by Mike Telin
Beginning this week, Oberlin Conservatory will honor Black History Month with a series of events titled To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. It begins on Thursday, February 4 at 7:30 pm with a series overview hosted by Chris Jenkins, the Conservatory’s associate dean for academic support and liaison to the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The programs, which continue throughout the month, will be broadcast live on Oberlin Stage Left. A calendar of events can be found at the bottom of this article.
Saturday, February 6 at 1:30 introduces “Decentering the Canon in the Conservatory.” Moderated by Chris Jenkins, the symposium is the result of conversations held by Conservatory faculty over the summer of 2020 — talks dedicated to responding to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and other tragedies linked to systemic racism. The event is presented as part of the Richard Murphy Musicology Colloquium.
What is the canon and what does decentering the canon mean? “The panelists have written extensively on this topic,” Jenkins said during a recent interview. “Although they come at it from different points of view, they agree that the canon has centered esthetically and conceptually on the idea of whiteness and on works by white composers. Beethoven and Brahms have certainly been elevated by the quality of their work, but just as much because of the obsession with Germanic culture that characterized American classical music in the 20th century. The panelists are talking about music that is other, which has its roots in cultures of people of color, and has been systematically excluded for reasons other than quality.”