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The Of Thee I Sing Mission of Inclusion and Diversity
Recent events have brought to light the need for all of us to re-examine our role as citizens in order to make this country the best it can be for everyone. At Of Thee I Sing, this mission is multi-faceted and includes:
-Programming the songs of historic American Composers of Color, such as Florence B. Price and William Grant Still. These composers have contributed works of the highest caliber to our nation’s musical heritage, yet they have gone largely unperformed and are therefore generally unknown. We all benefit from being exposed to this beautiful music, and it deserves regular performance and programming alongside composers like Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein whom we already know so well and associate so directly with quintessential American sound.
-Programming of Spirituals accompanied by in-depth study of the history, development, and vast catalogue of this repertoire. Many experts in the field, including Dr. Lourin Plant, say that people of all races should sing this music, and that “singing Spirituals is centrally important to our education and racial transcendence as a nation.” What a beautiful and inspiring perspective!
-Giving a voice to the lesser-told stories—good and bad— when preparing concert programs on American historical events. The Women’s Suffrage concert currently in preparation does this by celebrating the contributions of African-American suffragists such as Frederick Douglass and Mary Church Terrell, discussing the rifts and segregation within the Movement, and drawing attention to the horrors that occurred at the Occoquan Workhouse on the Night of Terror. I do this through both music of this time period and commissions of new songs set to historical, primary source texts.
I am deeply honored to be an ambassador of this music. It is my joy to bring American heritage to life through song, and I also know it is a responsibility to take seriously. I won’t always get it right, and look forward to the dialogue brought on by bringing this music to the forefront.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Jon Meacham said it best: “That’s our mission now: to hear the music that has lifted us from danger, kept us together amid tragedy, united us anew in triumph, and urged us towards justice. From our earliest times to our latest, we hear not only the spoken but the sung word, and the music of the nation reminds us where we’ve been, who we are—and what we can now become.”
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