An industry speaks out through silence

By Amanda M. Perez

An industry speaks out through silence

By Amanda M. Perez
Music industry leaders inspired people to participate in a “blackout” on Tuesday to show solidarity with the black community and protest the death of George Floyd.

What started as a day for the music industry to stand in solidarity with those protesting the death of George Floyd—who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota—morphed into a movement that spread like wildfire and has inspired others far beyond just music.

The initiative, “The Show Must Be Paused,” is a recent social media “blackout” protest that was created by two, black music executives to spotlight the urgency of their plea for change and equality in society. As the music business leads the charge in a call to action, faculty members at the University of Miami Frost School of Music reflect on the impact their industry is making for change.

“I’m feeling proud to be part of this industry. I think every citizen needs to stand in solidarity. We have incidents that bring us to the forefront of issues, and then most people forget about it while black American’s don’t ever get to forget. The time has come to address these problems,” said Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg.

“The music industry in America and around the world has been deeply impacted by the creativity of black people,” said Valerie Coleman, assistant professor of performance, chamber music, and entrepreneurship at the Frost School of Music. “Our traditions and cultures define what we know as American music, so it’s only natural that the music industry and the arts community would be some of the first to respond and denounce such atrocities that are occurring right now.”

Coleman, who is a member of the Frost School’s Culture, Equity, and Diversity Advisory Committee, said it is heartening to see the music industry take the lead.

“It’s reaffirmation of why as a composer and flutist, I do what I do. This inclusion is all encompassing of the family that we are. As musicians we’re always thinking of what we can do to contribute to the collective,” she explained.

Berg believes music is the mortar of humanity and has the power to reveal and cultivate the best in human behavior.  

“It is what binds people together and it also is a very powerful force in helping people feel and understand. Music has always had a tremendous role to play in inspiring people and giving them hope when they’re less hopeful,” he added.

Coleman believes artists of today could use their talents to help keep spreading important messages of activism.

“The musicologists and music therapists can testify to how music plays an impact to healing and how it creates awareness and allows the deliverance of messages in a way that even the most stubborn minds can see,” she explained. “I’ve learned firsthand that music is one of those direct messages that touches the core of understanding for everyone. It is the thing that unites us.’’

In an effort to keep the conversation going, Berg said the Frost School Equity and Diversity Committee, which helps contribute to a positive academic climate and school culture, plans to continue the dialogue about diversity  in a series of summer town halls.

“Despite all of our good intentions, we can still do better, and I know that every single person in our school wants to continue to do better and continue to be a proactive voice and not a passive one in the struggle that goes on,” said Berg.

“As an artist I have a voice,” said Coleman. “And, that means I have a responsibility, and I don’t take that lightly.”