People are uncomfortable right now. Other people are uncomfortable with people voicing their discomfort. Some of us are looking to change things, and others want them to remain the same. What's bothering me most these days is people don't actually know what side they stand on (change vs. conservation). They don't really know themselves. I'm going to briefly explore some topics on my mind that might help you decide which side of the fence you're standing on, and whether or not you're interested in switching.
I'm going to start with politics only because we're all paying attention right now. I personally don't judge or even care who people vote for, as long as they fully understand what they're voting for and can be consistent. My wish is to dismantle the party system and have candidates run for office based on their beliefs, and not who backs them. For this to happen we have to become more self educated and know what we'd like to see out of a leader. I do this by paying attention to the news outlets that I KNOW are not going to pander to me, which obviously puts FOXNews at the top of the list. One of the big ideals of Tibetan Buddhism is, "to understand the world is to understand yourself". What better way to understand the world than to engulf yourself in teaching that you don't agree with? I make an effort to understand why someone would, let's say, feel threatened by Muslims in the US. OBVIOUSLY I don't agree with that rhetoric, but from my perspective most of those "why's" boil down to a lack of education and perspective. Sitting at home and watching the debates and townhall meetings of your faves exclusively is nothing more than participating in a pep rally. If you want something different for this country politically, try understanding your opponent's point of view.
Everyone is still talking about Beyoncé and her black panther rally at Super Bowl 50. They're also talking about the "Formation" video, in which she sinks a police car in the waters of Katrina. Yes, her goal was to make people uncomfortable and question, but many of you are missing out on the latter part of the agenda - to question. Why are people mad at the police? Why is #BlackLivesMatter still a thing? Who, really, were the Black Panthers? Were there White Panthers? If you don't have answers to these questions and you're mad you're part of the problem. You're happy with the status quo around you and don't even understand why you want it upheld. How can you fight against a movement when you don't understand your own team?
Since December I've been in and out of conferences and meetings dealing with the diversifying of orchestras. Everyone thinks this is a good idea on paper, but orchestral musicians (from my perspective) are some of the most aloof, uncaring, and uninterested people on earth when it comes to speaking up about something that doesn't affect their day to day. To change a system you're a part of (and benefit from) you have to check your privileges and see if you are in any way perpetuating what you think you're combatting. I'm just going to go ahead and say, unapologetically, that musicians want to diversify the skin color of orchestras, but not the mind of orchestras. Do you realize how much shade I would get if I wore a #BLM t-shirt to rehearsal? I might be asked to leave if I wore a "Fuck the Police" shirt. What if I suggested we dedicate a concert to composers of color outside of February? If you aren't interested in the black mind in orchestras, you aren't interested in diversity.
I'm going through an issue with the KSO that I won't go into detail about here (but that I will discuss with anyone interested in some of the problems in the classical music world) and many of my colleagues are only showing silent support. Not being completely forth-coming about something makes you an enemy to that cause. I'm not a woman, but I am a feminist. I'm not a child of east-Asia, but I am an advocate of world legislation preventing the growth of the illegal sex-trade. What kind of colleague are you to me when you are fully aware of dilemmas plaguing our livelihood and you do nothing more than shrug and say something along the lines of "I'm sorry" or "That sucks". I'm not asking anyone to make picket signs and march down the street. I'm asking people to make it clear to management that a problem needs to be fixed. Some things can't be singularly changed - I get that, but don't expect me to smile in your face when my musicianship and dedication to YOUR role within the craft is returned with ambivalence.
Girl I'm really mad about that last one. Like Drake said in a song on his last album, "Shakiness, man, I don't have no time for that". "I've always been me, I guess I know myself".
I'm in Detroit this weekend playing contrabassoon with the Sphinx Symphony. It's always amazing to be around so many beautiful musicians of color, who have not only met varied levels of success in the industry, but have risen to the top despite economic disadvantage, social inequality, and the pressures toward getting a "real job". Black is the color of sports and most popular music. How can we achieve this in classical music? For me the answer is being actively dedicated to diversity of body, mind, and spirit.
As I continue up the ladder I'm going to take my experiences from Sphinx and the Gateways Festival and apply what I've learned into my job and try to spread this sort of thinking amongst my colleagues. I shouldn't be the only black member of the Knoxville Symphony. I shouldn't fear wearing a #BlackLivesMatter t-shirt to rehearsal. February shouldn't be the only time someone says the name Chevalier de Saint-Georges. If you agree with me, find a way to actively make a change.