Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Santa Barbara Independent: "Four Ways of Looking at the Music Academy"

Chi-chi Nwanoku
(Courtesy Photo)

Four Ways of Looking at the Music Academy

From Conferences to Concerts and More

Wednesday, July 18, 2018
This Music Academy of the West season, off to an exciting start, can be appreciated from more angles than ever before. Here are four ways of looking at the Music Academy, or MAW, suggested by events held thus far this summer.
The season began with the academy serving as a site for cultural leaders to meet and discuss the future of music. Now in its second year, the MAW’s Classical Evolution/Revolution conference on June 22 addressed the theme of the “arts as the cultural fabric of society.” To explore the challenging terrain of access and diversity, organizers invited a range of experts, from Los Angeles community theater makers to State Department officials. The presence and involvement of the winners of the academy’s inaugural round of Alumni Enterprise Awards showed that this was more than just talk about change. 
In addition to the summer’s major announcement of a new four-year partnership between the Music Academy and the London Symphony Orchestra, there were other voices and perspectives from around the world present at Evolution/Revolution. Gillian Moore, director of music for London’s Southbank Centre, moderated the panel on Gender and Power Dynamics in Classical Music, and Chi-chi Nwanoku, the founder and executive director of Chineke! and a professor of double bass at the Royal Academy of Music, provided valuable insight into the blind spots within existing classical music organizations. 
Chineke! is a British group that has the distinction of being the first professional orchestra in Europe to be made up of black and minority ethnic musicians. It has only been around since 2015, and already one of the group’s young members, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, has become an international sensation, winning the BBC Young Musician award in 2016, going viral with a video of his performance at the 2017 BBC Proms, and eventually earning an invitation from Meghan Markle to perform at the recent royal wedding. Nwanoku’s extraordinary personal story and her tough-minded, honest critique of contemporary attitudes within the classical music establishment elicited heartfelt witness from several of the Music Academy fellows in the audience.

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