Dean Jamal Rossi-: Well good evening everybody. Thank you so much for coming. First of all, welcome back to a new semester. Happy New Year. And I am – I cannot be more pleased than we’re starting this semester having a conversation that’s – I won’t tell you it’s overdue but I am so glad that we’re having it now. And I’m glad that as a result of a number of activities last semester, the President appointed a Commission on Race and Diversity to really to try to, one, assess what the situation is at the University of Rochester now but, more importantly, to really create an environment that’s welcome to all. And so I’m thrilled that you’re here and I’m looking for a good night.
It’s my privilege to introduce the co-chairs. The first co-chair is Rich Feldman. Dr. Feldman is the Dean of the College. And the other is a distinguished alumni of Eastman’s School of Music. And I don’t just mean he’s a distinguished alumni, I mean he actually was awarded the distinguished alumni award and this is not a stranger to all of you. This is Dean Paul Burgett, so join me in welcoming him.
Burgett: Thank you. Thank you, Jamal. For me this is like coming home. (Hey, Peyton, how you doing man!) Always when I have the opportunity to come home Dean Rossi, I love to come home. And, oh by the way, I was his favorite Dean of Students.
Rossi: Yes sir.
Burgett: And he was a good boy then, he’s a good boy now. Well my colleague, Rich Feldman, and I have taken on the responsibility assigned by President Seligman to look into the issue of race and diversity, which was precipitated by a protest that was held on the River Campus back in November by students from the Minority Student Advisory Board and BSU and the Douglas Leadership House. And they raised a number of important issues–issues that have relevance not only on the River Campus and in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering but we believe have relevance beyond the River Campus as well, including our home here at the Eastman School.
Oh, by the way, let me point to LaRon Nelson, Dr. LaRon Nelson, who is a faculty member in the School of Nursing. who is a member of our Commission as well. Do we have any other Commissioners here?
Donna Brink Fox: Me!
Burgett: Oh, yes.
Burgett: Well, of course, of course, who I’ll turn it over – we’ll turn it over to in a moment. But one of the things that we have done is arranged – we have a commission that consists of nineteen people and they come from throughout the University. They represent faculty, students and staff at various levels of seniority but all of whom have an abiding interest and concern about the issues of race and diversity and work on it in their varying domains on a regular basis and continuing basis throughout the school year.
We’re doing a number of things. The Commission meets weekly but we are hosting these Town Hall Meetings throughout the University, so the month of January is full of these meetings. The President has asked us for a preliminary assessment by January the 31st, so you can understand that speed has been an important part of our efforts.
The Town Hall Meetings are opportunities for each of these discrete communities to offer their thoughts and their own personal experiences as these relate to issues of race and diversity. And so we don’t want to do all the talking. We want to turn it over to you. But let me invite my colleague Dean Feldman to offer a few words first before we turn it over to Donna Brink Fox who will sort of serve as the MC for the evening.
Feldman: Thanks Paul. I’m glad to be here and eager to hear from all of you tonight. I’ll just be very brief in my comments here.
As you may know the precipitating events for the formation of the commission was a protest, mainly involving undergraduate students in the college. And they had a set of demands – but the Commission’s focus is not simply the demands those students raised but much broader – we’re taking a much broader look at issues of race and diversity around the University. And so we’re meeting with people from all the different schools and around the University just to get their take on these issues.
And I should say – I just want to say a couple of words about the phrase race and diversity. One of the things that’s been made very clear to me by the students who led the protest is that many times over the years students in the College have raised issues about race, and sometimes those conversations have turned into broader discussions about a wider range of issues having to do with diversity. And in the formation of this Commission and in thinking about our work, its true that “race and diversity” are in the title, but our primary focus really is on issues of race and then to a secondary – additionally on diversity more broadly, but with a primary focus on race.
So we open up the discussion. We’re eager tonight to hear from you. We want to understand your perceptions, your experiences, your sense of those topics here at the Eastman School and it’s your chance to just talk about your experiences. It’s much more for you to talk. It’s not for us to respond so much to issues you raise but more just for us to hear from you.
And at the end of all of our Town Hall Meetings it will contribute to our ability to assess where things now stand and then come up with some recommendations we might make to the President for the future. So I think that’s our set up.
Burgett: I should just mention that this evening’s meeting is taped and the tape will be transcribed and it will be uploaded to the Commission website, so just so you know that it is – that we are doing that as well. And I think without further ado because you know with me, you wind me up and I can really – be like the energizer bunny. Let me turn it over to my beloved colleague and yours as well – Senior Associate Dean Donna Brink Fox.
II. OPENING STATEMENT – AGENDA/QUESTIONS FOR THIS MEETING
Fox: Thank you. [Refers to projected slide.] On the slide on the screen right now you see the four questions that the President has posed to the Commission. First of all, for us to discuss what is the state of our campus climate for all races today. And secondly, what programs do we have that have strengthened this climate? What elements of our campus life are not consistent with the healthiest climate? And then, finally, what are going to be the Commission’s recommendations to improve our community?
Our goal tonight is to have you involved. I want to say a couple of things. We have some dessert in the back and you’re welcome to get up at any time and have some brownies or cookies or water is back there. And in addition, Kellie Leigh has back there some pens and small pieces of paper. If you want to ask a question and you don’t want to stand up in front of everybody and ask the question, please feel free to write it down and you can put it in the jar there or you can give it to Kellie or you can give it me if you want it to be shared tonight so that it gets onto the record.
If you don’t want it to be shared tonight but you do want to ask the question or make the comment this will show up as an addendum to the transcript.
We’ve put the microphone there. You are welcome to introduce yourself when you stand up to talk at the microphone but you don’t have to introduce yourself if you don’t want.
I am the MC for this program but the program depends on you. I’m going to ask you to think about the Eastman School of Music and this campus we have on the corner of East Main and Gibbs and to participate in a conversation with a few ground rules (on the slide).
My thanks to Andrew Winslow for making these slides for me. He’ll be here when his Harp Studio Class is finished.
[Refers to projected slide content.] We want everybody to participate. We don’t want anybody to dominate this conversation. We want to share the air time here in the room.
The success of our Town Hall will depend on your participation. We hope that you’ll be a listener to other people’s ideas to understand what they’re sharing. When you talk about experiences it’s best to use I statements rather than he or she or they, but to talk about things from your point of view. One speaker at a time. This is not like family dinner. We’re looking overall for unity, not separation but we understand that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And again, the last point is to share your experiences.
I will start by saying that I come from a kind of minority, a small Dutch community in Southwest Minnesota and my entire early life was founded on the sameness of people – of a homogeneous population. All the people in my town knew all of the people in my town. From that small community, coming into larger academic life at Ohio State University, at Illinois State University and then at the University of Rochester, I have been able to meet extraordinary people who have helped me to understand the world in a much broader context and in a much broader landscape than what I ever knew I would learn about, as a young person in that small farm town in Minnesota.
I am not a knowledgeable person about this topic of racial and diversity issues at the University except that as I have seen these issiues experienced by students and faculty and staff here. I’m hoping that you will open up your heart and open up your ideas and share them in this conversation. I’m only here to moderate in case you get immoderate. So. . . .
Burgett: Who’s going to be first?
Fox: Who would like to break the ice? Okay. [Commission members move to the front.] Oh, Ron, you’re going to come up there. This is Dr. Vivian Lewis who is the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Development and an OB/GYN physician at the Medical Center.
III. STATEMENTS FROM ATTENDEES
Miller: I’m Russell Miller. I’m the Chair of the Voice and Opera Department at the Eastman School. In the midst of our admissions process, I just wanted to comment that I am constantly frustrated by the tension between our earnest desire to have more students and faculty of color and the need to look for a certain standard of excellence that comes from opportunities in education before school. I don’t know how to say that more gracefully but it seems like competing interests that we have to address somehow. And I don’t know if there’s a better way to put that point but it’s a constant frustration especially during the audition period. So that’s my comment. Thank you.
Fox: I see heads nodding, so I hope they’ll join.
Male Voice: This thing is just a recorder, not a microphone.
Fox: The microphone is not an amplification. It’s just to record it, so you have to speak up when you’re standing.
Cotner: Hi, I’m Reni Cotner. I’m a junior at Eastman and I also do a lot of work at the River Campus through the Interfaith Chapel and with Interfaith and Engagement Education sorts of things.
And I come from Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is right outside of Detroit. Not quite right outside but about a forty-five minute drive. And I grew up going to youth orchestra there. I would volunteer in Detroit. And what I found, through my volunteer work, is that what – what often communities need and whether that be small communities or larger communities, globally, nationally, is that the voices that we need to listen to are the people that we’re trying to include and what we need to ask is what they need rather than what we think they need.
So I hope that the University sort of turns towards that direction by asking communities in peril, in stress, what they need rather than us assuming what they need, us taking steps and, you know, making decisions for them, perhaps putting words in their mouth. So that’s how we can be courageous, I think, and it’s hard to do that but it’s really important to actually listen to what these groups are asking for and I am really happy that President Seligman has answered these demands made by the minority students at the River Campus by holding these because it should give people more of a chance to speak up and we need to listen to those voices that are making demands and worth sharing their stories.
Fox: Reni, when you came to Eastman, what did you expect to find and what did you find in terms of the racial climate?
Cotner: Well I guess I’m not surprised that Eastman is very white because classical music is a very, you know, historically privileged white industry. And so I’m not surprised that there is sort of less diversity than there was perhaps in my high school or even in my youth orchestra in Detroit.
But I think given that we’re in Rochester, which is a very, very diverse city, I wish that there was more interest in engaging with the community. I’m really grateful that we have programs like Music for All [a chamber music requirement to perform in the community]. I think that’s awesome and I think that’s really great. I’ve really enjoyed my time volunteering and playing in schools and communities.
But I think students, you know, it’s a compulsory thing. And sometimes students are really annoyed having to do these things but I wish that there was more of a culture at Eastman of interest in engaging with our community, with the Rochester community. And that’s, you know, as close as we can be.
The University is showing that we are interested in these activities and that the students are becoming more interested than that will be good for everyone, so I think that’s really what I want to happen is an interest. I want people to be more excited about engaging with people who are different rather than just kind of assuming that they know what they’re dealing with.
Fox: Lots of heads nodding.
Male Voice: ((inaudible))
Fox: No, it’s not amplified, it’s just.
Male Voice: ((inaudible))
Fox: It’s just for recording.
Male Voice: Oh, it’s recording?
Simunyos: So I’m Sedhil Simunyos. I’m a viola master’s student here at Eastman. And I come from Chile and growing up race was not a thing because Chile is very homogeneous and I think coming into this culture, the American culture, I think we need a different language to talk about race because it’s usually spoken in terms of color and I don’t think it’s the best way to understand these because, for example, I struggle with this all the time.
If you saw me and didn’t hear me speak you would think I’m Caucasian and then you realize not. And if I talk about myself you realize that I’m from Latin America, so I – in the outside I look white but I am not. And so we just need to get over the fact that what’s outside of us is just one aspect of our whole self. And I think there are much better ways to address the whole self than just what’s outside. And I always – because I always keep coming back in my life to language and how sometimes it’s all we have and because of that it can be very powerful in a good way or in a bad way. So we have to be really careful with language.
Fox: Thank you.
Simunyos: Thank you.
Fox: Mike, can they use these microphones here too if they’re standing or sitting closer to the front?
Mike: Sure, that’s fine.
Fox: Yeah, okay.
Michelle: Hello, my name’s Michelle. I’m a junior here at Eastman and I’m going to bounce off of what Sedhil just said. Very much like Sedhil, I am not from Latin America but I grew up in a Cuban American home. And often times it’s very hard, as a person of color that is not of a darker tone to be taken seriously when voicing your opinion.
And it’s very uncomfortable sometimes when I go up and I’ll say something about how I feel that occasionally my culture and the things that I was raised with aren’t present here but if I’m not necessarily of a darker color that I don’t feel like I’m being taken seriously. And it’s a very hard thing to deal with because you feel like you have one foot in each camp almost of that, yes; I’m not of a darker color but, yes, I was raised in a home that is a minority. So I kind of wish that there was a way in a forum that people such as myself, Sedhil, anyone really could feel comfortable discussing these concepts without being – feel like they might being judged.
Hugo: Hello, my name’s Hugo ((Christensondeal)). I’m a freshman vocal performance major. And I know that we’ve talked a lot about assumption and how we – what was said before that we need to listen and I think that’s incredibly accurate and incredibly true.
And I know that just something that I found was very enlightening and very expanding upon my own knowledge of diversity was this – at Eastman orientation this year, we had the Eastman identities. And to me that was just a really intimate way to speak in the conversation by having not just faculty and people who may have been older but have our fellow classmates up there on the stage and talk about their own personal experiences with just different types of inhibitors in our society. And so I think that that is an excellent way for us to begin the conversation and begin new ways of expanding our knowledge. And introducing it to new students who are coming in as well because I think that’s really where we start with expanding that we can’t – it’s easier to start with people who are just coming in than rather try to change everything at once, so.
Fox: Have you found any extension of that orientation experience? I know during that weekthere were a lot of sessions that we’re trying to focus our attention on that. What do you think has happened since then?
Hugo: I know that there was also talk and there was a meeting of creating a diversity board at Eastman. And sadly I was not able to participate in that meeting. I have not received any emails since then. I may have missed it but this in itself is an extension of that. And I think that if we continue doing that, not only at University of Rochester, but the branch here at Eastman as well – maybe create a diversity board. Have not only faculty but students on that board as well so that we can all do this as one group rather than try to separate it between faculty and students.
Fox: Thank you Hugo.
Fox: [addressing a student] Do you want to say something? Samantha, are you comfortable saying something in response to that?
Samantha: Hi everyone. I’m Samantha Andrew. I’m a junior viola performance dual degree student here at Eastman. And going off what you said, Hugo, I am the chair of a new group CODE, which diversity is our focus. It’s the Council on Diversity at Eastman. And we are just starting things up this semester so we kind of want to do an extension of what you said, diversity identity at Eastman.
We have our first event on the 31st of January here at 4 p.m. We’re going to have a panel of three students who are speaking–Michelle is one of them–who are going to talk about race and they’re going to talk about experiences they’ve had here at Eastman whether they are good or bad and how it’s affected their education here.
What we hope to do with this series of events is basically bring these issues to the forefront of our minds and really just get people to acknowledge that they are a problem no matter if they’re encountered in a direct way or an indirect way they’re still an issue that we have to face. And kind of change our focus and change the way we view these things and erase the stigma from talking about these issues.
Fox: What motivated you to get involved in this?
Andrew: Its – I mean, I’m Indian. I was born in America but I’m Indian. And I’m one of less than five Indian people who can say that they’re Indian here. And it’s just – it’s something that my first two years I was like it’s fine, you know, I’m fine with being a minority student here. But I’m not the only one who encounters that and so I decided this year that it was time to do something about it finally. So this was the perfect opportunity to create CODE and be the chair of it and help people see that it’s okay to be a minority but it’s also okay to speak up about it.
Fox: Thank you.
Fox: We are a clapping community! We’re such performers. aren’t we. [laughter] Stefan?
Fox: Introduce yourself?
Stefan: My name is Stefan Hernandez. I am a senior. This is my last semester here.
Fox: We’ll clap for that.
Stefan: I’ve been here for a while and I’ve seen good things and I’ve seen bad things and I’ve seen things that can be changed and I’m happy to say that in the last year I’ve seen a better effort on the part of those in Administration to change those things.
What I have found – I am from – originally from Trinidad in Tobago, it’s a Caribbean country. I’ve lived there for twenty something years of my life. So this was the first time I was away from home for an extended period of time.
What I found when I came to Eastman was there is a bubble. And if one does not fit in that social bubble you are excluded. And there are many students here who are excluded and sometimes they know that they are excluded and sometimes they do not know that they are excluded.
And one of the reasons why they are excluded is because they aren’t enough mechanisms and facilities in place for students who do not fit into the, you know, “the standard American student”. I am not the standard student, American student, coming to an American college.
What also makes it difficult is because where Eastman is located we are not part of a bigger campus, so therefore there’s not really a University. We don’t really get the full University experience. We are downtown. We are isolated. There are many students who come here who don’t ever really go to the River Campus, or if we do go across it’s just really to get something to eat and then come back here. So there are those types of challenges where we do not also interact with the minority students over there and get a different perspective.
In my experience here I was one of the students who did (we did in 2012, I believe it was) one of the first black history month concerts here called Jubilee. It was terribly difficult to get it done in the sense of getting not so much students to be involved because the students are always willing to participate and to perform. But it was difficult to get those who are members of faculty and administration to understand why there was a need for that. Why there was a need that when February comes around it should not ever be students having to run all over the place and having to take time out of their busy – our busy schedules here to organize something which should really have been in place before.
And that is why so many of us when we come here in the initial stages until you find your niche you feel ostracized. Because if I am an Hindu student I see a Christmas tree. I see – I don’t know what it’s called so I’m sorry if I offend anyone – the lights for the students who are – the candles for the students who are Jewish. But I don’t see anything that I identify with. If I’m a Muslim student I also do not see anything that I identify with.
So I think if we are going to go down this road of celebrating Christmas then when Ede comes around and Diwali comes around and when Ramadan starts and when other festivals starts then we also need to have symbols around. Because as small and mundane as that may seem to you and I to a student coming in who is nineteen or eighteen and has been away from home for the first time that’s significant. Because it says to them – it says to me – that okay they know that I’m here. I may be one of two but they still know that I am here. I may be one of eight or five but I see something that I can recognize. I see something that I can be part of and they understand that, you know, my culture is different.
How many times since I’ve been here there have been people who think it’s okay to, you know, make – copy my accent. Whereas it’s kind of cute but there is a point in time when it becomes wrong.
I remember when I came here as an international student they had an international student week orientation. And I said to myself I wonder if my American counterparts are having an orientation as to how to speak with me and how to identify with me. Because it – the coin is not one sided, it’s double sided and I think part of a holistic education is not only learning the notes and learning the theory but learning how to interact with the people that you are going to meet in the opera theatres and all over because music being what it is brings us in contact with these people more than most other professions.
So I think when we are moving forward we need to move forward in a way to desensitize our students to what’s that sort of thinking that, you know, you may come from a small town but you are not the only, you know, you – that town is not the only town. And there are other things around that and there are other things that you need to learn about in order to be able to socialize at all levels. So that’s my take.
Fox: Stefan your group organized that February concert twice, right?
Stefan: Just once.
Fox: Just once. Okay, yeah. Thanks.
Cotner: Sorry, I’m going to talk again. Just in response to what Stefan said, one thing that he mentioned was the religious diversity and seeing things that students can identify with.
And one thing that the River Campus has other than more people; it has obviously more cultures, more different ethnic groups, everything from different religions, different races, different nationalities. You see, you know, if you just go to Wilson Commons and you look across the bridge there are big banners for everything from, you know, rushes for fraternities but also, you know, it’s Interfaith Awareness Week. It’s Diwali. Come to Diwali dinner, Islam Awareness Week.
Because I do a lot of work with the Interfaith Chapel we have a lot of events that we co-sponsor with different religious groups at the River Campus that are marketed not only to get people involved, to get people to come and, you know, eat delicious food and have good conversations but just the existence of those, you know, points of advertisement speaks volumes to people just to know for, you know, your average kid from Michigan who grew up with no one different from them around them to see something like that that students, you know, your peers are participating in, you know, Islam Awareness Week or in an Indian Dance Troop is huge. And for students who have never seen something like that it’s really enlightening.
And the fact that we don’t have that and we don’t have those students isn’t something that we can do right now but at Eastman I would really – I think it would be great if we had, you know, if it was easier for students to know that these events were going on. And I know there’s so many events but if students can just know that when they go over to the River Campus and these are the things that are offered, these are the opportunities that you can have, then that can sort of help people learn about those around them.
Dana: Hi there. I’m Dana and I’m here as the President of Spectrum, which is the LGBT Association at Eastman. And I know this is a different idea of diversity than the primarily race based one we’re talking about right now. But I would just like to sympathize with you that it has been, in some regards, very difficult to carry out our projects that we have at Spectrum due to either unwillingness or just the confusion by faculty. You know administration, honestly, has been wonderful and I’m very thankful for that. But in some regards faculty members don’t understand why the things we need are necessary.
For example, a project idea that we had at the beginning of last year was very simple just to change the existing signs on the single use restrooms such as the one in the hallway by the Kilbourn Green Room. To change those signs from – to say from unisex to say all gender which is a much more inclusive terms for transgender and non-binary people. And that took us a full year-and-a-half due to the negligence of some faculty members who had to be emailed and emailed and emailed until this project thankfully is now completed. And I – that’s really wonderful but I do think it is ashamed that we, the students, and the administration had to work so hard to get something so simple that can be – that can mean so much to these people. And that’s my take.
Fox: Thank you for your efforts for that initiative. We have one. But Kellie, we’re after more, right.
Fox: More on the way.
Dean Rossi: I’ll just reply to that and say I was glad to hear you say it was done. And I was in a meeting yesterday where we talking for about thirty-five for forty minutes, so it’s not done because in fact we’re looking at multiple other places to do it.
Female Voice: Well I think that’s ((inaudible)).
Male Voice: So it’s ongoing.
LaRon Nelson [Commission member]: Can I ask a question?
Fox: Sure, Ron.
LaRon: I’m very interested – you stood up and spoke about not feeling heard or taken seriously so I’m wondering if there’s any stories here about, you know, from students or about students, if you’re not a student, like where you didn’t feel like you – you had something to say and you didn’t feel heard or your expressed something and you didn’t feel like you were taken seriously. I’d be interested to hear either your story, if you wanted to expand it, or other stories too.
Male Voice: Sure.
Fox: You can use this mic here.
Burgett: Thank you. We probably can raise this. How’s that. I’m making myself useful as well as ornamental. [laughter]
Michelle: So in my case the times when I felt that I wasn’t taken seriously – one thing that’s really interested about being Latina is it’s such a very, varied culture. You can see someone and they can look Afro-Cuban and they can be extremely dark colored or they can look so, so fair skinned like myself. You could see people that are red headed and Hispanic. You can see people that are truly look almost Asian and are still Hispanic. And all this time there is one concept of what a Hispanic person looks like in someone’s head.
And it’s very hard when you don’t fit inside that norm to be taken seriously. To have someone, and this is a true story, come up to me and say you are not Latina, you’re white.
And it’s very hard for me to say, I suppose I am Caucasian but my culture and the language that I was raised with and my family is not white. And it’s very hard to process that because, again, it makes me feel like I’m in – I’m being torn into different camps. That my color makes me one thing but the culture that I was raised in makes me another. Why can’t I just be one thing? And that’s Michelle. And again, and that’s how I’ve been feeling. And I’m so glad that there’s finally a forum that can let people like me and, honestly, any person of color step up and openly speak about what makes you feel uncomfortable. What makes you feel different? And why that is and how you can change that. And I’m really grateful that this is a forum that is being had. So thank you for looking at it.
Fox: Are there other stories or experiences that you have? Faculty members or students?
Newman: Hi, my name is Jessica Newman. I’m a junior vocalist and dual degree student here at the U of R and Eastman. And I’m also Jewish. And we’ve been trying to form an Eastman Hillel here for a couple years now and we faced a lot of setbacks on the behalf of – from faculty and administration.
And I think this semester we’re going to try – finally try to get it implemented but it’s been difficult because we’ve been receiving comments that we wouldn’t have enough people coming to these events, that the club would be too small when any Hillel event I’ve been to here has had at least twenty people at it.
And I think the important thing to remember – being someone who’s Jewish is – like Michelle – I look white. But Judaism is not just a religion, it’s also a culture. So when you’re told that you can’t have a group because it’s a religious group that won’t have enough people you feel like it’s an attack on your ethnicity. And I don’t think that’s fair, so I guess it’s just kind of going on with Michelle’s point and Sedhil’s point it’s, you know, race is not – it’s more than just the skin. There is more to it. It’s part of your culture so I think that’s just an important thing to keep in mind when talking about race, so.
Dean Feldman: Jessica, could I ask whether you made any efforts to connect with the Hillel group on River Campus?
Newman: We have and I think that was another part of the issue. They were saying that because there is a Hillel branch at the U of R that they didn’t need to have one at Eastman. That seemed to be one of the arguments but kind of going along with Reni’s point then it is difficult to get over to the U of R.
Dean Feldman: Sure.
Newman: And you – I think being an Eastman student you never feel fully integrated over there. So I know being – having the Jewish community at Eastman it’s just a little more personal and you know people better.
Dean Feldman: Sure.
Newman: I think it’s important to have.
Dean Feldman: I understand that but I do work with Denise Yarborough, who’s our Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and with the new Hillel director, and I know the groups are in general open and willing to collaborate where possible. I mean I understand that transportation difficulties and that is a different community and it’s not ideal. But I would encourage taking advantage of.
Dean Feldman: Opportunities where possible.
Newman: Yeah, definitely. Yep.
Male Voice: Thank you.
Stefan: I wanted to add into – you asked about Jubilee. So we did Jubilee in 2012. I went to one of the voice faculty here and I told her that there were some of us who wanted to do this concert. And I wrote up the proposal of what it was supposed to look like or what we would have it to look like and the thing about is that this particular faculty member – I don’t want to call any names – has always been very supportive of every initiative. And is just a very positive person, so I thought that would be the great – the best person to go to. I did not know at that time that Eastman had a diversity board. The fact that I didn’t know that is a bad thing. And so we got it done.
And with the help of people higher up in the administration we were able to get Hatch Recital Hall and, again, as I said earlier the students were more than willing to participate because there is so much music in the African-American Diaspora that is, you know, just not heard.
And it was a great opportunity to educate the wider student body to understand that when you speak about African-American music you’re not only speaking about Negro spirituals. They are symphonies and they are symphonic works and they are instrumental works and there’s a myriad of other things.
But since then to now the difficulty has been, okay, I was the student who was a catalyst for it to begin. But if I don’t – when I don’t have the time, which I don’t, you know, that when I did it in 2012 I forced myself because I had, you know, this Eastman. Over twenty something credits every semester. That’s life. But when I can’t do it the other students who are, you know, who identify with that particular group. You know they may not have the skills necessary to write up a proposal or may feel an urge to go speak to a faculty member but they still feel left out. So from 2012 to 2016 there has been nothing.
So February comes and February goes, Martin Luther King comes and it goes and they have – there is nothing. And students don’t – they don’t have anything to identify with. We don’t have anything to identify with because there’s an entire month that is supposed to be set aside to, you know, acknowledge people like Rosa Parks but musicians like Leontyne Price and, you know, and all these other musicians and great singers and stuff like that – that you would think that an institution like such as Eastman would be proud. And it would be a great opportunity, as I said, before and I said to members of the diversity committee to engage the wider community who some of them don’t even know Eastman exists. They just know about the theater. They don’t know of the school attached to the theater.
And so that’s the type of – I remember when we were doing Jubilee and a particular professor said why do we need that. We are all equal. No we’re not. That’s just the fact about it. We are not. There’s some – each of us have our own story, each of us come from a different background. Some of us understand what it is to be privileged and some of us do not have that concept. It is wrong to put everyone in a box and think that by not identifying race and by not speaking about it and by not speaking about racial conflict that it just will disappear. It does not. The students see it. We are a part of it. We feel it every day and it is part of the reason why coming to school here on many occasions is very frustrating.
Yes the weather is awful. [laughter] But it doesn’t have to the situation where the school on many occasions, and I’m going to be quite frank, where the school on many occasion reflects the weather. Where students do not feel the warmth. Where we do not feel included. Where, okay, when events and other things are put on it doesn’t really seem to be fitting our needs. It just seems to be a band aid on a wound and then when that band aid, you know, has spoiled they put another one on. So you know we have little carnival things here but that’s not really addressing the issue. That’s what’s really making us, as students, grow and that’s not making us be conscious of other people.
Because I’m from Trinidad – there are not many Jewish people in Trinidad, hence I didn’t know what it was called. But I’ve been here for four years and there’s so many Jewish students here. If there were proper mechanisms in place I would know what it’s called. I would understand the different cultures. That’s just reality of the situation. That’s what students face here every day.
That’s what students, other students, younger students of color who I speak to – that’s what they tell me – that we feel many times that we are trophies. That we are just pulled out when it’s time for application and you see our faces on a flyer or you see our faces on the website. And then, you know, there’s always the obligatory Asian student, the student of color, and someone else. And it sounds very harsh but it is a reality. And it is how we feel that the only time we are noticed is when it’s time, you know, to show off. And that needs to change. It may not be the intention but it is how it is read.
Burgett: Stefan, is that your name?
Fox: Yeah, Stefan.
Burgett: Splendidly put. I don’t know if you’re familiar with something called the Gateways Music Festival.
Stefan: Yes I am.
Burgett: The Gateways Music Festival, which happens every two years, and it happens here at the Eastman School in Rochester and largely at the Eastman School. This last August brought 125 classical musicians of African descent from all over the country to Rochester doing programs that involved, that included music by black Americans. And it’s going to grow. It’s going to grow. The point that you make is exactly right. And I can appreciate it all the more because I was here as a student for ten years. And the things like the Gateways Music Festival as part of the Eastman School offers a kind of promise to address the very issues which you’re talking about, which I understand especially well and I want to thank you for doing that. But to bring 125 classical musicians of African descent to Kodak Hall and to have an audience arrive of a thousand people and to see all those dark faces, all those black faces on the stage, playing at a professional level is heart stopping. And we need even more of it.
Burgett: And, by the way, I’m the President of the Board of Directors. [laughter]
Female Voice: Unbiased opinion.
Fox: Stefan talked about connecting with the community. Alicia, I don’t want to put you on the spot but you were at a recital on Sunday that had a broad array of community members, African-American children, African-American male choruses, African-American members of William Warfield’s family. How did you feel about that experience? Being in that group – it’s a different context for you than being in the Eastman choral and opera environment.
Alicia: How did I feel about it?
Alicia: I felt very, very supported in terms of the community. I’ve always felt supported here but when I came here initially as a freshman I definitely felt that I wasn’t necessarily accepted because of my gift, per say. But maybe because – to fill a diversity requirement. I know that is harsh but that’s how I thought about it. And maybe I was a little paranoid, but I didn’t necessarily get to share those concerns with anyone freshman year. I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to be singled out any more than I already was. And I became a little self-conscious about it, honestly.
And when I got – when I received the award I felt like the faculty noticed that maybe me being here is a special thing or at least I noticed I felt a little bit more special. And seeing the community come out and so many familiar faces even in this room – it was very, very fulfilling.
Fox: Some of you may not know William Warfield is one of the most famous graduates of the Eastman School. He was a singer from Rochester, originally, and his family has been involved in a foundation to support a scholarship for an African-American student for many years, and Alicia is the recipient of that (scholarship) last year and this year.
Russell Miller: This takes off my chair’s hat after I say how, of course, delighted I was with Alicia’s performance and the entire Warfield concert was fantastic, I think, and how proud I am of all of our students that I know here and their courage to get up and speak so well today. I can say that. . .
Female Voice: Can you speak up?
Male Voice: Yes, oh sorry. I can say that although I am not of color, I am gay. And so I know what it is to be part of a minority as well as being part of a majority. And that, again, is a little bit of a difference because I also happen to head the group that financial supports our Protestant Chaplain at the University and who I know Dean Feldman through that way. And she’s gay also.
And to see the issues in the Interfaith Chapel of all the – all the groups that desire time there and how that has changed over the years. But I just want to say thanks to Dean Rossi, Donna Fox, some of the others – I can say as a faculty member much more easily than I could when I came in ’95. I’m different too. And I’m not – it’s safe – I feel safe saying that in a way that may not have always been true.
So just to the students – the faculty may, in their own, understand that in ways you can’t always see. I do. And I appreciate so much this kind of venue where I can say that – just as a person never mind as a faculty member as well. So thank you very much.
Fox: Peyton, are you’re going to say anything before you leave. You said you had to go to studio class.
Peyton: ((inaudible)) [laughter]
Fox: Now we got to catch him before he leaves.
Peyton: Really I wanted to ((inaudible)) talk a little bit.
Fox: Yeah, yeah.
Peyton: I guess I can – I can speak about my own personal experience here. I feel a little odd because to be honest I’ve had a pretty positive experience. I mean, just personally in the trumpet studio – when I was accepted there were four of us, all very different in certain ways. There was Matthew ((Sucklin)) who’s from Cornwell, New York and pretty straight up the republican, white American guy. And then there’s Chris Danes, who’s lived fifteen years in Germany and then moved to Florida. And then there’s Jonathan who’s also from Florida, who’s also African-American. And I’m from South Carolina.
And I’ve always felt that, you know, I was raised to be pretty well spoken and honestly I hate to think about it like a switch but when I’m around my Eastman friends and when I’m here, you know, there’s a certain way I speak and there’s a certain way I carry myself. And then when I’m home there’s another certain way I can speak and certain way I carry myself.
But you know the few times that I’ve – I kind of let the home me out–I’ve never felt attacked. Of course there are some times when my friends are like, Peyton, I’m not really sure what you just said. [laughter] But outside of that they’re like most of them are really kind of just interested, you know, because I’ll say something really fast when I get like super excited and Jonathan will translate. And then the guys are like, how did you get that out of that? And then we’d, you know, sit down and this is just times when we’re, you know, hanging out in the pit [= dorm snack bar] or whatever. And we’ll kind of semi educate them, I guess. And I just say in some ways – in the same way that you can’t pigeonhole, you know, well there’s an obvious race problem with over the cross of the border and the entire University of Rochester.
It’s not necessarily that simple because there are some people who are really racially conscious and if they’re conscious they’re interested in being more educated about it, so they don’t seem like, oh well, you know, I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’ve taken the time to ask one of my African-American friends what’s it like, you know, being from South Carolina, because I mean it’s a pretty authentic experience.
But I mean in our trumpet studio, I mean naturally for me I’m a classical trumpet major but, you know, even in my audition experience like going to different schools, when I’m going to the airport and I drop down in Boston for an NEC (New England Conservatory) audition they’re just like, oh, the jazz department’s over here. And it’s just like, oh, I’m not going to the jazz department, but thanks.
Fox: It’s another kind of stereotype.
Peyton: Yeah, but there’s also the side of it that’s like, you know, I can’t say I don’t play jazz because I’m in the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble. And I’ve always kind of felt like, you know, I have to explain to them that, you know, just because I’m black does not mean I’m automatically good at jazz. I mean I’m decent but it’s not because I’m black, it’s because I worked on it, you know. [laughter]
And I feel like that’s just a – something that could be addressed in a – not a super aggressive way but just something people can be conscious of.
And I mean, for me, when I’ve always felt, I’ve never wanted anyone to give me extra points because I was good at classical music and I’m black, you know. And I felt at Eastman, especially in the trumpet studio, I’ve never felt like, oh man, you sounded good, and I’ve never heard a black guy sound that good. It was just simply you sounded good. And that was all – that was all she wrote.
And you know when we have auditions for different spots or when we pick part assignments, you know, it’s never like ,you know, give this guy a chance because like we’ve never had a black guy out of principle, you know – it’s very straight up and really – we take that element out of it. And it makes me feel more included and whenever there are hangs or any type of social event, I never feel, oh well, you know, we’re watching some movie that might have some kind of racist things in there. Let’s not invite Peyton because we don’t want to offend him. Like, you know, they are very open about it because they’re like, hey, [if] you’re not cool with this let us know. And for the most part I’m a pretty easy going guy so, you know, and of course we goof around and what not. But whenever it hits a line, all I have to say is, yeah I’m not really cool with that, and then the whole studio’s like, sorry I apologize and I’m like – because at the heart of it all the guys, at least in our community, are really conscious and really aware and they care because they’re – it’s all about being a big family, you know.
And we understand that we have to play with each other and there’s nothing quite like having to play with someone you don’t get along with so we make the conscious decision to be as, you know, judicial and like happy. We make a decision to love each other and to respect each other because, you know, our studio comes from like a lot of different places and, you know, we make sure that everyone feels welcome. At least that’s just me speaking from my experience.
Fox: Peyton, if you go to studio class and you’re late tell Profession Thompson that I gave you an excuse.
Peyton: Well actually tonight is performance class.
Peyton: So no Thompson but our TA will be there and I’ll let him know.
Peyton: I just. . . .
Peyton: Thank you.
Kelly: Hello, I’m Kelly. I’m a freshman here at Eastman and I just wanted to quickly talk about my personal experience with my concern for diversity and my interest in exploring diversity.
Eastman here is very busy, as we all know, as the students and faculty all know this. Our schedules are packed, you know, any hour we have we’re practicing or should be practicing or feeling guilty about how we’re not practicing.
Fox: And she’s only a freshman.
Male Voice: She’s learning quickly.
Kelly: Yeah, I know I noticed. But I identify myself as white. I consider myself privileged because of it in this society. And I’m Irish and so for years and years and years – I started when I was three – I’ve been Irish step dancing and I really, yeah, I really found that important part of my culture and a sense of inclusion with, you know, I have a dance community at home so I have a whole pool of friends there. And so I went over to River Campus and they have UR Celtic, which is really a cool group and I only knew about it because of the diversity day within the orientation. So that was really important I think for all freshman, that that just should be an every year thing and I think it has been.
Female Voice: Great ((inaudible))
Kelly: So I go over there and so on Sunday nights they have it and the bus schedule ends too soon, so I can’t go on Sundays. And then on Wednesday I go and I have to leave a little early, you know, because the bus schedule doesn’t allow for the time, you know, they make it nice and late because the students that University of Rochester are also quite busy and the evening seems the best time to be doing it, so that worked out well for me because, you know, my last class would end.
So last semester it worked pretty well but because I could only go on the Wednesdays and not the Sunday, you know, I wasn’t ready to put up the choreography with everyone. You know I wasn’t doing the performing. I was just doing the rehearsing.
And it was nice to get away from, you know, the Eastman bubble, as we call it. It was really nice to get away and kind of see a new environment, see new people, you know, I – we were working on rhythms and someone was like, oh you like that Eastman, and you know it was nice to feel like, you know, a part of something bigger.
And you know you go to the University of Rochester and there’s all this culture all around you but you come back here and because we’re so focused, because we’re, you know, music, music, music all day long, you know, and because there’s two people who are this culture, two people who come from this place, we have a difficult time being able to celebrate that. And the people who want to celebrate that, you know, they have small groups but, you know, the voices that want to be heard are heard within each other, you know. You’re preaching to the choir all the time, you know. You have a group of people, you know, there’s a Chinese culture club, you know, I found great interest in that but I haven’t been able to go because of this conflict and this conflict. And I want to be able to go and learn and I don’t have the opportunity to because we’re so busy.
So I don’t know what steps we might take to be able to kind of make this a broader thing, you know, and reach people but I think it’s really, really important.
Lin: Hello everyone. My name is Chien-Kwan Lin. I’m a saxophone teacher here at Eastman and I have been very privileged to be on the faculty. Even though I do sense and hear things that my students have experienced and I pride myself to have a pretty diverse studio, I personally do not experience it because of my privilege of being a faculty member. But I do hear from day to day how students do go through things and they feel excluded or they feel like they have – they have a need to gather in a group where they feel comfortable with each other. I just want to say that it is – it’s basically a human nature that we feel comfortable to be with our own type of people.
But what we’re saying what – the topic today is very real. Much of it really just stems from misunderstanding and not making an effort to try and understand each other. Making an effort to say, hey, do you feel the same. I mean would you mind just sharing your experience with me? Because if left to ourselves, we all sort of gather among people who we feel comfortable with.
I’m originally from Singapore. I’m an American now but I grew up in a multicultural society. In fact when I grew up I have Muslims friends. I play around with Muslim friends. I play around with Tumu – with Sikhs and Hindus and we’re all playing together.
What I want to – I think what I want – what I’m afraid of – and first of all I want to applaud our President Seligman and all the wonderful people on stage for holding this event. I’m slightly afraid that this is going to be just a – something that’s hyped right now – hyped up right now. We talk about it and then, you know, a series of things happen and then we write a report and then see what happens. Okay. And that’s what I kind of feel is going to happen. But I hope not, because this is – this event is serious and I think we all are very sensitive people here. And we are here to really share our thoughts. So I hope that this amounts to something.
My experience is that we can talk about this until the cows come home and nothing will change. Because today after we leave this room and we go about our regular life we’re going to go back to do whatever we are used to doing – we hang out with our same friends.
So where I’m from there’s basically several communities of races, and there’s nothing that you can do unless you implement something. So I hope that at this point that we have talked so much about this the next step will be actually doing something.
When I was growing up the government of Singapore, which is you know, there is good and bad. We talk about them. But one of the things that they do is social harmony. And that is that everywhere we – wherever you live there’s a quarter that a government has set that has to be a certain percentage of Muslims, certain percentage of Hindus, certain percentage of Buddhists, Chinese and all kinds of races, so when all of us grew up together our kids play with each other. We all play with each other. There’s just very, very little misunderstanding. We celebrate each other’s New Year’s. We celebrate each other’s important occasions, and I know it is very difficult – something that’s very difficult to do, especially at Eastman. I am an Asian, obviously, and I’m – in the field of classical music. I’m not – I’m not rare.
Fox: You’re not a “minority?”
Chien-Kwan Lin: I’m not a – I am a minority but not quite a minority either. At the same time when I – I’m one of like five minority faculty members at Eastman School of about one hundred people, one hundred faculty members.
Chien-Kwan Lin: Yeah, all six. Yeah. So it’s a matter of saying like we have to do something about it instead of saying, okay, now let’s talk about it. And keep talking. We can keep talking. The President of the United States can keep talking too and nothing will happen. Okay. It’s something that we actually have to do something about. So I – like I said, my fear is that after we leave this room we’re going to go back to what we are comfortable with but it actually takes something and someone who is willing to do something about this.
Fox: Rich, do you want to. . .?
Feldman: Your point is very well taken. And I think on the Commission we’re afraid of that, too. I mean we don’t want to write a report that will be put on a shelf somewhere and that’s the end of it. And I think we will end up making a number of recommendations. We don’t yet know what they will but our goal is to come up with recommendations that we think will make a lasting difference. And it’s perhaps worth saying that the work of the Commission folk is directed throughout the University. There’s also groups within the college looking at undergraduate life there.
And on the Commission we had a meeting yesterday and we just had a presentation from a group meeting on a campaign – they’re forming a campaign, an anti-racism, anti-hate speech kind of campaign. And they were very, very deliberate in saying they were going to come up with some short term goals but it was a long term campaign and they were all about thinking about coming up with something that will have a lasting impact.
I think we all understand that there’s the risk that we’ll talk, we’ll spend a lot of time and is exactly as you say – we’ll go back about our business. And we want to figure out things that we can do that will have a more lasting impact and I think we’re all also realistic. I mean we’re not going to fix everything by the work we do this semester but we can take steps. And I think we can figure out things to try to make the campus life better and that’s our goal. But we’re very conscious of the point you raised.
Lewis: Yeah, so just to take that one step further. Yes, we are very conscious of the point you raised and these Town Hall Meetings are very instructive. I would be interested to hear from members of the audience about ideas that you have for what would make the climate around race and ethnicity and diversity stronger here at Eastman and within the University as a whole.
Matthew: I’m Matthew. I’m from the Admissions Office. I hear you when you talk about images that we project and I’m going to take that away with me. But to Chien-Kwan’s point and the current topic of what will happen next I think we can rely on the coalition to a certain degree to make recommendations and on the leadership to make decisions that will help improve the environment. But really I think it’s going to be up to each of us leaving today and thinking differently and not going back to what we’re comfortable with. But going back and examining what we’re comfortable with.
And I come at this from, you know, maybe especially those who are like me in the sense of being white and male and privileged. First recognizing that.
My recent experience, you know, I struggle to think about experiences that I’ve had involving racism. But I think about a recent – and this just, you know, shines a light on my privilege, I guess – but a recent dinner party where the subject of the protests on the River Campus came up and the idea was presented, well, you know, isn’t this kind of just silly because there isn’t racism anymore. You know, there aren’t racists anymore.
And I recognized in that moment – I’m like, oh, I have to do something here, you know. And in the past I might have just let that fly. Look for a way to change the subject. We’re having dinner. We’re trying to; you know, be pleasant and let’s not, let’s not ruffle the feathers. And so I didn’t that time. It was horribly uncomfortable and I said, no, yeah, it’s a thing. Racism exists. Well you don’t know anybody who’s a racist. Well I have to say that I do and, you know, they don’t wear shirts anymore, but these – these problems are still very much among us. And it led to a very animated, lively discussion that was not comfortable. And then, you know, the evening went on. I guess I will pledge here to continue to seek out discomfort in confronting this issue.
Fox: Thank you.
Elizabeth: Hi, my name is Elizabeth. I’m a freshman here at Eastman. And going off of what Kelly mentioned, you know, being an Eastman student we’re so busy. I mean our schedule is packed, which is a great thing. I mean we’re here to do what we love but I think one way we could really implement diversity and really getting people and students to understand different cultures, different religions is by – we had a class called colloquium and you know we for an hour, just once a week, we got together our whole class and, you know, talked about, you know, like the opera department and, you know, needs there.
And I think we could do that with diversity. You know have a class, you know, set out, you know, in our schedule. It doesn’t have to be something, you know, outside of it that we, you know, waste other time on it. It could, you know, in our experience. And I think that’s really important because we’re not just here to learn about theory and, you know, how to play our instrument. While that’s important we’re also here to learn how to go on from school and to be, you know, adults who are more understanding and can really make a greater effect on, you know society.
Fox: Some of you know that Dean Burgett is one of the speakers for the colloquium. You never forget his presentation. [laughter]
Multiple Voices: ((inaudible))
Jamal Rossi: Hi, so I’m Jamal Rossi. I don’t have a story like you all – many of you have, that you’ve shared. I have an unusual name, though, and the most common conversation I have is “tell me about that name.” But that’s not what I want to talk about.
So first of all, I’m very, very proud to be a part of this school and proud of you – that you stood up and spoke from your heart and I think that means so much. I want to go back to a couple of comments.
The first comment made was from Professor Miller. And he talked about this challenge of admitting students who don’t necessarily have the same privilege of others. To be admitted to an Eastman School of Music or a top school takes years of private lessons, takes years of discipline, takes years of things that often students from financially challenged or disadvantaged families don’t have that opportunity.
And so this question of how do we do something different and try to admit people who have potential but maybe have not yet had the chance to really allow that to bloom is something that I would say that we are the front edge of talking about.
So I want to say first to Stefan and the others and I too heard you is that every one of you who are here and every one of your classmates got here because you earned your way here. Nobody got here because they represent an underrepresented minority. You earned your way. And that’s one of the challenges we think about – we have to think about if we say – so I was at a session in December hosted by the Mellon Foundation with a very focused agenda: What strategic initiative can be implemented over decades to increase the number of African-Americans in symphony orchestras? So it wasn’t diversity and it wasn’t classical music, it was very focused. But to do that means we need to be able to have many, many, many, many more African-American students in top schools of music – all schools of music. Because only a small percentage of those students are actually going to make it into symphony orchestras. And so we have to start thinking about do we look at admissions differently?
And it is a challenge because today I could stand here and say there’s not a single person who’s been admitted who didn’t earn it here. And if you’re going to say well now we’re going to change that somehow I think the student may not have had the opportunities but we see potential.
Then, again, would somebody five years from now be able to say actually they earned it on their musical accomplishment or are they here because we believe they have the potential. So again, I don’t want any student who’s in the class now to think that they were admitted for any reason other than they earned it and they deserved to be here. But I also believe we have to think differently if we’re going to have more than one of five Indian Americans or the number of African-Americans we have today. We have to – we have to think differently, so I don’t know what that is yet, but I know we have to think about it. Thank you.
Newman: I just want to say that as musicians I think we’re – we have a very special privilege and a duty to this country and to the world because we’re involving ourselves in something that is a part of every single culture. And I think there’s very few areas of study or just things in life that have that same universality that music has.
So I think what we need to do then is like the Jubilee concert. I think we just need to have more concerts that really focus on music from cultures that are lesser heard. You know, again, being Jewish there’s a holocaust memorial concert every year and I love that because I get to hear composers from a culture that I’ve never heard before. So I think if we can have more of those concerts and really promote them that can also just lead to more conversations about – about diversity and the power of music to really create social change and bridge gaps and bring people together, so.
McAvoy: I wanted to say that I completely agree with that. I’ve been sitting there thinking that this whole time. And also just that, you know, at Eastman we – there is a diversity committee and we do have – I mean an incredibly empathetic student and faculty body for the most part who are very excited and wanting to learn about these issues and wanting to be more informed and I think it would be really helpful if we had a little bit more in terms of like advertising for events.
Like I mean even – I was talking to ((inaudible)) earlier this year and she was saying that at some point this semester she’s inviting a friend of hers to come and give a lecture on the art of storytelling to teach and educate and change. And that is something that like in mind is like lightbulb, totally want to be there. Oh my gosh I am so showing up.
But if there aren’t a million flyers in the annex maybe no one else will know about it. You know what I mean? Like I think that if we had – or you know at Eastman we’re known for our music theory and in the summer before you come here, even as a freshman, you get an email that says have you done your e-theory yet. Are you ready for Eastman music theory? I mean what if there was also an email that said Eastman’s known for its diversity or Eastman is trying to encourage a diverse community. Here’s what we have for world music in the coming semester or here’s what we got going for forums that we want to hold. Just something like that because it seems like the desire is there and we need to find a way to make it more visible and accessible in spite of time constraints and constraints on resources.
Fox: That’s not going to amplify your voice. It’s just for recording.
Victoria: Oh that is scary. Okay. [laughter]
Fox: It’s more scary.
Victoria: Hi, I’m Victoria. I’m a junior. I’m sorry if I’m saying things that have been repeated but I really like what Jess and Haley were talking about and I think a really specific way to address that issue would be to change the music history curriculum here because we focus heavily if not exclusively on European and American music and I think we should focus more on what we call world music from countries that are not in Europe or America because I think, you know, that really focuses on one race of composers and I think we should talk more about the connection between, you know, politics and music, race of music, stuff like that. I think that would be something that I would hope to see very soon. Yeah.
Fox: Thank you.
Thorpe: Hi, my name is Allison Thorpe. I’m a doctoral student and I’ve just finished the research for my dissertation in which I’ve been out in the community working with community arts groups and choirs.
And I’ve really loved all of – I’ve been listening to everything that everyone’s been saying and the only thing that I would add to it maybe from the last six months of research that I’ve been doing is just that there’s a lot of resources out in the city.
And I’ve been doing lots of different things these past couple months. There was a unity sing at the public market. We had the Unite Rochester Challenge through the D&C that I’m working on. There’s just all kinds of wonderful things going on in the city and I think maybe as a University because students – we’re here for four years and we’re out – we don’t necessarily have those chances to find these things.
But I think that a huge resource that we have is that we’re in a city filled with lots of diversity and lots of really intelligent, creative people.
And to kind of piggyback on the last few comments, one of the things that really struck me as a result of this research was all of the repertoire that I didn’t know. And one of the things that was very humbling for me was that when people would describe their repertoire they would describe certain pieces as classical and when they said classical they weren’t talking about Mozart or Beethoven, they were talking about various pieces from their own cultures. And when I said what does classical mean they would say things like, oh it means that, you know, it’s built on tradition or there’s a very particular form to it or there’s a lot of detail, there’s a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of art to it. And so I would take that and maybe challenge us to think about what classical means on a broader level and connect with our friends that are in the blocks around us.
Female Voice: ((inaudible))
Henry: Hello, it’s so – it wigs me out that this doesn’t amplify our voice. [laughter] I’ll do it myself. I’m Henry. I’m a freshman here. I grew up Chinese, both my parents are Chinese. We spoke Chinese growing up and it’s a culture that’s been very ingrained in my life.
And for some reason Eastman has always been a very large name in my life. I don’t actually know the first time I’ve heard it – the word Eastman – but growing up I played piano and I’ve always just known Eastman is a really good music school and if you want to do piano, you want to aim here – a lot of my peers played violin. They also would hear the name Eastman. I want to come to Eastman.
And in our community we – I went to this Chinese school growing up to learn Chinese. And frequently they would have festivals to – where you would have a lot of dance and music and just celebrating Chinese culture. And I had known for some time before coming here and applying here that there is a large number of Chinese students and other Asian students at Eastman. But I expected a lot more of that type of music when I came here to – there to be more – I thought I would hear a lot of Chinese music and learn, learn a lot more about cultural music. It this being one of the top, if not the top music school in the nation, and I was – much to my chagrin I was surprised to find out that more – more so than often we just study dead German guys. [laughter]
I know I brought in – I brought this flute, this odd Chinese flute to school, to campus here a couple of breaks ago and I had been searching, I still am searching, for someone that might know how to teach it because it looks really interesting and I want to learn it. But I discovered that our only large music program – I’m sorry if I’m ignorant – that I know of is Gamelan, which is really impressive. I’ve listened to it and I really like it, it’s really cool. But otherwise our large store of instruments is the instrument office where you rent out trumpets, clarinets and other things for music ed. And there’s not as much as I’d like to know about world music at Eastman and I really think there could be a lot we could do with that.
I remember when you talked about Jubilee and other events that might fit for a niche of particular people I think it may not just be some event to help people feel more comfortable and students and faculty at Eastman to really feel like they are involved at the school, but I feel like it’s also a good factor in attracting people to this school. I know if I had heard much more about the diversity that Eastman does offer and if I had not before but if I had heard of any kind of Chinese music festivals at Eastman, I would have been delighted, and I might have wanted to check it out or other – other just special kind of events that might draw different people in, and if not even just to get people to apply or want to come to Eastman and visit it, maybe even in the local area of Rochester to inspire young children to want to play music, to want to discover and really study the – what we want to study – of the music, everything that we love. That’s all I have ((inaudible)).
Fox: Thank you.
Cotner: I wanted to mention something that I’ve talked about with friends and with professors and stuff is exoticizing certain topics, and by talking about, you know, world music or diversity it promotes otherness in and of itself.
And this conversation is important, but if we only have, you know, one concert a year that has African-American composers or like one concert a year that has, you know, Chinese composers then that is, in of itself, promoting otherness, and further, you know, creating more gaps between each other. So I think it would be really important for large ensembles such as Eastman Philharmonia, Eastman Wind Ensemble to program works by minority composers, by people of color, commissioning composers of color, people of color or, you know, from around the world and programming these works on a larger stage rather than just, you know, here’s the little Sunday afternoon concert that no one’s going to go to.
Because everyone goes to Philharmonia concerts, everyone goes to – hopefully everyone goes to Wind Ensemble concerts – everybody should go. [laughter] But, you know, if we just have these token concerts then that’s, you know, that’s not really doing much, honestly. It’s a step, but it’s a small step, and it’s really not that hard to just, you know, make an effort to program those works on a large stage. So I’d really like to see that implemented, and I think that would be pretty easy.
Fox: One of the things – one of the principles–that was applied some years ago was that all recitals at Eastman were supposed to have a composition that was written after 1950. I came in 1984 and that was in place, so 1950 was like thirty-four years before, but now I’ve been here thirty years so that 1950 is a long ways away, but still, making a commitment to saying we want students to perform music that’s been written in a more contemporary period of time. Making a commitment to performing music from other cultures is something definitely that could be discussed. I was going to say, Henry, Dr. Rossi has an urhu [Chinese stringed instrument] that he can teach you how to play. [laughter]
Rossi: Maybe he can teach me. [laughter]
Fox: We were in Wuhan [China] together and we were each given an urhu, and then we had to fly to three more Chinese cities and carry the urhus on the plane. People would say, oh you’re musicians. [laughter] And we’d say, yes we are – and put the urhus in the overhead.
Rossi: I feel much more comfortable with a saxophone on my shoulder than an urhu.
Fox: I’m an organist, he’s a saxophone player.
Stefan: So I think the overriding word I’m hearing is music. You know Maria Callas, the great opera diva of the 20th Century said it best that art was the highest form of communication and music is the highest form of art. I think, as musicians, we have a social responsibility that is sometimes ignored because we are immersed in academia.
We – our responsibility, I think, and this is how I see myself as a musician is to engage the public. It is to tell a story. It is to make them feel something visceral. It is – but it is always to engage, and therefore as a musician I could never be blind to what’s going on in the world right now. I can’t be blind to the presidential elections. I can’t be blind to what’s going on in Russia because that informs my artistry. I would like to suggest a number of things. I’ll just do three for now. [laughter]
Fox: I would expect this.
Stefan: I think we have enough resources. We have enough talented musicians. We have enough brilliant administration that we can have at least two recitals, concerts every year, every semester, two every semester, so four every year, dedicated to – so one concert could be dedicated to two particular ethnic groups and the music within that ethnic group. And it would not only be a forum where the music is performed but it will be also a forum where education.
Because when you speak about the music then you’re going to speak about all the things that surrounded the music, so the culture. And so within that holistically you are covering both.
To come back the otherness that you’re speaking about, is you’re not only going to have – like in Jubilee we didn’t only have students of African-American descent performing. There were all types of students performing. So in that forum you’re creating a space for us to do what we love to do, which is perform, but you are not, you know, creating a straitjacket that, you know, well we’re just doing music from the Chinese Diaspora so therefore we just need Asian students. No. That’s not what diversity is. In the sense that is the opposite of. I would also like to suggest if we can have a corner or a board, just a simple bulletin board, dedicated to diversity.
Fox: It’s outside my office, with a heading on the top. It says Diversity @ Eastman.
Stefan: Aha, I know I’ve seen it but the thing.
Fox: Yes, put something up there.
Stefan: Do you want me to?
Stefan: I have lots of stuff I can put up there. [laughter]
Fox: It’s a public board.
Stefan: And the other thing – I think someone said it earlier is about promotion. There are lots of great things that happen here but we only know about them after the fact.
As a student here I only found out that next week, Monday, there is a large MLK service that happens in Kodak Hall every single year that I knew nothing about because it’s not part of the school’s calendar because it’s an outside thing.
So I think with those resources that I’m speaking about we have the opportunity to engage everyone through something, through a medium which we all love, which is music. We have the opportunity because we have the Gamelan. It’s great, it’s fun, it’s hard but it’s there. But there are so many other things that we can do.
Like if we can combine that in a concert with other things. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a concert that is only dedicated to but we can have diversity showcase or something like at the beginning of the semester here the – no, yeah. Yeah, the beginning of this academic year, sorry, there was a wonderful diversity concert that made me – for one of the few times be extremely proud of being part of this school because it encompassed not only students from Eastman but students from the River Campus.
Fox: All the freshmen.
Stefan: And for the first time you saw everyone coming together and intermingling and you – I felt like wow, I’m part of something.
Fox: Good, good.
Stefan: And then before that you had the smaller forum for just the Eastman students where a number – there was a panel and people shared their individual experience. That in itself was also powerful but we need to build on those things. It can’t just be something that happens at the beginning of the semester and then it dies down.
So that’s why I suggest having a concert – one in the fall semester and one in the beginning in the fall semester and then one closing off the fall semester and one in the beginning in the spring semester and one closing off the spring semester because that’s what makes people feel involved. If I see it, if I can touch it, if I can go listen to it then I can understand and then I can be part of it and then I can feel part of something bigger than myself.
Fox: Okay, My watch says its seven minutes after eight and we were scheduled to go from 6:30 to 8. Is there anybody who wants a closing comment? I’ll keep it open. . . .Hugo?
Hugo: Just one more thing. They’ve had wonderful ideas about different ways that we can include the students and include people in this. And before you talk about different ideas that we might have for creating this discussion and creating within the students and I think that the ideas that Stefan said and Elizabeth said were fantastic and have lectures, bring people in, and my only worry or, I guess, warning is steer clear of screens because it’s an easy way to desensitize a sensitive subject.
And I’ve noticed a common theme in schools, high schools, and colleges is to do – create a program online that students have to fill out and therefore but after the first fifteen minutes of doing it you forget about it and you don’t have to worry about it ever again. So engage us. Have us be part of it. Give us opportunities to go to these lectures, these shows because we – as we can see there’s a large desire for that. And I think that that’s something that can be built upon with all of the programming and advertising for these and I think we’re working really well to do it.
And our individuality and taking our own personal responsibility for going out and thinking about how we affect others and how we ourselves, as individuals, affect others is something important. And so that was my only concern is just make it more engaging, make it so that we have to think about it – it’s not just a click and you’re done.
Fox: I think that’s our benediction. Thank you, Hugo. Thanks to all of you for being here tonight.
Fox: Thanks to the members of the Commission who joined us here tonight. Are there any brownies left? There are brownies or cookies and there’s still some little white pieces of paper if you want to write something and slip it in the jar we’ll make sure that it gets connected to the Commission report. Thank you everybody.
End of Recorded Session.