In Conversation with President Eileen M. Hayes

Eileen Hayes

Climate Change Activism

The ongoing mission of CMS is carried out by its members, Executive Board, and Board of Directors.  This fall, we extend appreciation to our colleagues completing their terms as Board members: Eric Hung, Ethnomusicology; Alicia Doyle, Musicology; Karen Fournier, Music Theory; Jim Perone, Vice President; and Keith Ward, Past-President.  At the same time, it is a pleasure to welcome incoming Board members: Mark Rabideau, President-Elect; Brian Kai Chin, Vice President; Brenda Romero, Ethnomusicology; Ayden Adler, Musicology; and Patricia Ann Burt, Music Theory.

As I write, the CMS national staff is making final preparations for our annual conference.  To newcomers and members of many decades, I second the welcome extended by CMS Program Chair, Jennifer Snodgrass, earlier this summer.  In addition to keynote speakers Ken Bain, Laura Escudé, and Carmen-Helena Tellez, members of the Kentucky-Ana Sacred Harp Association will join us for musicking at the conference’s conclusion. 

Many will attend An Evening at the Derby, part of the line-up of events on Friday.  In visiting the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, the presence of our members will confer additional recognition on those whose voices are no longer heard, meaning, the many black jockeys whose contributions to American sports history will be recalled. According to author Kurtis Lee,  (“In a neglected cemetery lie black jockeys who helped create the Kentucky Derby”) “in the years after the Civil War, most horse trainers and grooms were black men — so, too, were jockeys. Of the first 28 winning jockeys of the Derby, 15 were African American.” The erasure of black jockeys was a consequence of institutional racism that, as one writer put it, “seeped” into the world of horse racing and later, Jim Crow.  Christopher Klein writes that by 1904, black riders had been virtually banned from the major racetracks.

The sleight of hand in sports historiography conjures erasures of black access in other areas of social life, including music’s soundings from jazz to string band.  This brings me to the matter of declining enrollments at many of our institutions. Reflexively, I might add that enrollments of underrepresented students who are music majors is dropping but the fact is, that for most of our departments, schools, and colleges of music, the number of domestic minorities has not been significant enough to move a needle that has, in the main, held intractably steady over the years.  As we know all too well, the numbers of underrepresented students at the DMA and Ph.D. levels have shown even less of an increase.

We each have issues that keep us up at night and I leave you now with a few of mine, in no particular order:  What do declining enrollments at many institutions suggest about pre-college access to musical training? Can we identify alternative hearings that can impact our audition processes and requirements positively, and by so doing, expand the perception of who constitutes a music major? Is there a way to bridge the chasm between highly resourced institutions and those with more modest resources?  What is the relationship of our audiences to the neighborhoods in which our conservatories and universities are situated? How swiftly can we address the two types of climate change that are before us: first, the environmental concerns referenced by the millions who participated in the recent global climate strike, from London to Iceland, and second, the climate on our campuses, including especially, within our schools and departments of music. With focus on the common topic, many of the proposals of scholars, educators, and performing artists presenting in Louisville evince an underlying concern with equity, and the opportunity it affords for music teaching and learning when it is actualized.   At the end of the day, the work of CMS members makes a difference.

I look forward to seeing you in Louisville.