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In the summer of 2020, Furman’s Council on Equity and Inclusion in Music was formed to work with Music Department leadership in promoting diversity and anti-racism within the university’s musical life. Through this initiative, the council created an exciting CLP series that has been running throughout this spring semester. Titled Amplify@Furman, the series features six virtual presentations by guest artists from all areas of music. In addition to speaking to their own careers and experiences, the artists discuss issues of racism and marginalization within their sectors of the larger music community.
The artists in this series were strategically selected to reflect a wide variety of ethnicities, genders, and musical backgrounds. Three of the presentations in the series have already taken place this semester. The first featured Dr. Philip Ewell, a music theorist and professor at Hunter College. Dr. Ewell shared his research on race and assimilationism in American music education. For the second presentation, the composer group Kinds of Kings, featuring female composers Gemma Peacocke, Maria Kaouttzani, and Shelley Washington, spoke on their music and efforts to promote greater inclusion for composers from historically marginalized groups. The most recent event featured Devonté Hynes, a performer also known by his stage name Blood Orange. Hynes has done a wide variety of work encompassing pop, R&B, indie, and classical music — you may know him from his recent bass performance alongside Harry Styles at the Grammys.
Dr. Omar Carmenates, chair of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion in Music, sees Amplify@Furman as an initative with a two-fold goal. For Furman’s music students, the council hopes these artists demonstrate “just how many ways there are to succeed and be creative in the music field.” For the Furman community as a whole, the series aims to provide what Carmenates calls a “no-cost, barrier-free, opportunity to interact with first-rate musical artists who are also advocates for social justice.” By broadening viewers’ musical horizons and giving them the opportunity to explore music they may not otherwise have experienced, viewers are able to hear how artists’ diverse backgrounds and careers have shaped their unique voices.
Moreover, Carmenates hopes that this series will act as a “bridge” between Furman’s music department and the more central academic disciplines on campus. As the music building is geographically removed from the rest of campus, much of the artistic and academic excellence achieved there is celebrated only by the friends and family of music students. Carmenates hopes that Amplify@Furman will extend beyond the confines of an academic major to inspire all students on Furman’s campus, subject area non-discriminatory.
Carmenates is very grateful for the support of the Furman Humanities Center, as it allowed these presentations to be conducted as free CLP events. Through advertisement and promotions, the council hopes to widen the audience of these events, and the discussions they initiate, to soon include off-campus viewers like Furman alumni, family, and the greater Greenville community.
There are three events left in the series. On April 6th, cellist Justin Page of the award-winning ensemble What is Noise will give a presentation and participate in a Q&A. On April 14th, performer Rhiannon Giddens will speak on her role as the artistic director of Silkroad, an award-winning ensemble founded by Yo-Yo Ma in 2000 with the goal of promoting music from different cultures worldwide and facilitating musical collaboration across cultural divides. The last presentation in the series will take place on April 20th and will feature Robert Diggs “RZA” of the Wu -Tang Clan. Diggs will speak on his career as a performer, producer, actor, and filmmaker. Students, faculty, and the wider public can register to attend these events on Furman’s CLP calendar.