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#TheShowMustbePaused and #TakeTwoKnees

“The show must go on...”

That mantra is the rallying cry of artists finding ways to create, perform, and share their work no matter what is happening around them. But Tuesday June 2nd is different: a group in the music industry is calling on performers, musicians and the industry itself to make a different choice in light of ongoing racism and violence.

Classical musicians, orchestras, and the music and recording industry on the whole will interrupt their work and performances, and take time connect with their communities. They are encouraging people to stop and think, to learn and “have conversations about what actions we need to take together to support the Black community.” This effort is being coordinated with the hashtags: #theshowmustbepaused or #BlackOutTuesday.

Over the weekend, a number of opera and orchestral companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) took to social media to take a stand and support inclusion, diversity, equity and justice. Read more in this article from Opera Wire to see how these groups are responding.

Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of The New York Philharmonic, made a powerful statement by posting a video playing “America,” followed by him kneeling, with his hands and clarinet behind his back.

Classical musicians from throughout the world have answered this challenge; take some time to see and hear these responsesto McGill’s exhortation to #TakeTwoKnees "in the struggle for justice and decency."


In sharing their support for McGill’s video and statement, The New York Philharmonic wrote, “We post this in outrage and sadness over what has occurred in Minnesota and beyond, and for what has been a part of this nation’s history. We post this in solidarity to remind ourselves that America can and should be better than this. We cannot remain silent.”

“Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls. Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.” -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of The Sphinx Organization released this statement: "As we mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, we bow our heads in solidarity and pain, reflecting on the deep injustices that have been dividing our world. Indifference has run its course to give way to initiative, accountability, solidarity: each of us must now find our humanity and courage to take action."

WXXI Classical 91.5 has been committed to making sure "the show goes on" throughout this coronavirus pandemic, by partnering with the RPO, Hochstein and many arts organizations and musicians, to present virtual concerts and performances. But on Tuesday 6/2, WXXI and The Little will be joining in #theshowmustbepaused to support and empower Black people in our community by focusing our playlists on the work of Black musicians while canceling our online events and shows in solidarity with this “Black-Out Tuesday.”

While this renewed focus starts with a day, it can’t stop there. The organizers of this initiative are determined to continue to share resources and plans to make sure that this work continues, and we will continue to follow up to learn and act with them. That is only way for it to have meaning and impact.

In classical music, we have even more to wrestle with in terms of institutional and individual racism that has shaped how classical music is experienced by black musicians and audiences. Some of the work to change this reality over the decades has been based right here in Rochester, with The Gateways Music Festival.

We have made a conscious effort to include Black composers, conductors, and performers on WXXI Classical 91.5 throughout the year, beyond Black History Month, but there is still so much more that we can do.

In addition to the Gateways Music Festival, here are a few more national organizations that are making a difference in terms of uplifting musicians of color and helping others to do the same.

* The Sphinx Organization

* Afri-Classical

* Institute for Composer Diversity

* Music by Black Composers

* African-American Art Song Alliance

On The Show Must be Paused website, you can find links to education resources and ways support and connect to people and organizations working for solutions. In addition to those suggestions, we have an excellent source of anti-racism education locally: 540 West Main

Here are two articles that I found particularly meaningful and challenging in taking a look at the culture surrounding this music we love.

"Singing Against the Grain Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter era"by Kira Thurman

“When Black Conductors Aren’t Comfortable at Concerts, Classical Music Has a Real Problem” by Brandon Keith Brown

Please share any more resources for discussion and action that you think are important. Now is a time to use that skill that I hope that we have developed as music lovers over the years: Let us listen.

Copyright 2020 Classical 91.5 WXXI-FM

Mona Seghatoleslami is the host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5 FM weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. She also hosts the lunchtime concert series Live From Hochstein at 12:10 p.m. Wednesdays, interviews musicians, produces special programs, and works on any project she can find that helps connect people and music in our community through WXXI.