If you follow the American Composers Orchestra and you stay on top of your composer opportunities, you might have noticed ACO’s most recent Earshot post on Facebook: readings for emerging African-American composers. I was surprised to see some comments that weren’t so positive–comments that reflect some dangerous thinking.
Three years ago, I began a job teaching English as a second language (ESL) at the Boston Conservatory. There were no pre-existing texts for teaching second-language learners to use English to write and speak effectively and naturally about music, so I made my own. Despite success in many aspects of this endeavor, a glaring problem remains: my students have tremendous difficulty with the seemingly simple task of describing a piece of music.
There is a deep, reverberating echo of history in composer higher education, and a palpable unspoken dialogue between current and past students, faculty, and guest artists. Today I continue to look for new ways to engage with our students, all the while drawing upon the words and wisdom of those who laid the foundation for my own pedagogy.
In the last few months, there have been a number of highly circulated articles about women and contemporary classical music. Reading all these articles got me thinking about the role that gender plays in my own musical life. So here are some thoughts on what it’s like to be a composer on the trans-female spectrum in the early 21st century.
With my antennae more or less permanently oriented toward music and the arts, the defining mood of this year’s commencement season has been realism. This is a year in which, it seems, society is determined not to let students of the arts out into the world without making sure they’re painfully aware of what awaits them.