Discussions and initiatives regarding inclusion and equity in classical, contemporary, and new music fields have been ongoing for some time. Strikingly, since the disturbing events that led to the death of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, on March 13th, 2020 and the global protests that followed, discussions and initiatives pertaining to inclusion, equity and equal representation within the classical, contemporary, and new music communities have drastically increased, signifying an urgency for real, sustainable change.
As an African-American woman within the classical saxophone field, and wider contemporary and new music fields, the issues, theories, and concepts discussed throughout this dissertation are profoundly important to me. While my aim is to thoroughly discuss these theories and concepts as it relates to musicians and educators, I also suggest ways in which we can move forward and form more inclusive communities and better practices.
This dissertation explains how identity is expressed in every aspect of our musical output and that music and identity cannot be separated from one another. This argument comes to fruition through an unraveling and exploration of the following concepts: identity, intersectionality, privilege, and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Drawing upon the contributions of thinkers such as Stuart Hall, Simon Frith and Audre Lorde, among others, these concepts are not only presented only in an accessible way, but in a way that invites further thought, ignites further research, and incites change within and externally. While this dissertation was written with the North American saxophone community in mind, the hope is for the concepts, theories and issues presented throughout this document to be internalized and applied towards all classical, contemporary and new music communities.
For the effectual explanation of the aforementioned concepts, I proceed to apply them towards a piece within the classical saxophone repertoire entitled Pimpin’ by Jacob ter Veldhuis. This piece is used as an example to show how we can use those concepts (identity, intersectionality, privilege, and CRT) to better understand how music and identity intersect in the repertoire we play, commission, and teach—within every facet of our musicking.
Many schools and colleges of music in higher education institutions are attempting to increase their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in response to the momentum from the recent socio-political happenings, but in order for real change to be made, it must start from the bottom up, rather than the top down. It must start with the educators themselves, with us as performers, whether we are students or professional musicians. The creation of truly inclusive musical communities cannot come only from policy changes and the implementation of committees, it must start with the people that make up said communities, it must start with the people that institutions serve, with us as individuals, so that when we do come together, we are able to empathize with one another, and see value and richness in differing perspectives. Fighting for equal representation and diversity is meaningless until we address the intersection in which all oppression and privilege meet—sustainable, equitable, change cannot be made without this.