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Eastman School of Music officially dedicates the George Walker Center for Equity and Inclusion

Dedication of Walker Center Eastman School of Music
provided photo
Eastman School of Music
Staff from the Eastman School of Music & the University of Rochester, and family members of composer George Walker gathered on Saturday for the dedication of the George Walker Center for Equity and Inclusion. From left to right, University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf, Ian Walker, incoming Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion Crystal Sellers Battle, University of Rochester Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Mercedes Ramírez Fernández, Eastman Black Student Union President Brianna Garçon, Gregory Walker, Eastman School of Music Dean Jamal Rossi

A new center for equity and inclusion was dedicated Saturday at the Eastman School of Music.

The center is named for composer George Walker. He was the first Black winner of the Pulitzer prize in Music, among many other accomplishments – and he received several degrees from the Eastman School of Music.

This center being named in his honor will be a gathering place for students, particularly affinity groups like the Eastman Black Students Union. It will also be the “home base” for the school’s newly appointed Dean of Equity and Inclusion, Crystal Sellers Battle, who will start her work at Eastman this summer.

“Because that is a place that is really sometimes lacking at our institutions, is that we assume that the place to be for all students works the same way for all students and it doesn't.,” said Sellers Battle. “Sometimes there's a place where you you’ve got to let your hair down.”

George Walker Eastman School of Music
Frank Schramm
Eastman School of Music
Composer and pianist, George Walker

George Walker’s sons, Ian and Gregory Walker spoke about their father’s experience at Eastman and in the world of classical music.

“There were times when my dad felt alone in the struggle - but the very fact that we’re here today at this occasion is proof that he wasn’t truly alone, and that his musical voice has been heard,” said Gregory Walker. “My hope for all the other incredibly talented but struggling artists in our midst, they can see what we have here, that they are not alone.”

Speeches from students, staff, and George Walker's family were part of Saturday's dedication

Eastman School School of Music student Brianna Garçon is the president of the Black Students Union. When she finishes her degree, she will be the first Black French horn student to graduate from Eastman.

“Despite this amazing feeling of honor and accomplishment that comes from being the first and the doors that you open for so many others with similar backgrounds within this field, the biggest downfall from being the first - is being the only,” Garcon said.

Jamal Rossi, Dean of the Eastman School said that Sellers Battle’s appointment and the new center are part of efforts to create “an environment that is inviting and welcoming to all individuals.“

“Clearly at our school, the first criteria has to be musical excellence,” said Rossi. “But beyond that, we want to make certain that that individuals feel like this is a place where they would feel welcomed, they would feel comfortable, they would be safe, they can explore who they are as people, and in all their uniqueness and unique ways.

The dedication of the George Walker Center for Equity and Inclusion on Saturday was held in the Sproull Atrium at the Miller Center, and it was followed by a concert of George Walker’s music at Hatch Recital Hall.

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.
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