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.

Minority Student Success Initiative

Sharing Reflections and Programming for the Future: Announcing the CCPA Minority Student Success Initiative

by Jade Garcia (MM Clarinet Performance ’21 and CAL Collaboration and Community Engagement Assistant)

These past months have been a time full of reflection for all of us. For students around the country, school is at the forefront of their minds as we all address the history and presence of racial disparity in this country. We are demanding change from institutions and leaders to address inequalities and systemic issues that have been present for generations. These conversations have been increasingly present in my life since I started college five years ago in Boulder, Colorado. I remember moving there and feeling this constant discomfort for weeks. I wasn’t able to understand why that was until I took a class on Gender, Race, and Class, and I finally realized that, oh, no one here looks like me. That was often the case in any room that I was in, not only because I was in Boulder, but because I am a classical clarinetist. In my profession, the number of spaces that are primarily white is overwhelming. As the daughter of Dominican immigrants, my big ole head of curls doesn’t exactly help me hide, and while that was a difficult thing to fathom initially it has become something that I make a point to embrace. I make sure to let those curls get as wild as they would like to on concert days, especially if it means you’ll be hearing some cool clarinet solos come out from under that head of hair! 

Students of color in academia are forced to reflect on their identities in a uniquely profound way. This is a result of these institutions existing under a country with deeply structural inequalities. I’ve spoken to friends in similar places as myself who consistently struggle with feeling valid amongst the lack of representation in their field, and feel the pressure of being the sole representation for their race in a rehearsal room. Of course, my friends’ and my experiences are just that, only a handful of stories that often reflect more common experiences, but also contain our own privileges. (To get into all of the intricacies of that would take another few hundred pages, but for the moment I’ll focus on the present and future.) This year, I am very happy to assist Adrian Dunn in his new role as Advisor for Racial Equity and Minority Student Success with his work for Minority Student Success at CCPA.

Over the past months, CCPA has begun to address its history of not supporting Black and Brown students through these types of conversations. The conservatories and Roosevelt University have a heightened responsibility to develop support for minority students as an institution that prides itself on standing for Social Justice. Through these conversations have emerged support systems for students that can begin addressing the problems present in our institution as well as others, and start to move us towards a more just future. 

With the creation of a new role focused on minority students and the appointment of Adrian Dunn, come new platforms for conversation and change. Both he and I work as a part of the Center for Arts Leadership. Adrian’s main project, the Minority Student Success Initiative (MSSI), welcomes students who identify as racial minorities into a social support circle where they can have honest and open conversations in a safe space with familiar understandings. 

The Minority Student Success Initiative brings with it many other projects and programming! Below is a list with short summaries to introduce these different offerings: 

    • The Minority Student Success Group (MSSG) – A support group for students that identify as Racial Minorities that will meet regularly to ensure that each student is mutually supported towards success in our different art areas. 
    • CCPA Black Student Union – Open to all Black identifying students at CCPA as a student led organization to help our Black students develop community, advocacy, and have an organized voice.
    • Black History Redemption Homecoming Celebration – A weekend of celebration of Black Music, composers, playwrights and artists. We will invite our Black and Brown alumni to return to campus for this weekend to celebrate our Black students.
    • CCPA Minority Alumni Network – An online group to connect our Black & Brown alumni communities. The Minority Alumni Network will serve as a group to support our students through mentorship, brave conversation sessions, and support in our high school, and HBCU bridge program.
    • Minority Faculty and Ally Network – We will bring together all CCPA faculty of color to support each other, give greater university visibility to these faculty, and be a voice for advocacy for our students and faculty. In addition to our minority faculty member group we strive to connect with white-identifying faculty allies who take seriously the cause of racial justice and equity at CCPA.
    • CCPA Bridge Program – We will establish a 2-day summer program to bring talented and interested Black and Brown students to our campus to promote enrollment in our degree programs at CCPA.
    • HBCU Grad Connect – This program will serve to recruit graduate students into our Music Programs. This will be an effort to bring students from our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
    • Kick Off Week – Our Minority students have had a meeting during kick off week to be sure that they know other minority students. We want to be sure that we are fostering positive community connections from day one.
    • Faculty Racial Training – Over the summer, many of our faculty and staff participated in mandatory training presented by Enrich Chicago. These trainings continue in the fall, and, as part of the Minority Student Success Initiative, we will follow up with best practices for our faculty and staff throughout the year.
    • Brave Conversations – A mini online series of conversations with Black music and Theater professionals on race, politics, and the state of the arts and entertainment industry.
    • Black Music Matters Summit  – October 9th-10th will be the Black Music Matters Summit that our Black & Brown students will have access to virtually. This summit will focus on professionalism, social activism, performances, and entrepreneurship for Black artists.
    • Embrace the Space Project  – Throughout town halls we have heard from students that our physical space in CCPA doesn’t equitably represent our student body. We will work to erect more artwork and photography to highlight our diversity within CCPA’s downtown campus floors 7 & 9.
    • Greater Roosevelt University Connections – We must foster a culture where CCPA and our minority students are no longer siloed within the Theater and Music Conservatories. We are being intentional about bringing greater visibility and awareness to internal university resources for our Black and Brown students specifically.

These projects are only just a start towards a new direction for CCPA, and there is so much more work to be done. Student engagement and feedback is essential to the success of these initiatives. I for one am so very open to getting to work and would love to help start more student groups and further create needed support in any way I can. Please contact me even if it’s for a brainstorming session by finding me on Facebook, messaging me on Instagram (@jade_clarinet), or emailing me at jgarcia129@mail.roosevelt.edu

Likewise, you can reach Adrian at adunn@roosevelt.edu, and Allegra Montanari, the Director of the Center for Arts Leadership and a very active ally, at amontanari@roosevelt.edu.

I so look forward to working and talking to you all this school year; let me know any way I can help or be a voice for my fellow students! 

About the author

Jade Garcia is a musician and mentor who strives for an emphasis on thoughtfulness and connection in all that she does. She currently studies as a Masters student in Clarinet Performance at the Chicago College for the Performing Arts while working as a part of the conservatory’s Center for Arts Leadership. Through her years of study she found music as a reflection of humanity and an access point for music students to gain deeper understandings of themselves and the world around them. It is this mindset that guides her work both as a clarinetist and as the Collaboration and Community Engagement Assistant for CAL.

Check out Jade’s other CAL blog post, titled “Transitions,” here!

Haley Henning • September 11, 2020


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