Conference 2022 Reflections: Carmen Amalia Corrales
Thinking about the in-depth conversations at Conference 2022.
By Carmen Amalia Corrales, League Board Member
When I arrived at the League’s 2022 Conference, I knew times had changed more than just chronologically, but in American classical music the question was where we were going and who was coming along. In intimate settings, in our balkanized nation, sometimes I had overheard or read in the recent past the resentment that sounded, even if whispered, like a fist slammed on a table or better yet, a door slammed shut against the wish for greater inclusion.
America, the place where I had once relished the inventiveness of its arts, the refusal to adhere merely to form, the thrust toward something new, now clung now to European classical music, mostly the Classical Period. Some feigned ignorance, or merely found unimportant and unpleasant the history that had made classical music a bastion of class elitism and racial exclusion. Nothing so beautiful as this music, after all, could be associated with such a wrong. But that wrong is as true as Mozart’s genius. And every wrong, at least in theory, deserves to be made right, particularly when the future is at stake and so many Black artists and music enthusiasts have been hurt, exiled, or erased. We have always been here.
And then we were at Walt Disney Concert Hall, listening to an inventive concert conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. A young, shy composer made her debut; Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet my Father had once memorized and given to me to read when I was still in third grade, rang through the hall in the gorgeous voice of J’Nai Bridges; William Grant Still’s symphony, with its Black folkloric allusions, followed in the second half.
I felt the joy of the music course through my veins like a palliative for the pain of the past. Still was born into separate-but-equal, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Black Codes that restricted the movement of Blacks, minstrelsy and lynching. And yet here I was with him more than a century later, in this gorgeous hall, where everyone cheered the music as one. Here we were together where we might not have been allowed to enter before. All of us had gained sight of something new, a different world as they say, a better world. Or at least, I hope so.