Wednesday, June 15, 2011

'I would like to respectfully urge the Brevard Music Center to program a significant number of works by Black composers.'

[Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Still; Denver Oldham, piano; Koch 3 7084 2H1 (1991)]

We begin with a brief excerpt from a feature article:
"Diamond Jubilee for Brevard Music Center, Venue celebrates 75th anniversary
Beth Beasley, Times-News corespondent
June 12, 2011
In 1955, the music camp and festival — now with a full summer’s worth of performances — became known as the Brevard Music Center. Over its history, the Brevard Music Center has developed a reputation as one of the country’s premier summer training programs for young musicians. Today, it hosts in excess of 400 students — hailing from nearly every state in the nation and from 14 different countries worldwide, according to Murray. The artist faculty now includes 65 professional musicians, representing numerous major orchestras and music schools, he says.”

After reading the article, I sent a message to Bruce Murray, Dean and Artistic Administrator, via the website of the Brevard Music Center:

I am webmaster of and author of the blog As I read the story in about the Diamond Jubilee Season of the Brevard Music Center, I did not see any mention of concert repertoire by Composers of African Descent. Are any such works on the program? Many orchestras program one of William Grant Still's 5 symphonies, which include his Afro-American Symphony, or a work of Adolphus Hailstork or George Walker to name just a few of the many Composers of African Descent. I would like to respectfully urge the Brevard Music Center to program a significant number of works by Black composers. Paul Freeman and the Chicago Sinfonietta demonstrated that excellent repertoire by Composers of African Descent is available and is well-suited to concert performances. I hope to hear from you. Sincerely, William J. Zick”

Mr. Murray promptly replied by email:

“Dear Mr. Zick,

“Thank you for your email message. This is the third reply I have written to you, but I did not send the first two since they were long and involved and doubtless contained far more information than you would care to absorb.

“I'll limit myself to say that you are correct in noticing that Brevard Music Center programs a very narrow repertoire; I hope that this can change. I note that we have a teaching mission, not a performing one, and that we program music that students tell us, explicitly, that they want to play. If we program other music, then students will not enroll and audiences will not attend. One can assert that this is not so (and I made this very assertion years ago), but trial and error has proved that it is so. One can assert that educating our audience will do the trick and grant us some programming leeway. But since we only exist as a performing entity for only six weeks each year, and since 70% of our audience are new each year (tourists), then education of our (constantly changing) audience is not possible.

“Certainly we could offer vastly more varied programs. We could do so, however, for only one year, for students would not enroll and audiences would not buy tickets, and Brevard Music Center would cease to exist.

“I hope that our student body and our (constantly changing) audience will come to trust us sufficiently so that they will attend regardless of what we program. That time has not yet arrived. We shall keep trying. I wish you all the best, and please continue your good work.

Bruce Murray, Dean
Brevard Music Center”

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