Measure 1: My heart beats – not to the smooth and hypocritic gestures of the conductor or the rhythm leaping off my music. My heart beats in fear of discovery by those who sit near my voice close enough to hear. Classical music is not a home in which the possibility of ownership is a reality. I am leasing this space with the understanding that eventually, the owners may demand my immediate departure as my incongruous presence seems suspicious.
Measure 2: I sing with simultaneous uncertainty of both musically expressing myself in a way designed to silence the voices of my ancestors and reading notation imbued with an ever-present reminder of a world in which white musical symbols hold a greater value of time and space than their black counterparts.
Measure 3: My body is conditioned to remain still against the will of my spirit even when syncopated passages dance from my mouth to the heavens reverberating through time. How can I shine when my very existence often crosses the line? What more can prove when I have adopted your whiteness over the blackness you forced me to remove? The unfortunate truth is that I will never be enough in your eyes and the performative allyship you carry is all a lie because once I sing or play a wrong note, the flow of your circumstantial love and support runs dry. -and it makes me wanna cry because I’ve tried so hard to show I have similar talents; however, my efforts are often denied.
Measure 4: “Then, why are you here?” They’ll say, forgetting that music is not meant to be performed one way or taught as a superior cliché – One day-one day performing classical music will feel less like a betrayal to my blackness or a political move to ensure visibility and representation for those three steps behind me. One day It will feel more like the indescribable sensation we feel when we fall in love with our best friend or the peace we feel when we no longer have to pretend we’re an outsider. One day my abilities will not be measured by measures in a score, but by who I am and so much more.
Collin Edouard (He/Him) is a first-year ethnomusicology student at Yale University. Collin is an author, choir director, and music teacher with extensive experience in primary/secondary education