Trailblazing artist and composer Coleman to perform at CCU
Listed as one of the “Top 35 Women Composers” in The Washington Post in 2017 and named Performance Today’s 2020 Classical Woman of the Year, Coleman recently made history when she became the first Black woman composer ever commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, a major “Big Five” American orchestra. Her works have garnered awards such as the MAPFund, ASCAP Honors Award, Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning Program, Herb Alpert Ragdale Residency Award, and nominations from The American Academy of Arts and Letters and United States Artists. Umoja, Anthem for Unity was chosen by Chamber Music America as one of the “Top 101 Great American Ensemble Works” and is now a staple of woodwind literature.
Eric Schultz, assistant professor of music and director of the new Edwards Center for Inclusive Excellence at the University, has been studying Coleman’s music with his students for years. The new Edwards Center creates a space for faculty and students to discuss and research topics that are often missed in curricula across many disciplines. In music, this especially means standard repertoire lists. Traditionally, students study and perform a small number of pieces, the standard repertoire for their instruments. According to Schultz, certain composers are so monumental, such as Mozart or Beethoven, they really cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the canon reflects historical marginalization of certain groups and communities, especially women and people of color. As a point of reference, according to a recent survey of the 22 largest American orchestras, women composers accounted for only 1.8% of the total pieces performed. Composers of color account for an even smaller portion.
“A repertoire list from the past may reflect some of the greatest music ever written, but it also reflects our biases as a society,” said Schultz. “Music has been a country club for far too long, and it is time we open the doors and let more people in.”
The Edwards Center has recentered diverse, living composers by performing music such as Coleman’s landmark piece, Umoja. Schultz also acquired Coleman’s music library through grant support earlier this year. The University now houses the largest collection of her scores in the world, and CCU students have free access to this repertoire, solving a major accessibility barrier for new music by living composers. Edwards Center student fellow and music major Diamond Gaston recently showcased several works from this new library in her senior recital, the first ever student degree recital to feature all women composers.
“Valerie Coleman is someone I’ve looked up to since I was in sixth grade,” said Gaston. “It’s comforting to have someone who’s alive and who looks like me who does what I do. She looks like me, sounds like me, so having someone like her here is insane.”
Last year, Schultz coined the phrase and created The [Represent]atoire Project (musical repertoire, or the music we traditionally perform, as representation). To take this initiative into the future, each year he will select a living composer to focus study on with his students. The benefit of this approach is that it will allow students to focus deeply on these composers, in a manner more comparable to how they study the classical titans they all know and love.
The Edwards Center for Inclusive Excellence is an interdisciplinary hub for faculty and student fellows, actively collaborating with the regional community, to engage in exceptional and socially responsible research and teaching. Each year will be organized around a topic that will generate creative production, critical research, and socially engaged projects among faculty and students. The topic for the 2022-2023 academic year is “Narratives of Democracy.”
For more information, contact Schultz at 843.349.6431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.