Dear Akropolis Supporters,
We would like to make a statement on behalf of our 5 ensemble members and our Board of Directors.
Black Lives Matter. We stand with you, and Akropolis pledges to be a better ally.
Over the past week it has become clear that our organization must cover a large distance in order to fulfill our mission, which is to create a more vibrant society with greater accessibility to contemporary music through artistic excellence in performance, educational workshops, and community engagement. We cannot create a more vibrant society if our decision-making and actions do not deliberately work to uplift voices of the Black community.
There are significant, systemic issues with racial inequity in contemporary music and its community, and we have contributed to it by not directly addressing it. In the words of Ibram X. Kendi, “One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.”
Over the course of our history, the vast majority of our audience, composers, and collaborators have been White. When we founded our nonprofit in 2015 and defined our mission, we took on the social responsibility of changing this. Change in our organization has been slow, but moving forward we are committed to making this a top priority and continuing to build on this progress.
➜ What we’ve done so far:
In 2018, for the first time we commissioned a Black composer in a professional context, a work by Jeff Scott paying homage to a Black neighborhood in Detroit. We have since performed it for more than 30 audiences and we have recorded a Web Premiere which will be released this summer. This should not have taken 9 years. We look forward to actively developing more projects like this and more opportunities for collaboration with Black artists.
Detroit is the home of our Together We Sound festival where beginning three years ago we started working directly with Detroit’s Black communities and other communities of color. For the past 3 years, this has included a year-long residency at 3 Detroit high schools involving music composition and chamber music. In doing so, we have premiered and recorded the works of 11 Black student composers. In the coming months, we are releasing these students’ 2020 compositions in a socially-distant, split screen format. You can watch some of these incredible compositions here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist…
We have made mistakes as well. As a White ensemble we have performed music composed by White men expressing their grief over the death of young Black men. While this grief is genuine, in performing these works, we haven’t properly contextualized the composers’ intentions, we haven’t created dialogue about how the Black community experiences this music, and the Black community hasn’t been invited to respond to these works before or after the performances. In order to continue performing these works, we must change this, and this should inform how we present music from perspectives other than our own.
➜ Our commitment going forward:
Akropolis needs to commission more Black composers, collaborate with more Black artists, and we need to have Black and minority representation on our all-White Board of Directors. And to members of our artist and audience community who are Black, we need to allow you space to express, if you would like to and from your perspective, what Akropolis is doing right and wrong with regard to social justice. We do not have these systems formally established, and we are making a priority to put them into place.
We are committed to formulating and enacting a plan to carry forward these policies and programming. We have strong Board leadership and we will begin working on these things with our June, second quarter board meeting. As a public nonprofit our board meeting minutes are available by private request. As new organizational policy is formulated, it will be made publicly available; Please visit akropolisquintet.org/organization for our current transparency documents.
We have been insulated from the injustices in our field, in our own work, and have not taken enough deliberate action to uplift, magnify, and support the voices of marginalized Black artists and community members. This changes today.
Matt, Kari, Ryan, Andrew, and Tim