The Emancipation of Music in Higher Education
At some point during the black power movement, my parents decided that our family would observe the first day of the new year as Emancipation Day, the day on which President Lincoln issued his Proclamation in 1863. Over the past year in this column, I have addressed the need for our field to undergo emancipations of all sorts, including that from gender disparity, racial bias, and homophobia and extending to the release from transphobia, ableism, and preoccupation with status and prestige. Music in higher education continues to evolve or distance itself from its blind spots, prejudices, and sedimented notions of who is a musician or who gets to be a music major or serve as a member of our faculties. There are hope-filled signs that for many, these issues are front and center in their consciousness and are inspiring activism in the field.
In addition to our annual conference in Louisville, several meetings held by other professional music societies this year, brought issues of equity and opportunity into relief. You may already be aware that at this year’s Society for Music Theory meeting, for example, a panel of scholars of color and white scholars addressed racism in the field; last fall also, the president of the Society for Ethnomusicology wrote an open letter to the membership apologizing for the “exclusion and even erasure” that was made evident in the proceedings surrounding its annual Seeger Lecture. Writing from the world of publishing in regard to a different but long-lasting erasure, the Editor-in Chief of a major university press issued a statement acknowledging “deeply embedded biases, both personal and structural,” that have resulted in unfortunate omissions of diverse voices (including underrepresented minorities in the U.S.) as peer reviewers, and as active participants in every aspect of the “publishing stream.”
There are several ways that CMS can contribute to this ongoing set of steps forward for our discipline and by no means am I suggesting that the instances I have illuminated are the only ones or that CMS is late in calling for a change that matters. Given that my awareness is partial, I would be interested in hearing about the advances our single-discipline societies are making in regard to equity and opportunity, from our members. In the meantime, I have identified the following action steps envisioned to help us move forward. First, in this new year I will suggest to the Board of Directors that all committees should have at least one musician/scholar of color within its membership. Such a policy will assist CMS in its efforts to promote excellence through equity and diversity. Second, I will charge the Committee on Cultural Inclusion to carry out a demographic study of our membership so that CMS might attain data that will be informative as we address the needs of our members going forward. Third, in addition to an exciting array of concerts, papers, “campfire chats,” panel discussions, and discussion pods, the annual meeting in Miami will feature a presidential plenary examining the successes that have followed in the wake of the CMS Taskforce Report on the Undergraduate Music Major. Our exchange of ideas and strategies concerning music school curriculum redesign will be inspiring. Stay tuned for more about that.
Just as we acknowledge the ongoing work of our members, we pause to reflect on the contributions of those who have been working tirelessly on our behalf for many years. I extend our collective appreciation to Mary Anno Murk, Bookkeeper. Anyone who has called the executive office, has undoubtedly spoken with Mary, who retired at the end of December, after twenty-one years of keeping CMS's accounts up to date and solving innumerable problems for members and others. Assuming the role of Bookkeeper is Sheri Thick, who hails from Superior, Montana. Many have contributed to CMS in various capacities and we acknowledge the dedicated service of departing component editors of the CMS Symposium: V.J. Manzo, Music-Business Industry Editor; Sandra S. Yang, Forums Editor; and Damon Sink, Audio Review Editor. Lisa Urkevich, General Editor, announces the roster of incoming new editors: Richard Strasser, MBI Editor, Stan Pelkey, Forum Editor, and Richard Masters, Audio Review Editor. We welcome also Dr. Don Bowyer, chair of the CMS International Initiatives Committee.
Best wishes for a productive term and I wish you a Happy New Year.