It’s Been A Year, ICD. Where’s The Change?

A year ago today, I published what I thought would be a relatively low-profile explanation to my readership about why I was removing myself from the Institute for Composer Diversity’s databases. I shared the email I’d sent to the Institute, along with some additional comments contextualizing my words and my decision. Something in there clicked with a lot of you, because . . . let’s just say my notifications were a mess for awhile afterward. My friends at Trade Winds Ensemble released their own incisive, blistering set of statements shortly thereafter, Rob (statistically speaking, it was Rob) misspelled my last name in a non-apology posted to ICD’s 7,000 followers without even asking if I was okay with being named, and thanks to a lot of public pressure and outcry from all y’all who read my post or Trade Winds’ or engaged with the ensuing conversation, ICD reviewed its own policy.

When that review went up at the end of January, I dug in, publishing somewhere in the neighborhood of 14,000 words (after edits—thank you, Nebal, for your patience) analyzing each and every finding and discovering that oh yeah, they plagiarized me and Trade Winds without even bothering to mention they were using our labor as their springboard. I sat on that anger for a month, wrote my analysis, published my analysis, and . . . waited. (Read it: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.) Twelve days later, I decided two and a half months was long enough, and I emailed ICD’s leadership. Here’s an excerpt:

You didn’t ask for our consent to use our words. You didn’t cite us. You weren’t making this choice to protect us, because none of you ever reached out to ask if we wanted to be protected in this way. ICD’s theft of this labor continues its longstanding tradition of erasing the work of marginalized composers in favor of performative activism. Not only that, it completely eschews academic best practices, opting instead to punch down at scholars doing the work we’ve begged you to do yourselves.

In the interest of transparency, I’d like to note that Ciyadh (who, of the folks I’ve interacted with at ICD, is by far my favorite) got back to me the same day to confirm I was okay with how ICD planned to cite my work and giving me a firm date by which the updates would be completed (which I’d requested in my message). They definitely messed one up (Point 22 should be attributed to Trade Winds, not me), but at this point, I’m just tired and that in particular isn’t worth yet another email. I’m grateful the plagiarism was corrected and credit was given, but the review originally went up at the end of January, and the corrections weren’t issued until May. (And I started talking about them publicly, on my blog, in mid-March!)

But at this point, it’s been several months since I’ve spoken to anyone at ICD. (I’ll probably send Ciyadh an email when I drop this post, because I’m genuinely not always convinced the leadership team sees my writing if I don’t.) They’ve had time away from the public eye (or as away as they ever get), and in their review, they left us a specific set of changes we could expect to see at various points this year. I made further demands when I analyzed their review. And on this, the anniversary of the day my poor phone blew up (the first time), I’d like to go over those key changes and remind folks what we’ve seen so far and what we haven’t.

Here’s what ICD promised us this year, as published in late January:

  • Early 2021: inputting consenting composers, adding new folks who are interested, and prioritizing updates and corrections. The list of available composers on the database if you just check the LGBTQIA2S+ box (the “vaguely gay” catchall) is up to 221 from the 148 that were present when I started publishing my analysis, so they’ve definitely been doing this. I’m guessing this is where most of their work has been prioritized this year.
  • First six months of 2021: WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GET THE FINANCIAL REPORT. That didn’t happen. Period. ICD has been claiming they would do this for YEARS, and in the internal review, they promised we’d have it by the end of June. We are now [checks watch] a full three months past that point, and we’re still skating by on the two facts they put on their FAQ: that they made $11,000 in 2019 and $17,000 in 2020. There’s been no explanations of what those funds were used for or if any are remaining. ICD is still content to take money from members of our community without feeling the need to actually account for how those funds are being used. Maybe I should start a day counter: “it has been x days since ICD promised a financial report.” (And by the way, those reports are supposed to start rolling out annually. Yeah, right.)
  • In 2021 generally: yes, the year isn’t over yet, but given what’s remaining on the list, ICD has a LOT to do in the last three months of the year. The one thing they’ve very definitively accomplished has been hiring on the Communications Coordinator (who is, you guessed it, white, despite very repeated yelling from pretty much everyone that the leadership team needed to be diversified). Brigit, if you’re reading this, hi; you probably won’t like me very much, since I spend more time than I’d like to pointing out what your colleagues apparently still can’t fix.
  • Also on the list for the rest of 2021 was the development of the Composer Resources page, which definitely doesn’t exist yet (or if it somehow does, I can’t find a single link to it anywhere on their site); nonspecifically prioritizing education and working against tokenism, which I’ve seen no evidence of since they haven’t even published another Notes blog since the review and theoretically education requires you to actually talk to your audience; introducing a proactive spotlight program and issuing a “transparent process” for vetting and approving volunteers, neither of which have been announced; and linking from the ICD site to other resources focused on specifically decolonizing classical music. If I’d thought ahead, I would’ve saved the site’s appearance earlier this year to Wayback Machine, but I didn’t, so I can’t definitively say how much work they’ve done on this. Aside from the excellent group Decolonizing The Music Room, very few of the groups listed on ICD’s Outside Resources page seem interested in decolonizing work at all. None, as far as I can tell, have any formal connection to or focus on Indigenous voices in the U.S., and you definitely can’t do decolonizing work without Natives. (Hilariously, they do include WIJO on their list, whose reputation with a lot of non-cis folks is pretty garbage despite the fact that they claim to work on behalf of some of us.)
  • Continuing re: linking to outside organizations, I can think of at least a handful of groups that have done great work in the last year, some of which are run by people who left ICD because of Rob, that have not been included on ICD’s resources page.

So based just on the things they promised us, ICD’s year in review is looking pretty grim unless they really put the pedal to the metal here in the last quarter. But given how many items on the above list went completely unaddressed, surely they’ve done some other things, right? Made some other really clear, obvious changes? I obviously can’t know what their priorities have been this year (besides the list of priorities they’ve mostly ignored), so the best metric I have with which to evaluate this is revisiting some of the big points I made in my review. Let’s check on those (it’s a long list):

  • I worried that “don’t submit others’ queer status” was a flimsy defense against outing folks to ICD staff, but they’ve changed that to “living composers should submit their own information,” which is much better.
  • Who knows if they’ve gotten their system working to the point where they can push pronoun updates quickly. If you’re listed on the databases and you’ve updated yours this year (NOT in the “confirm your info” emails), I’d love to hear how it went.
  • ICD still has not released any kind of data or privacy policy that I can find anywhere online; they also haven’t issued anything about risk assessment or what we can expect if they’re ever hacked. (Ciyadh or Brigit, if you’re reading this, can one of you confirm that my gender info got scrubbed from wherever y’all keep the opted-out composers? Because it’s, um, still very wrong and out-of-date.)
  • Their information on Indigenous populations has still received exactly zero edits. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis (the three distinct Indigenous peoples in Canada) are blurred together under the term “Canadian Aboriginal,” which is a very White People way to phrase that. Aboriginal peoples in Australia, where that’s a term that actually gets used somewhat regularly, are still absent from their list. They still want to see proof of tribal enrollment (or corroboration from an enrolled member) if you’re trying to submit your Indigenous identity, which means reconnecting Natives are still probably out of luck.
  • They still use Latinx, even after approximately a billion people have pointed out that’s just linguistic imperialism. Latine isn’t that hard of a switch.
  • The gender categories are still insufficient and hard to use. (Did you know if you click “transgender” and “women” you don’t get all the trans women, you just get everyone who’s trans AND all the cis AND trans women? Useless!)
  • The one policy I have seen shared to their site (in the FAQ somewhere, I think) is the “we now won’t name anyone publicly without their permission” clause. I’d like to see this for ALL their communications policies. (I wouldn’t normally request this for an organization, but they’ve put their foot in their mouth too many times.)
  • In my analysis of the review, I wrote “Addressing some concerns once does nothing to move toward an environment where concerns are consistently, honestly addressed,” and guess what? I don’t see proof that they’ve even consistently addressed the items they said they were going to in their own report! So I 100% do not believe they’re listening and responding in a way that’s meaningfully better.
  • Rob’s name has been removed from ICD’s little “History” blurb on their FAQ, which doesn’t fix everything but at least means new visitors to the site might not call it Rob’s Database.
  • Despite the fact that ICD’s analysis of Point 12 of the report said they should put their rationale for using Latinx instead of Latine on their FAQ page, it still doesn’t exist. (See also: linguistic imperialism still an issue.)
  • Still no clue what the “main contact email” is.
  • We have not yet seen a formalized staffing policy, nor have we seen meaningful evidence of ICD’s supposed commitment to increasing racial diversity among their leadership team. (PS: I know multiple incredibly qualified folks of color who would’ve applied for that Comms job if it was paid appropriately.)
  • Again . . . where is the DEI expertise, besides Ciyadh? No offense, but pretty soon I’m going to be more qualified in that regard than most of your leadership combined.
  • No clue if they ever implemented that automated Facebook message they said they were going to add, or if Rob’s given up the reins to the social accounts, but if someone wants to go poking around and figure it out, that’d be cool. Let me know and I’ll throw you a shout-out here.
  • Also, I’m just going to point out that on top of the $11,000 in 2019 and the $17,000 in 2020, ICD has a ONE-HUNDRED-THOUSAND-DOLLAR GRANT IT RECEIVED WHICH HAS NOT BEEN ACCOUNTED FOR EVEN IN PASSING.
  • No concrete timeline on when disabled composers will be represented in the database.
  • Is the Comms Coordinator still in charge of teaching the whole staff how to do DEI? Because that’s what y’all said was going to be the case in Point 18.
  • Seriously, are we going to be notified when they’re done confirming consenting composers? (Of the questions, this one is not high-priority, but it remains unaddressed.)
  • THE BEST PRACTICES PAGE IS STILL GARBAGE. The stats they recommend are still all entirely arbitrary, and just like when I yelled about it in fucking March, QUEER PEOPLE ARE LITERALLY NOT MENTIONED ON YOUR BEST PRACTICES PAGE! I will reiterate exactly what I wrote in my analysis: is anyone content-editing their website?
  • The mentioned “we’ll write about ownvoices in the Notes Blog!” and the “we’ll use the Notes Blog to platform marginalized composers!” ideas have not happened at all. (Nor has the “we will define trauma performativity on our website” point.)
  • The “Composers” section of the FAQ still says ICD’s goal is not to directly provide publicity to its composers, which goes against damn near everything they claim to be valuable to us for.
  • The financial accounting should also include what happened to those MyScore memberships from JWPepper.
  • Spotlight series doesn’t exist yet.
  • There is not yet comprehensive education (or commensurate resources) readily available on ICD’s website to explain how to avoid tokenist programming. It’s mentioned in a couple spots, but not with the specificity a brand-new-to-inclusive-programming band director would need.
  • We still have not received a thorough accounting of or review of Rob’s behavior and leadership as outlined in the original intent of the internal review. He has in no way been held even remotely accountable. The only meaningful public-facing change has been removing his name from a single paragraph about ICD’s history, which is nested away in the FAQ. Not a single concern of mine about Rob’s tenure as Director, his choices, his influence on the leadership team, or the consequences of his actions have been addressed to date.
  • There has been no obvious reorganization of the Executive Advisory Council. Nobody’s been kicked off as far as I can tell, even for overt racism clearly referenced in Trade Winds’ writing. A YEAR AGO.
  • The white saviorism problem has not improved, particularly after hiring a white person to manage their communications.
  • We have not heard a single word of accountability or even acknowledgment of Rob’s shortcomings in his role as Director. I still have no faith he is the best-qualified person to lead the organization (especially not in general, but even among his own staff).
  • I’m just going to reiterate this, from my analysis: “See, my qualms with Rob are not that he’s a white, cishet man. He is someone with privilege who positioned himself as an industry leader after stumbling into DEI work. In the intervening years, he refused to learn and adapt to additional perspectives unless it caused an outcry he couldn’t stifle or ignore. Countless individuals, some of whom have documented their experiences publicly, have offered to educate him personally for free; Rob has not accepted those invitations. He is among those in the music world who have had the most opportunities to better represent marginalized people and the most urgent professional reasons to do so in the past three years. Despite this, he is content to ignore his blind spots, learn only when consistent pressure is applied, and continue to sell his organization as the voice on intentional programming in the band world especially.”
  • As I mentioned previously, despite claiming to want to connect visitors with anti-colonial organizations, Decolonizing The Music Room is the only explicitly anti-imperialist group listed.
  • They still don’t seem to realize trauma performativity and “the conditions under which it might be appropriate and meaningful to ask a particular composer to write a piece that addresses a specific marginalization or violence” are two different things I included in the same sentence. They could hire me to teach them, though. I lecture about it! Regardless, they haven’t defined trauma performativity anywhere on the site or built any resources to talk to their visitors about commissioning composers.
  • The Best Practices page is still absolute bullshit.
  • Nothing has been done to address the social capital Rob has gained as head of ICD. He has artificially inflated his own importance to the field at large, when in reality he should not be seen as an authority. Stepping down (or firing him, leadership team) would be at least an initial step toward correcting this gross imbalance.
  • Where’s the financial report? I want to see how much ICD’s paying to reimburse Rob for going and talking about them. (Also, does he do every speaking engagement for free, or does he get paid personally by colleges when he visits?)
  • In my review, I wrote about the ICD name, “I’m concerned they’ll spend all of 2021 doing business under the same name.” So far, they have. We deserve, bare minimum, an update on what’s been discussed re: a name change and a more realistic rebranding.
  • The review claims to be a step toward more communication and transparency, but ICD’s socials have been mostly dark for most of the year. How are we supposed to believe either of these things is attainable under current leadership?
  • Many instances of disrespectful or further-marginalizing language in the report have not been changed, nor have they been publicly addressed. And as ICD hasn’t put out any meaningful content since the review went live (again, in January), we have no way of measuring if they’ve actually improved or even implemented most of the things they discussed in the review.

For an organization that lists action as part of its mission statement, ICD sure isn’t interested in making any actually happen. Wording across the vast majority of their website remains unedited. They still explicitly identify women and nonbinary people as part of their representation in the “who is diverse?” section of their FAQ. They still have “Latinx,” presented without explanation or justification, slathered all over their website despite years of Spanish-speakers telling them “Latine” is the more appropriate choice when keeping Spanish-language audiences in mind. The Best Practices page is still the 100% bullshit percents they’ve been pushing publicly since at LEAST 2019, when I saw Rob use the exact same slides at IWBC. An appalling number of changes they either explicitly promised or otherwise needed to make lie apparently abandoned, and little visible change to ICD’s public operations has occurred in the last eight months.

Many people saw ICD’s internal review and said “oh, see, it’ll be fine! They’re doing something about it.” In reality, they put out a shiny document, hired exactly one person to work five hours a week on issues that would fill a full-time job for months, still have no one taking care of the content on their website, and have used the façade of progress and change to continue running a site full of microaggressions cloaked in social justice language. They’ve raised, by their own admissions, at least $128,000 in the last two years and they’ve used it to miseducate a community in desperate need of actual resources on these issues, not just a pat on the back and a “don’t worry, you can still keep programming mostly cishet white men!” sticker.

Institute for Composer Diversity, it’s been a year. Step up and fix your shit, or get out of the spotlight. Our lives and careers are not a game, and we deserve an institutional advocate that cares more about what it’s teaching the public than about its own reputation and mentions in the New York Times.

We’ve been tired of waiting. Keep your fucking promises.

“Blue” vs. “You’re Welcome”: Examining the Sexual Assault Rewrite in HEATHERS

“September 1st, 1989. Dear Diary . . .”

So starts the world premiere cast recording of HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL, penned by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe and premiered in 2014 Off-Broadway. Though it never transferred, the cast recording has grown a significant cult following. I found the album thanks to a recommendation from my undergrad roommate, and the witty, dark, often emotionally raw material hooked me from the opening number.

If I’m being honest, I could pontificate on almost every song on the original cast recording, both because of the strength of the writing and the performances given (Elle McLemore’s “Lifeboat,” Katie Ladner’s “Kindergarten Boyfriend,” and Ryan McCartan’s “Meant to Be Yours” all are among my favorite performances ever). But because the 2014 production never transferred to Broadway, the cast (and heavily-edited book) currently on the West End in London will likely be the first point of contact for theatergoers just now encountering the show. I’m super into the version on West End, but the significant alterations Murphy, O’Keefe, and the creative team have made to a show that tackles murder, suicide, bullying, and sexual assault give us a great opportunity to examine how different our approaches to some of these ideas are now compared to just a few years ago.

Arguably the biggest change to the framing of the HEATHERS narrative, besides giving Heather Duke an actual part, was the creative team’s decision to rewrite the scene were popular football players Ram and Kurt attempt to sexually assault Veronica, our protagonist. The change wasn’t unexpected; various people involved with the show since its Off-Broadway debut had previously stated in interviews that some of the material should (and likely would) be revisited. “Blue,” the original almost-rape song, was the obvious focus of that concern.

Continue reading ““Blue” vs. “You’re Welcome”: Examining the Sexual Assault Rewrite in HEATHERS”

life updates: teaching, community, and love

I haven’t wanted to write much in the past month.

Some of that was expected. My partner and I left Phoenix for what is likely our only trip of the year so we could go meet my best friend (for the first time, since we met online), and doing that in a pandemic-safe way meant that instead of a few hours on a plane, we spent a grand total of forty-seven hours in the car. As Nick and I are still together, I consider that a massive success, if a nonstandard one.

We also were very fortunate to kick off the month of August by bringing home a new member of the family. Our new kitty, Lucas, is a one-year-old silver tabby who loves cheek scritches, any food he can get into, and sleeping on my legs. Marty fell in love with him in his first couple days. They’re already thick as thieves, and Nick and I are incredibly happy to see them both so content.

All that said . . . there isn’t a lot else going right for me these days. Before the executive orders and other political nonsense surrounding schools this summer, I was excited to get back into the classroom. But all that stress combined with rising case numbers, constantly-shifting internal policy, and still-low vax rates has turned anticipation into an all-consuming dread. Now I’m only willing to teach in-person at one campus to avoid ferrying COVID across the valley. (I’m employed by two colleges.) Course enrollment is low across the district. Adjuncts are seeing more classes than usual at high risk of not making—if they haven’t been axed already.

If not for both my bosses fighting tooth and nail to make sure I stay with them this year, I don’t think I’d still have classes this fall.

Continue reading “life updates: teaching, community, and love”

I’m Using ey/they Now. Let’s Talk.

Folks, I am not happy.

As someone whose relationship with gender is… tenuous at best, I exist mostly in a world where pronouns should be fun, exploratory tools of discovery. There is no single pronoun that can accurately place my understanding of my gender (or what parts of it I want to share) in a single spot for all of time. Multipronouns aren’t just to give you another option if you don’t like the first one on the list; they’re components of a whole. They’re little clues to who we are and who you might discover in us if you bother to look (and we let you). I’ve talked about my pronouns on here and over socials—exhaustively, to the point where it feels like I discuss them at least once a week—and yet, despite the fact that it’s been the better part of a year since I first added they/them to my pronoun sets, I can probably count on two hands the number of people who I know are gendering me correctly.

If you’ve been making the effort, thank you. I know there are a solid bunch of folks who are in the “I slip up but correct myself” category, and I’m really grateful for the energy you’re putting into this with me and other multipronoun users who may be in your lives. This post is not about you. Take in the new pronouns, throw the old ones in the trash, and continue your quest.

No, this post is about the swaths of people who have continued exclusive use of the pronouns I was assigned at birth. I am tired of having to correct you, oftentimes having to defend my right to exist as I am in the process. I am no longer willing to step back and watch myself be misgendered time and time again by people who have most definitely read my email signatures or seen any of the million social media posts I’ve made or who I’ve talked to directly about this. I run a Discord server full of queer theory resources (join info at the bottom of the post) and literally started a lecture series about this shit to better educate the people around me and those who might happen to run into me on Twitch. I gave a two-and-a-half-hour lecture on pronouns last month that’s still available for Twitch subscribers and will be up on my Patreon in the long run (and, oh yeah, I will give the lecture again at some point). I’ve created a page on my website (that I’m really proud of!) where folks can learn, judgment-free, how to properly address me. Any one of these things should be enough for folks to realize they need to make the switch, but all of them? Sheesh.

If I’m being honest, at this point I feel a little ridiculous for doing this much when I knew it wasn’t going to make a difference for the people who are the worst about this. Do I expect everyone to hop in the Discord and come to class? No, absolutely not! But it’s not only disheartening but damn disappointing that I know scores of teachers, peers, colleagues, superiors, and former friends who are aware this change needs to happen, who are aware I’ve been busting my ass to make it as easy for everyone as I possibly can, and who still haven’t bothered to even try.

Now my old pronouns are no longer an acceptable option. If I hear you misgendering me (and you’re not in the “I slip up but correct myself” boat), you will be called on it. I will not be nice about it. I’m done. Even though I readily accept far more than two pronouns from my closest friends and a couple other specific pockets of people, I am unwilling to continue giving my fellow musicians, teachers, administrators, and other colleagues/peers the opportunity to skate by on my birth pronouns without acknowledging that my identity is too complex to be contained within a single word. If this is a wakeup call for you, you’re welcome at any and all of my lectures, either on Twitch or in Discord. If you’re on team “I slip up but correct myself” (or on the very small team of Gendering Me Correctly), do feel free to gently correct others if the opportunity arises and it’s safe to do so.

You will gender me correctly, or you will no longer be in my life. I do not have space for people who will not acknowledge that I am who I am.


I’m running a lecture series (for free, unless you want to tip me!) over on my Twitch channel and Discord server. We meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm AZ time (7 Pacific/8 Mountain Daylight/9 Central/10 Eastern), and you can attend the lecture by watching the Twitch stream or jump in the Discord voice chat to join the discussion. Video recordings are available on Twitch for subscribers.

Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @ordinarilymeg on Instagram.

(Post-)Pandemic Resolutions

Despite what I’ve titled this, let’s remember: the pandemic isn’t over yet. Much of the populace is still under-vaccinated (right now, I think the AZ stats say ~41% of people who are eligible have received one or more doses, with no clear count of how many of those people are fully vaccinated), and the Delta variant threatens to send us back to virtual learning in the fall if districts and states alike continue to be callous and eliminate masking and social distancing guidelines. (Or, you know, the government will keep us in person and let people die.) Personally, I don’t expect to be doing much—if any—live performing for the rest of the year at least, especially if my in-person assignments remain in place and I’m coming in and out of shared teaching spaces four days a week.

But gigs are starting back up again, for better and for worse, and as steady performances loom on the horizon, negotiations and conversations about ethics and access will be kicking up again. Hopefully in earnest, but we’ll see. When we left our regular artistic schedules as the pandemic hit, venues and gatekeepers alike were continuing to abuse their power to lock the most marginalized performers out of gig opportunities while further entrenching themselves within organizations in dire need of reform. No single individual will be able to take all of that on—but I’m tired of asking nicely for my less-marginalized peers to join me in aiding our more- and differently-marginalized friends and colleagues. I’m tired of going to gigs that are entirely white and cishet. And as we’re considering how we’ll change our artistic practices as we return to performing life, I want to make sure I’m not actively contributing to that anymore, even if the people I used to hang out with aren’t as invested.

I’ve spent the past several weeks compiling a list of resolutions for myself—things that will affect who I am as a teacher, performer, community manager, and composer. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and I fully expect I’ll be adding to and refining it as I go. These are the parameters I’ll be placing around my participation in artistic endeavors, both on my own and with others.

Teaching

  • Diversify all the supplemental materials I use in my teaching; given I currently teach so much about genres with roots in Black American Music, especially prioritize queer, trans, and disabled Black scholars, adding in sources by other marginalized voices where I’m unable to supplement with Black scholarship.
  • Be especially mindful of where less-marginalized and not-marginalized voices both in my classrooms and my sources may speak over, misrepresent, marginalize, and/or diminish intersectionally marginalized voices (both other scholars and students).
  • Continually update my slides with better, more compassionate, more correct vocabulary and phrasing. Mindfully edit all slides at least once a semester to check for microaggressions and points that need correction/clarification.
  • Seek out queer, Black, and Indigenous figures in every subject to actively counteract their intentional erasure. Teach my students that their identities and positionally are important because they directly shape their experiences of and contributions to the world.
  • Find Black and Latine experts to bring into my Hip Hop classes especially, and advocate for appropriate funding to pay them for their time and expertise.
  • Craft trumpet and composition curriculum that uses repertoire from a diverse collection of composers, performers, and styles. Improve this every semester, even if I am not teaching.

Performing

  • No gigs in which I am the token minority (as far as the bandleader/hiring person is aware).
  • No hired gigs that pay over $50 with zero performers of color in the ensemble. Where possible (and safe), recommend performers of color for the spot I’m being asked to fill.
  • I will not participate in panels or similarly-structured events of all white people; when I do participate, I will keep an attentive ear focused on how my differently-marginalized colleagues are treated, and I’ll support them as best I’m able.
  • Starting in summer 2021, for every piece I buy (for myself or to add to my pedagogical rep) or learn that a white cis man wrote, I will buy/learn one or more written by a composer of color.
  • I will not play gigs that wheelchair users couldn’t attend and/or play at. (Note for Phoenix locals: this locks me out of the Nash, because their stage is not accessible (and their seating has very limited accessibility).)
  • I will not put on concerts I control that program predominantly cishet, white, abled men. Though I don’t do a lot of concert organizing presently, over the next few years I aim to be curating concerts that are vastly diverse across many axes of oppression—every time.

Community Management

  • I will not hire people who I know harm/punch down at marginalized peers, colleagues, and/or students. This is already a pretty standardized part of my practice, but I want to put it in writing because many of my white, cishet, male colleagues do not engage in this practice.
  • Pay attention to who I am speaking highly of, and ensure I am sticking up for and vocally supporting my marginalized friends at least as much as I support my privileged friends (across many axes of oppression).
  • Never say “ladies and gentlemen” at a gig again, and if I accidentally do, extend it to be explicitly inclusive of folks who are nonbinary, agender, and gender-expansive.
  • Call people on their language—racist, misogynist, misogynoir, homophobic, transphobic, transmisogynist, transmisogynoir, ableist, xenophobic, etc. Folks reading this, get used to the idea of me saying “find a better word.”
  • Invite everyone when community events or large gatherings are happening. Think critically about who I and other community managers/contributors are forgetting when we say “everyone,” and start actively including those people, too.
  • Actually cultivate friendships (when appropriate) with the marginalized people around me, not just business relationships.
  • Advocate with venues for a flat minimum pay rate and consistent venue promotion, including on social media. Don’t go fishing for gigs at venues who don’t do this. (Again: not going to be playing the Nash anytime soon.)
  • Advocate for and request continued live streaming to facilitate and maintain increased accessibility for those who are unable to travel to a venue, especially for conferences, clinics, and similar events. (This does not replace the wheelchair accessibility bullet point in my Performing section; this is specifically to facilitate access for people who may not be able to leave their home and travel to the venue, and for whom travel is prohibitively expensive.)

Composing

  • More actively listen to, discuss, and promote the work of marginalized composers and generative artists broadly, especially composers, improvisors, and creators of color working in sound/artistic practices similar to my own.
  • Make sure other marginalized creators, especially Black and Indigenous creators, are seeing the same good opportunities I’m exposed to.
  • Invest in music by composers and artists of color (soft goal for the next year: at least 60% of my total spending on sheet music, scores, recordings, etc. should go directly toward creators of color).
  • Actively learn more about Black American improvised music, so I can better understand the artistic practices of any Black students I may have in the future and help connect them with artists like them, should they be lacking community.
  • Continue to advocate for and promote opportunities, events, organizations, and artists doing important anti-racism work, and learn from their policies and actions.

Not all of these are going to apply to everyone—the white, allocishet men I spend much of my time around would not apply the “accept no gigs where I am the token minority” option, for instance—but the vast majority of these points are broadly applicable for many of us, especially if you’re white. Some of these commitments mean I will be speaking intently with bandleaders about who’s in the band, and depending on the circumstances, they might mean I’m turning down gigs, recommending others to take my spots (if they’re willing/interested), and steering clear of venues who refuse to make structural changes to support marginalized performers and audience members alike.

We all have a responsibility to be actively, intersectionally anti-racist in our artistic practices. If these commitments sound like something you could do (especially if they sound like they’d make you a little uncomfortable and ask you to reevaluate your contributions to cisheteronormative white supremacy), sign on. Tweak the ones that don’t apply to you. Add things I’ve overlooked. But commit to doing better actively, not just when it happens to be convenient.

And when these commitments inevitably start some hard conversations, count me in.


Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @ordinarilymeg on Instagram.

How to Access My Queer Identity Lectures (after June 2021)

Greetings, folks! Happy Pride.

I’ve been blogging less this month because I’ve spent the past three weeks teaching and talking in a different format: on Twitch and Discord, where I’ve spent time with friends, colleagues, and some near-strangers talking about various LGBTQIA2S+ identities and struggles. We’ve gotten through a lot—asexuality, aromanticism, nonbinary identities, transphobia, pronouns/neopronouns, xenogenders, trans allyship, and some pointers on queer-friendly classrooms—and we’ve still got a little more to cover.

As we’ve adventured through the month, I’ve talked with my Discord server and a few other folks about where this content should go after the month is over. I fully expect that I’ll give some of these lectures again in the future (Nonbinary Day is July 14!), and while I’m sure they’ll get better over time, I know at least a few people have been considering visiting (or revisiting) this month’s material in VOD form.

Continue reading “How to Access My Queer Identity Lectures (after June 2021)”

Are You *Actually* Safe to Come Out To?

Happy Pride! It’s such a lovely day to be queer.

It’s hard to celebrate with pure enthusiasm this year, given the slew of anti-trans bills being passed across the country (more on that soon). Trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people are facing a fresh wave of violence, and most of our cis friends remain silent, even many of our cisqueer community members. A lot of the trans people I know are frustrated beyond belief, scared, and angry, yet still determined as ever to continue to honor ourselves and our community in our words and actions.

In light of this and other events, it can be really jarring to see the perhaps-inevitable social media posts from cis (and especially allocishet) people that say something along the lines of “I am a safe person to come out to!!” Every time I see one of these posts, my gut instinct is actually to think, no, you’re not. And today I want to sit with that a little and break down why.

Continue reading “Are You *Actually* Safe to Come Out To?”

How To Read Me, feat. Untouchable (Again)

Last year, Untouchable was one of the largest-by-word-count projects I undertook. I’m still really proud of it, because I was able to grow an analysis from a single idea—”nobody wanted to sleep with me”—to the point where I could talk about hostile work environments the following week. More than that, though, I was able to point at some of the things that made me feel most uncomfortable, unsafe, or Othered while I was spending time and money in the Jazz Studies department at ASU. I was able to speak with more specificity than usual to my story and my experience in this particular space.

It was also one of the last things I published before I came out, and I knew that was going to be the case by the time I was halfway through my edits. (The original plan had actually been coming out at the end of Untouchable, which I’ve talked about before.)

I’m hesitant to say Untouchable was one of the last things people read of my work while assuming I’m cis, because that is DEFINITELY still happening even among people I’ve considered close. But it was functionally the end of that era, and today, I’d like to talk a little about how reading even my old work through a lens of queerness yields an overall more honest, accurate interpretation.

Continue reading “How To Read Me, feat. Untouchable (Again)”

crushes, relationships, and amatonormativity

I don’t think I would’ve had crushes as a child if my friends hadn’t made it seem like a necessary part of a social life. When you’re an eight-year-old assumed-cis-girl and you walk home with your neighbors every day, you learn pretty quickly that even if your idea of “liking” people doesn’t match up with theirs, they’ll usually take any expression of affection or longing for a boy as something akin to a crush. They’ll hype it up or make fun of you, finding ways to reinforce that you must be feeling these same specific feelings they had for others.

And when you’re not presented with any alternatives, you eventually give in and resign yourself to the fact that they must be right—and with more practice/willpower/time, you too will feel and understand these things just as they did. As an adult with a lot more queer smarts, I can look back at the people I had “crushes” on from elementary school through most of undergrad and realize that in almost every case, what I wanted was some combination of camaraderie, emotional closeness, and/or respectful treatment. Most of these “crushes,” whether on people who bullied me, barely acted like I existed, or (on rare occasion) were nearly my best friends, were reinforced—often painfully—by the girls around me at the time.

Honestly, I feel for the guys (always guys) who were on the other end—the close friend others felt I could no longer show affection to when he started dating a wonderful girl; the upperclassman whose musicianship I functionally hero-worshipped but who I was told by the girls around me I must be in love with; the guy I went out with for three weeks my freshman year of college because I laid my head on his shoulder at 1am during a movie marathon and half our floor decided we were perfect for each other.

(Seriously, are the allos okay?)

Continue reading “crushes, relationships, and amatonormativity”

Pride Isn’t A Reason To Exploit Queer Composers

Greetings, y’all, and welcome to another episode of This Wasn’t Supposed To Be The Post This Week!

Pride’s coming up next month, and partly as a result, I’m starting to see an influx of “oh, we’re looking for LGBTQ+ [insert item here]!” both in my inbox and on socials generally. Sometimes friends forward me opportunities, which is incredibly kind, but some of these so-called opportunities come with demands that fall beyond the boundaries of reason and are better deemed exploitative. Though it varies from one posting to the next, many of these “in search of…” ads that find their way to me are calls for scores, and as someone who’s been on both the submitting end and the judging end of these, wow, I have thoughts.

The composing community frequently has these conversations in earnest on multiple platforms, but many folks miss the discourse entirely or brush it off as the complaints of a small contingent. Today, you’re not getting that lucky. For just a moment, I’d like to tell you about a call for scores I came across today; see if you can spot the red flag(s) from the Instagram ad:

  • performer is requesting scores for a specific solo instrument and piano; performers are specified
  • specifically seeking scores from LGBTQ+ identifying composers (submission requirement)
  • music is for a new album
  • work cannot be previously recorded or performed
  • 5-20min
  • $500 prize for each work chosen, plus a copy of the studio recording
  • no entry fee, June 1 deadline
Continue reading “Pride Isn’t A Reason To Exploit Queer Composers”