In classical music we talk a lot about pipelines - initiatives, programs, and curriculums built to lead students to orchestral jobs, or other jobs in the world of classical music. I was lucky enough to be a part of a very strong pipeline, which led me to an orchestral job, and beyond! That pipeline is one I'm thankful for, but at the same time, one I have a really mixed relationship with...
Let's rewind to about 2 weeks ago. Before Minnesota's final snow storm of the season (at least, I hope it was the last one), Dell and I decided to take a walk with our friend, "Mary". If you know "Mary", you know that she helps the mental wheels get moving in a way they may not without her. With her help, we got into the discussion of Mozart's pipeline, and how he was virtually born to become who he became. Talent aside, his father, Leopold, made sure that his abilities were being cultivated and showcased from a VERY young age...just like another one of "destiny's children".
I actually used that phrase in our conversation - Mozart as a child of destiny. Obviously, that led us to Beyonce, as another one of "destiny's children" (the very singular group name of 'Destiny's Child' makes a lot of sense now, doesn't it? LOL). Like Mozart, she was groomed from a very early age, and is now the queen of the world, as far as I'm concerned. This week, all of us in the BeyHive will be glued to Netflix to check out her new documentary titled, Homecoming. Talking with Dell about this movie (and again, with "Mary's" help) made me think about how Mozart's and Beyonce's pipelines compare to mine.
Being a first generation college graduate means that my parents simply didn't have the experience they needed to guide me toward an HBCU. I'm not blaming them, as much as I'm blaming the structures that keep young, gifted, and black college hopefuls away from the campuses of Morehouse, Rust, Howard, and other historically black institutions. Those structures are the same ones that kept my parents OUT of college, and the conversation on whether or not those schools offer world-class music programs is irrelevant to me - I prefer to think about how different my life would have looked if I spent my first four collegiate years in a pipeline that helped cultivate MY connection with blackness, and the music therein. With that being said, the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music didn't fail me when it comes to learning about race and classical music - most of my friends (like most Memphis residents) were black, as was my first teacher, and current mentor, Lecolion Washington.
Me, "Mary", and Netflix have a date with Beyonce in just a few hours. I hope this documentary helps me unpack a little more about my un-relationship with HBCUs. If I'm really lucky, I'm hoping this movie will help me see a way to establish a relationship with one of these institutions in the future. Prof. McQueen has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Especially if I get to wear hoodies like these!
Go watch Homecoming on Netflix!! After you do that, see what else you can learn about America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities! There's even a lot of media inspired by HBCUs to discover.
While I wasn't guided to an HBCU as a teenager, it was a very important HBCU-inspired SHOW that gave me a hint into one of my defining characteristics when I was about 5 years old. Imagine a young Garrett, watching a character named Ron Johnson everyday on TV - WHEW chillay...