Fall Music Preview: Music from Diverse Voices


On October 7, the St. Olaf Music Department and Libraries will sponsor the “Music from Diverse Voices” faculty recital in Boe Memorial Chapel from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The event will feature faculty performing new music purchased by the Halvorson Music library, with a focus on works by female, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ composers. 

The Music Department and Libraries prepared this event after the purchase of over 600 books, scores, and recordings to diversify the music available to students and faculty. Historically speaking, in many classical music concerts, performances, and standard repertoire, female, BIPOC, and queer composers have been vastly underrepresented. A recent movement at St. Olaf aims to highlight the work of these composers. Research and Instruction Librarian for Music and Fine Arts Karen Olson, said “The purchase of the music was pushed by students and faculty who want to highlight non cis-het white men in their performances and courses.” The Music Library was able to fulfill these hopes because of a fund specifically for diversifying their collection. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority for the college everywhere, but the music library was an area of emphasis,” said Olson. 

Using databases, information from professional music organizations, and student and faculty recommendations, Olson compiled a list of pieces and composers for faculty to explore. Faculty members purchased new music for each instrument and voice part. “Even if your instrument is not being performed at the concert, we still have music for you in the library,” said Olson. Many members of the music faculty hope to utilize this music for their own performances as well as in the classes they teach. Assistant Professor of Music and pianist April Kim wrote in an email to the Messenger that, “Even as a BIPOC faculty member myself, I have only started to really explore and perform more repertoire of underrepresented composers in the last five years or so, and it amazes me just how much there is out there.” 

While the performance will highlight pieces available to music students, the concert is open to all. “Students, especially non-music students, should attend this recital because it is an opportunity to hear and learn about composers they might not be familiar with. Even as someone who has little to no experience in music, they probably  have heard about composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart at some point in their lives. This recital hopes to bring greater awareness of just how much wonderful and meaningful repertoire there is beyond traditional western canon,” Kim said.

The recital is set to feature eight music faculty members, including Kim, performing recent pieces by composers such as Jiyoun Chung, Connor Chee, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. “Lullaby Variations” a piece featured in the performance explores the joys and frustrations of parenthood, taking on universal and relevant experiences. There are other works such as “La Calavera,” based on a Mexican card game, and “Navajo Vocable for Piano No. 9” focuses on Navajo corn grinding. The piece highlight specific cultural experiences of the composers. “The ultimate goal is for all of the work that we are doing now to not be needed because all of these composers will be known,” said Olson. Similarly, Kim’s hope “is that rather than continuing to ‘highlight’ underrepresented composers, it will be normal practice to program and perform works by underrepresented composers alongside works by Western European composers.”

The faulty recital will be a free event in Boe Chapel. Following the recital, there will be a reception in the Black Ballroom of Buntrock Commons.



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