Today is National Coming Out Day, and I’d like to talk about my teachers, my colleagues, and my peers.
I didn’t come out formally, publicly, until May of 2020. I’d been out to handfuls of people here and there for a couple years already, but when I moved back to Phoenix, I found myself continually putting off and shying away from the announcement I’d hoped I would finally feel ready to make. Rather than sharing more of who I am with the world, I found myself discussing less and less, retreating into the few spaces (mostly online) where I still felt safe to be myself. It took me three or four tries to even figure out how I wanted to come out. And, you know, the onset of a pandemic.
In those first few months that I was back in Arizona, back when it was still the Before Times, I realized a couple fears of mine had come true: first, that the social and professional structures that had forcibly kept me in the closet as an undergrad were still thriving, and second, that many of the peers I’d studied alongside had become willing enforcers and gatekeepers in their own right. Yet we were still expected to all (or at least mostly) get along, so I worked with what I had. I wrote about paying your dues and other power structures that affected us all. I spent time with the community, engaging with some old friends and some folks I hadn’t been as close to originally.
But I didn’t come out, because I didn’t trust the “it’s better now“s and the sudden influx of “well, I’m just a straight/cis white man, what do I know”s that sounded harmless but reeked of something still lurking beneath.
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.
If you’re reading this, we’ve made it past the ICD Review. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a few weeks after this and talk about something else, both on my blog and with my partner. I’ve got a few weeks’ worth of thoughts pre-loaded for you, but before I get to that, I wanted to take a moment to sit with y’all in the wake of this massive effort.
Welcome back! Today we’re wrapping up our multi-day adventure through the ICD review. If you haven’t read the previous installments, I recommend checking out Part 1 and Part 2. After we conclude our point-by-point walkthrough, I’m going to mention some major concerns I didn’t get to talk about previously. As always, thanks for being here! I would’ve given up at Point 10 without y’all.
Greetings, one and all, and welcome back to our multi-day escapade through the ICD internal review. If you’re new here, fear not! You can go back and read Part 1 to catch up on what we’ve discussed previously. Today, we’re finishing our look at ICD’s communications breakdown; we’ll also discuss ICD’s impact on composers, touch briefly on tokenism, and begin the long slog through the leadership review. I can’t say any one part of the report is the review’s darkest hour, but today’s chunk is certainly a contender. Let’s dive in.
Untouchabletook me a month and a half to write, but I spent four years trying to articulate its content. As (the blessedly many of) y’all who read it probably saw, I referenced fifteen other pieces I’ve put out since early 2017. This morning, I piled all sixteen posts into a single document to check the word count, and it came out to just under 29,000 words—or about half of the minimum requirement for a full-length novel. It was 47 pages of material. While that bodes well for any potential doctorate I may choose to pursue in the future, it says some interesting things about the likelihood of being both believed and understood within our community.
You see, I don’t expect people to believe me when I start talking about most of the things I discuss on my blog. Part of why I started writing the thoughts down was because my in-person conversations with peers were so often derailed by some level of disbelief—sometimes in the form of “[other woman] doesn’t say that,” sometimes manifesting as “I’ve never seen that so it must not be too bad,” sometimes in other forms that are intricate and nuanced and harder to illuminate. I was only rarely allowed to communicate a thought beyond its first couple sentences and almost never given the space and time to puzzle through something that felt important. On paper, though, I had the freedom to do just that, to make sure an idea was complete and concise before putting it out into the world. And while no one’s obligated to read the entirety of anything I post, I find a lot of people do. (For this, I’m incredibly grateful. Yes, that means you, sitting at the screen.)
When I was an undergrad running with the jazz boys, no one wanted to sleep with me.
…Yeah, I didn’t know how to start this one, either. For all my work addressing sexual assault, I actually don’t spend all that much time dealing with sex. (I tend to leave that creative artistry to Rebecca Drapkin, the sex-positive to my sex-negative.) While I love my body and everything it can do, I’ve grown accustomed to keeping my sexual side to myself. I’m still figuring out how much of it belongs in my artistic life. And though that answer is nonzero, part of why I keep my sex life (and body, and sexuality, and . . .) separate from the rest of my artistic discourse is just because I don’t share all of me with all of you. But part of it isn’t, and there are reasons for that—reasons I can trace back to a very specific time and place—and though I’d rather not discuss any of this, I think it’s time.
Over the past few years—especially since the election—I’ve seen lots of meaningful conversation, art, and advocacy on behalf of women composers and their work. I’ve seen an elevation of public consciousness—not necessarily across the board, but within classical and jazz spheres, to be certain. And yes, we’ve got a lot of work still to do with drum corps (and classical and jazz) and the more mainstream-music-listening public; our efforts need to extend further than they already do, but we’re making progress. Women working in composition are seeing a shift in how we are treated, in the opportunities open to us, and in the interactions we have with our peers, colleagues, and superiors.
From here, this post could veer in two different directions. I could keep talking about the work we need to do with equity, to ensure that women are getting a statistically fair shot whenever possible. I could go on about what that means and how I’d do it. (Spoiler alert: it would make a lot of men mad.)
But that’s not actually the route I’m taking today. Maybe I’ll come back to it someday, but for now, there’s something more pressing on my mind.
A lot of the lessons I’ve learned in music school were designed for my male peers.
There are a lot of directions I could go from here; I could talk about the homogenization of the classical canon into the Straight White Men’s Club or the devaluation and exclusion of women and queer people in the jazz tradition or the gendered (and racist, and classist) expectations for concert dress. And while I’m sure I’ll spend time with each of those individually, none of them are quite hitting home for me at the moment.
One such lesson, though, that disproportionally benefits the men I’ve been educated alongside is one of the most important ones a composer learns: how to run a rehearsal of your own music. While a lot of the components of this come down to “don’t be an ass, and make sure you respect your performers,” a large part of why we run our own rehearsals is so we can address questions promptly and ensure the music sounds how we want it to. The core tenets of running a good rehearsal, besides regular community maintenance, are these: “don’t be afraid to ask for what you want” and “be picky.”
To be clear, it’s not that these strategies for running an efficient rehearsal are inherently dehumanizing toward gender-marginalized people. It’s that most of them are only acceptable when leaving the mouths of men. And this is where we get into Pushback City, so I need y’all to stay with me and read everything before you go off and grouse internally. See, I’ve been at this awhile now, and I can tell you what it’s like to be in a rehearsal room where you’re the only gender-marginalized person—and you’re supposed to be the one running the show.
My first truly positive experience with therapy was in the summer of 2018. It was long overdue; the summer had been absolutely hellish, and I was beginning to flirt with suicidality. My partner knew. My parents probably suspected. I’d talked about finding a therapist for a long time—years—but the thing that got me through the door into an office was when my fear that I might at some point actively want to die eclipsed my anxiety about making the appointment, being in therapy, and paying for it. (While my parents have always been of the Healthcare Concerns First, Money Concerns Later mindset, it’s still anxiety-inducing to be incurring major expenses even when they’re paid for.)
My first session was in August sometime. I’d just moved in with my partner, cut all ties with an intensely toxic person, and was trying to start approaching normality again before school got started. My therapist was attentive as I broke down the extensive stress that had accumulated over the previous six to eight months, and when I came up for air, she had one observation: “it sounds like you’re a very empathetic person.”
I can still remember my brow furrowing; for as long as I could remember, that descriptor had been flung as far away from me as possible. “My brother was always the one who got called that,” I told her. But she continued on, and I realized she was right—that empathy wasn’t just the surface-level definition of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It was the echoes of others’ emotions that would frequently parade through my body and life.