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February 25, 2021

CIM Celebrates Black History Month


Virtual SURJ@CIM meeting
SURJ@CIM meeting

As CIM students got into the swing of spring semester, activities and events throughout February helped the CIM community connect with one another and learn about Black history.

Student leaders in CIM’s Black Student Union (BSU) encouraged meaningful dialogue and fellowship among students, faculty, and staff during Black History Month. “For Black History Month, we wanted to provide fun and educational content for all community members,"  BSU president Hollie Greenwood explained. “To us, this meant connecting through virtual meetings and events, and creating social media content for people to learn from who couldn’t be with us in person.”

Social media posts from the group highlighted Black musicians from the past and present from all genres of music ranging from CIM clarinet faculty Afendi Yusuf to singer, songwriter, and producer Mariah Carey to composer Carlos Simon with short biographies and links to performances, recordings and extra resources to give community members the opportunity to discover new music and musicians.

BSU’s events ranged from discussions groups, game nights, listening parties, movie nights and presentations on Negro spirituals for the CIM community. “It is always important to me that the BSU provides this space for Black students on campus and also creates an environment that cultivates education and learning for everyone regardless of their background to fulfill our mission of improving the connections between all student groups,” continued Greenwood.

A new group on campus this year, CIM’s student-led chapter of Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) spent Black History Month exploring works by Black creatives including filmmaker Ava DuVernay, actress and director Regina King and author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates through discussion groups, movie nights and daily stories on social media about important Black artists and activists. “We chose to focus our February meetings around Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 Atlantic article The Case for Reparations because we believe that in order to work towards a more connected, understanding and equitable campus, we must first address and discuss the history of racism in this country,” reflected SURJ@CIM co-President Joseph Breslau.

In CIM’s Preparatory Division, which focuses primarily on K-12 music training, students, families, faculty and staff learned about Black history both in lessons and rehearsals as well as through fun, extracurricular activities.

Throughout the month, professional development took a central place with CIM Preparatory faculty with opportunities to build knowledge of repertoire of diverse composers and voices. CIM Preparatory extended funding to its faculty to diversify their personal music libraries. These mini-grants supported purchases of music scores, reference books, nonfiction books on the topic of diversity and other materials to help develop diversity, equity and inclusion in the faculty’s teaching.

Led by Preparatory voice department chair Jennifer Call, CIM Children’s Choir - Level 3 spent each virtual rehearsal in February celebrating Black History Month. The choir, comprised of middle school students, learned three traditional spirituals and studied several pieces by Black composers including a portion of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s signature work, Revelations. Along with learning to sing the songs, students explored the hidden messages within the text. These stories of hope, courage and perseverance provide singers with a deeper understanding of the historical context and enriched their performance of the music.

In mid-February, CIM Preparatory students, faculty and staff were joined by members of the CIM BSU for a family-friendly Black History Month Trivia Night focusing on fun facts about Black musicians, composers and music in the past and present. “We included historical figures like Florence Price, William Grant Still and Scott Joplin, and also introduced the students to musicians making history today, especially recent CIM alumni like Titus Underwood and Michelle Cann, to highlight CIM’s commitment to supporting a diverse future of classical music,” according to Johnnia Stigall, Manager of Pre-College & Pathway Programs.

The Cleveland Institute of Music believes a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment leads to excellence in educating musicians and accomplishing the CIM mission and vision. CIM commits to developing and sustaining diversity, equity and inclusion in its recruitment, retention and programming practices and policies for students, employees and trustees. Through individual and institution-level engagement, CIM fosters a culture that respects diversity across the broad human spectrum, and establishes a climate of inclusion and equity for its community. Learn more about diversity at CIM.