Countering a year of Trump
Our political process is in turmoil. The man in the Oval Office furthers the gridlock through exclusion, poisonous rhetoric, and falsification of fact with promises to return our country to a historical "greatness. This "Me First" mentality makes one wonder who is the "me," who gets to be "first," and if this is the message we want to send to our neighbors, whether they live around the corner or around the globe.
Fortunately, this Saturday, February 17 at 1 p.m., we have an opportunity to challenge that message. Initiated by the Reverend Franklin Florence Sr. and called "A United Community Response to Donald Trump's Ongoing Hatred and Racism," the event will take place at Central Church of Christ, 101 South Plymouth Avenue. It is interfaith, intergenerational, and inclusive of the range of diversity across the political spectrum.
Furthering long-standing wounds of racism, sexism, and xenophobia are the opposite of what is necessary to heal and remember that we are one human family.
American symphony orchestras have a representation problem. For decades, most of the country's well-known orchestras have programmed seasons comprising works almost exclusively by white male composers. As a life-long supporter of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, I was disappointed to see that its Philharmonics Series will feature just one composition by a woman and zero by a composer of color in the upcoming season.
This means that an astonishing 97 percent of works in this series will have been composed by white men. To an observer looking at the average symphony orchestra season, it's as though people of color and women never composed music at all.
And therein lies the problem: When orchestras program almost exclusively white men, they contribute to the erasure of people of color and women composers from music history. These composers faced widespread misogyny and racism in their time, and yet there is certainly no dearth of their extant works. Orchestras, however, seldom reach outside of the standard canon to perform these compositions. As such, it's no surprise that so many aficionados of classical music rave about the "genius" of Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart but have never heard of Florence Price, William Grant Still, or Ethel Smyth.
The constructed nature of "genius" here is crucial. The RPO's excellent community outreach and popular series are essential, but representation should not cease to be a concern at the threshold of Kodak Hall. As long as works by white men are the only ones deemed "genius" or "masterful" enough to be performed on the symphonic stage, other participants in music history will continue to be overlooked in favor of canonic figures. By embracing the latter over the former, orchestra programming perpetuates institutional misogyny and racism.
Some may argue that the canon sells, and at a time when many orchestras are struggling, the priority should be filling seats first, and diversifying programming second. Successful programming of women and people of color by orchestras such as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, however, casts doubt on this line of argument. More dangerous, though, are the ways in which such bargaining upholds systemic white supremacy and sexism in classical music.
The canon is by no means an inevitability. It is something that is constructed by participants in the musical ecosystem: musicians, critics, scholars, administrators, and patrons. As such, it is important for each of us to consider our own role(s) in perpetuating myths of whiteness and maleness in classical music. Ultimately, a richer, more diverse and expansive canon benefits everyone. Programming is a political choice, and I hope that the RPO and other orchestras strive to better preserve all music histories – not just those of white men – in future seasons.
Judges and immigrants
On a reader's comments about a hearing for an undocumented immigrant farmworker: If the facts stated by Doug Noble regarding the Reyes-Herrera case are true, and I have found no evidence to the contrary, then shame on Judge Charles Siragusa ("Immigration and the Courts," Feedback).
His words and actions are out of sync. Where, Judge Siragusa, are your courage and principles? I expect more from a man in your position.
W. BRUCE GORMAN
I must take exception to the disparaging remarks by a recent letter writer regarding one of our fine District Court justices, Charles Siragusa.
The writer referred to Siragusa as dismayed, clueless, and bewildered in his handling of an illegal immigrant's case. Apparently the judge should have disregarded the tenets of the law and interjected his own personal judgment and interpretations regarding his findings. After all, that is what many adjudicators have been doing lately, thereby shredding, rewriting and disregarding our laws as written in order to facilitate their own political and personal ideologies.
The letter writer's remarks should have been directed more toward the fools in our government who have failed in their duty to properly enforce our immigration laws for the past 40 years.
The well-meaning words on the Statue of Liberty are inspiring and may bring tears to our eyes, but they are not the law of the land nor should they be. We must welcome those who follow the proscribed procedures as dictated by our laws. If the majority of our citizens want the present laws changed, then they should work to do so as prescribed by our Constitution.
In order to insure that our present immigration fiasco is not repeated in future years, the government must take steps to properly secure our borders while keeping track of our visitors until they become citizens.
Common sense and moderation in political dealings bring desired results.