal teaching quota is that at least half of the repertoire I teach must be written by composers from underrepresented identities. I have also created my courses in a way that holds space and creates structure for discussions surrounding important, current topics to our field such as cultural appropriation, cause appropriation, historical exclusion and aesthetic bias.”
It’s inspiring to build upon that kind of passion for progress in every program and department—from music education and research to chamber music, opera, jazz and more.
Indeed, as we continue to spotlight the works of underrepresented composers in our student and faculty recitals and ensemble performances—and through culturally responsive academic activities—we’re also thrilled to share their impact and influence more broadly, campus- and community-wide. We hope to see you at the world premiere of composer-in-residence Christopher Theofanidis’ “On the Bridge of the Eternal” this spring and perhaps you’ll join us for the 2022 International Double Reed Society Conference at CU Boulder, featuring artists and compositions by diverse ethnicities and genders from around the globe. Not to mention, I can’t wait for our Takács Quartet’s recording next year of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Fantasiestücke.” Here’s a preview.
That’s just scratching the surface of what’s underway and what’s to come. Keep in touch for an announcement in January about new dedicated leadership of our DEI efforts, further formalizing and growing this timely, critical work toward developing the universal musician.
Meanwhile, I commend and congratulate our winter graduates, and encourage you to practice self-care and wellness this holiday season. After all, “holding space” includes taking care of each other and ourselves.
See you in 2022!