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Manhattan School of Music Announces The 2021–22 Roster of Artist Scholars

Christian Wissmuller • News • October 18, 2021

Renowned international music conservatory Manhattan School of Music(MSM) today unveiled its 2021–22 roster of Artist Scholars, an accomplished and influential list of artists, activists, educators, and arts leaders that counts among its ranks newly named General Director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera Khori Dastoor, 2017 TED Global Fellow and Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at the Kennedy Center Marc Bamuthi Joseph (“Bamuthi”), and Taiwanese-American composer Justine F. Chen.

The School’s 2021–22 class of Artist Scholars – full list below – will join MSM in a variety of forums, including panels, seminars, discussion groups, special performances, musical collaborations, and mentorship. The program, part of the School’s Cultural Inclusion Initiative and spearheaded by MSM Chief of Staff and Assistant Vice President for Special Initiatives Alexa Smith, offers MSM students, faculty, and staff members opportunities to engage with Artist Scholars in a range of topics related to their experiences, expertise, and insights around artistry, creativity, and careers. The Artist Scholars provide MSM’s community with space to explore and address questions of racial equity, representation, and inclusion within the performing arts and society.

“As we move into year two of this important program, our Artist Scholars continue to reflect MSM’s strong belief in consistent dialogue and shared experience as an essential element in healing, coming together, and learning to value our differences,” says MSM President James Gandre, “all while moving forward with strength, vitality, and excellence.”

Last fall, MSM’s Artist Scholars program was launched in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans by police. In addition to MSM’s full embrace of the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement and the introduction of a Black Creators Initiative that saw every concert in the School’s 2020–21 performance season including work by African American creators and/or those from the African diaspora, the Artist Scholars initiative was born.

Over the past year, MSM has built upon the Black Creators Initiative, with MSM faculty committed to the premise that a core ingredient of artistic excellence is a curriculum that values cultural inclusion. The School’s newly defined Cultural Inclusion policy requires every department to identify discipline-specific, under-represented creators and to use this information to publish new performance-based requirements, from ensemble performances to audition repertoire requirements and graduation recitals. All courses are undergoing a similar transformation to ensure that cultural inclusion permeates every facet of the curriculum.

“We believe in the collective responsibility to bring a more inclusive canon to the conservatory curriculum,” says Executive Vice President and Provost Joyce Griggs. “MSM continues to focus on the important work of creating a more complete education, and this year’s Artist Scholars roster represents one important extension of that effort.”

Leading the way this year will be activist, author, and educator Phil Chan, who will act as the School’s Artist Citizen in Residence. In addition to co-founding the influential Final Bow for Yellowface and its commitment to leading the effort to eliminate outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians on ballet and other performing arts stages, Mr. Chan has served as the Director of Programming for IVY, connecting young professionals with leading American museums and performing arts institutions.

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Mr. Chan’s contributions will give MSM students space and time to explore the impact and importance of issues that are central to his efforts to rid performance stages of racial stereotypes. During MSM’s 2021–22 academic year, he will be hosting four workshops and participating in a Community Reads book club event that focuses on his book, Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing between Intention and Impact.

The full roster of 2021–22 MSM Artist Scholars includes:

  • Justine Chen: composer, violinist, educator
  • Khori Dastoor: General Director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera (beginning in January 2022)
  • Ras Dia: multi-disciplinary arts programmer with a focus on youth engagement
  • Hannah L. Drake: blogger, activist, public speaker, poet, author of 11 books
  • Brothers Aldo López-Gavilán, pianist and composer; and Ilmar Gavilán(MM ’01), violinist
  • Marc Bamuthi Joseph (“Bamuthi”): 2017 TED Global Fellow and Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at the Kennedy Center
  • Lucia Lucas: baritone, activist
  • Britton Smith: actor, President, Broadway Advocacy Coalition
    • Actor Britton Smith is President of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. Founded in 2016 by members of the Broadway community as a direct response to the nation’s pandemic of racism and police brutality, Broadway Advocacy Coalition (BAC) has since grown into a Tony Award-winning organization uniting artists with legal experts and community leaders to have a lasting impact on policy issues including criminal justice reform, education equity, and liberation within the theatrical industry. Their mission is Building the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism through the power of storytelling and the leadership of people directly affected.
  • Ed Yim: Chief Content Officer and Senior Vice President, WQXR (New York’s Classical Music Radio Station)

Among the many new initiatives and events that will stem from this year’s Artist Scholars program at MSM will be several public and classroom discussions, forums, and performances as well as a workshop of Seven Sisters, a chamber opera composed by 2021–22 Artist Scholar Justine Chen.

“We worked hard to begin to practice uncomfortable conversations last year, the same way we practice our instruments,” says MSM’s Alexa Smith. “While we continue that work, we want to stay curious and commit to a deeper interrogation of the full range of sounds and stories that are worthy of being on our stages.”


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