It's February again and for many people this is not only the time of year to celebrate love, but also the accomplishments of black people in the United States and around the world. To say people of color have "made it", specifically in music, is an understatement, especially considering Beyoncé is quickly becoming one of the most celebrated artists of all time. While I'm constantly "gettin' bodied" and putting my "love on top", I make sure to acknowledge some of the music and experiences that were so integral in getting me (and blacks as a people) here today.
A couple of weeks ago I took an audition in Rochester and getting there seemed to be just as much of an ordeal as preparing for the thing! Since I had to play with the DSO the day before, my original plan was to drive there straight from the concert. When the show let out, however, it was snowing miserably, and my drive back to my apartment was, in a word, slippery. After an almost-crash on the freeway I decided to book a last minute flight, which I found out was cancelled upon arriving to the airport. I was forced to rent a more snow appropriate vehicle and make my way the best I could. By God's grace I made it, and although I didn't win, I was happy to have overcome the challenges of preparing musically, as well as carefully navigating icy overpasses.
I used the word overcome because it resonates deeply with me, and with black folk in general. "We Shall Overcome", based on an earlier song by black composer Charles Tindley, was the leading anthem of the Civil Rights Movement and a song I'd venture to say most people still know today. The idea behind it is that though times may be tough, and though sometimes we just don't know which way to go, we have to trust that we'll make it somehow. As important as this piece was to blacks in the 60s, it can still be applied today to our situations, trials, and tribulations. If Black History Month goes by without you learning anything, keep this spiritual in your heart.
I mentioned Beyoncé earlier because she said something that is so important for us to live by in her most recent documentary "Life is but a Dream". She said that people need to find the tools and work hard to become who they're supposed to be. As a person, I think I'm on that path, even though there will be the occasional pit fall of losing an audition, or simply having a bad day. More importantly, I think I'm on the right path towards contributing to my people becoming who we're supposed to be in classical music. Blacks are still sparse in professional orchestras by comparison, but overcoming each and every obstacle shows the next generation of black classical musicians that it can be done. Playing with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and being a part of the DSO's Classical Roots Celebration coming up have reiterated this with me, and it humbles me to think that even I can be a small part of Black History. Happy Black History Month to everyone, and no matter how you identify racially remember that you shall overcome. You can and will become who you're supposed to be.
Pictured above: Maya Stone and myself before the final Sphinx Symphony Orchestra concert.