Thursday, January 5, 2017

MPRNews: Spring Lake Park [Minnesota] High School band looks for diversity in its repertoire [Includes Composer Ayatey Shabazz, Born in Biloxi, Mississippi]

Ayatey Shabazz

C.L. Barnhouse Company
Ayatey Shabazz, a native of Biloxi, MS is an accomplished composer, arranger, educator, and clinician. He received his formal training from the University of Southern Mississippi. He studied composition and arranging under Dr. Albert Gower, who inspired him to make composing his life work. Mr. Shabazz is very active as an arranger/ composer for many high school and college programs as well as other idioms of music such as drum corps, jazz, film and television projects. He also travels extensively conducting clinics, adjudicating concert festivals and marching band contests, and is a Pro-Mark educator endorser. Shabazz has taught beginning through high school band.

Mr. Shabazz holds membership in American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers, The Recording Academy, National Federation of High Schools, the National Music Educators Conference, AFM Local 47, the Universal Code council, the Mississippi Bandmasters Association, and Texas Music Educators Association. 

Spring Lake Park High School band teachers have made a point of incorporating both modern and classical composers of color into their lesson plans. 

Solvejg Wastvedt · ·
Student musicians at Spring Lake Park High School are shaking up the band canon this year with pieces by a broader range of composers.
High school band music is usually dominated by white, male composers, but Spring Lake Park's directors have pledged to include at least one piece by a female composer and one by a composer of color in each concert for each band.
They've also pledged to only buy music from composers of color this year.
"There's a kind of like ideological segregation of who can and cannot be in band based on who the composers are, and what music is like, and what the experiences of those composers are like," said junior clarinet player Kia Muleta, who is black. Muleta said she's noticed that most of her fellow student musicians are white.
But the challenge doesn't mean that white men are the only ones composing band music, said Yolanda Williams, a professor of African-American studies at the University of Minnesota.
"There's a canon for every instrumentation that has been developed over years, and very few women get into that canon, very few composers of color get into that canon," Williams said, adding that work by composers of color is often not well-publicized.
Williams said there are long-standing stereotypes, too — if an African-American composer is included in a concert, she said, the piece is more often than not a spiritual, gospel or jazz.
 "They're not being forced to write music that sounds like their own culture or their own history, they're able to just use that culture and that history as a lens to interpret the way that art is going," he said of composers like Viet Cuong, a Vietnamese-American who wrote the piece "Diamond Tide," inspired by the scientific process of melting a diamond.
"I've learned that when you look at the composer and then you don't know the piece of music, you can't judge what you think the piece of music is going to sound like or what you think it should sound like until you actually play it through," said sophomore bassoon player Alannah Easter.

Tycast's students are playing "Of Honor and Valor Eternal," a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen African-American military pilots by Ayatey Shabazz, a black composer from Mississippi. Shabazz said his grandfather knew one of the airmen, and stories he heard as a child inspired the composition.

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