Chicago College of Performing Arts

The Center for Arts Leadership is a newly launched center for empowering students and alumni of the Chicago College of Performing Arts through experiential learning and growth opportunities in community engagement, social justice and career development.

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“Dreaming in Black: A Conversation with Adrian Dunn” by Chroma Music Chicago

Chicago College of Performing Arts alumni Alexandria Hill (MM Violin ’19) and Davis King (MM Viola ’19) began Chroma Music Chicago, a podcast exploring social justice issues in classical music, after being awarded the Performing Social Justice Seed Grant from the CCPA Center for Arts Leadership. In this blog, Alexandria and Davis talk about creating Chroma Music Chicago — from its conception following an observation about their communities, all the way to the release of their first podcast episode featuring CCPA alumnus Adrian Dunn.

Learn more about Chroma Music Chicago below, as well as how you can follow, support, and listen to their podcasts!

Dreaming in Black: A Conversation with Adrian Dunn

By Alexandria Hill and Davis King, Chroma Music Chicago

Alexandria Hill with her violin

Alexandria Hill, courtesy of Chroma Music Chicago

Davis King playing violin.

Davis King, courtesy of Chroma Music Chicago

While we were students at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, we realized we both felt rather dissatisfied with the gap we noticed between the music we had dedicated our lives to studying and performing and the communities in which we lived our lives. At the time, we both lived in two of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods and felt a desire to perform music that is less Euro-centric and more accurately reflects our communities. So we came together and began brainstorming.

Initially, we planned to create a concert series featuring composers traditionally shunned from Western art music. To fund this project, we began to prepare a grant application for the CCPA Social Justice Seed Grant program. While researching and planning, however, we quickly realized we had so many questions and so little idea of how to answer them. Who is our audience – is there a market for classical music through a non-European lens? What will we do that other groups are not? Why two decades into the twenty-first century is classical music still so white? Is classical music’s classist, colonist, and racist roots worthy of even continuing? 

With so many lingering questions, we knew we were not ready to begin a concert series. We were excited, however, about all these questions we had unearthed. If we could find a vehicle to explore these questions, perhaps one day, we would know what sort of series we may want to offer our communities. Thus, the Chroma Music Podcast was born; well… the idea was, at least. 

Unfortunately, beginning a podcast was completely new territory for both of us. Last spring, when we were awarded a CCPA Social Justice Seed Grant, we were warned that our project would turn out to be far more work than we seemed to realize. This sentiment proved to be VERY true! 

As we began work on our podcast this past fall after a summer away from Chicago, we realized there was so much we needed to learn. We had to learn how to record and edit podcast episodes, how to create a website, and the basics of branding and marketing, to name just a few. This on top of a number of logistical issues nearly grinded us to a halt. Slowly but surely, however, we learned and worked until finding our footing. Today, we are proud to have published our first episode, “Dreaming in Black: A Conversation with Adrian Dunn.”  

Picture of Adrian Dunn and Black Music Matters shirt

Courtesy of Adrian Dunn

We believe “social justice” in the arts is the process of confronting the past, being honest about the present, and brainstorming solutions for the future. In this episode, Adrian Dunn shares his experience studying music as one of few Black students in a predominantly white industry. He sheds light on the unfortunate roots of today’s art institutions and how he has forged his own path in the present. We also discuss what needs to change going forward. 

This template of past, present, and future will be the springboard towards our discussions on episodes going forward. While we are interested in justice, we are not experts in these topics; social justice is not generally a part of classical music’s curriculum. Our goal is to listen and grow along with our audience: to encourage all musicians and music lovers to become a part of this dialogue, and most importantly, to listen to the voices that have been shut out of Western classical music for centuries.

Make sure to follow Chroma Music Chicago on Instagram @chromachicago and subscribe to their podcast through their website, chromamusicchicago.com, which is also where you can find a link to their first podcast episode, “Dreaming in Black: A Conversation with Adrian Dunn.”

Haley Henning • February 26, 2020


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