The First Question to Ask – Part II of II

Who You Are as a Person

By Adam Collins 2019 Part II of II

When I reflect on my own personal struggles, triumphs, and engagements in my life, I realize that rarely will I do anything completely selflessly (one could even make the philosophical argument that we can’t ever do anything 100% selflessly). Even if it’s so that I can make myself feel better at the end of the day, almost everything I do in life, I do for my own benefit, if not indirectly in some way. As Kaitlin put it, “it’s human nature to horde. We are all dragons.”

This is the part where I think most of us lose our desire. I know this is the part that I struggle with most, because it goes against everything I have learned throughout my life. We cannot do this for ourselves. And that’s hard. That sucks. And that goes directly against the current of the male/white privilege river. I read recently that,  

“Your first thought is how society taught you to think.  Your second thought is who you are as a person.” 

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And because Male/White privilege teaches us that we are at the top of the food chain, we often don’t have to worry about whatever that second thought may be.

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This power struggle has been encapsulated recently by a poignant event in the Wind Band world. Larry Clark, a prolific, accomplished composer, was recently outed as not only writing under the pseudonym, “Keiko Yamada,” a young, female, Japanese composer that he conjured up out of thin air, he even gave her a biography and statistical information to further pull the wool over directors’ eyes. In all actuality, he was outed in 2016, but because the fallout was minimal, he didn’t really do much to make amends for his previous actions.

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All of this came to a screeching halt a little less than a week ago. Because of a few viral posts, outrage grew fast and furiously, causing an uproar across social media. Within the first 48 hours, Larry’s presentation slot at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois in December was revoked. He wrote a thinly-veiled advertisement for his own publishing company disguised as an apology*, with no details as to how he would move forward to rectify his past wrongdoings. (*Yes, this is my own opinion.)

The reaction was equally grandiose: Hundreds of reactions both defending him, and holding his feet to the fire. There were several people that not only denounced the whistleblowers, but they stated that they would act in direct opposition to those negatively affected, because they decided the offenses weren’t valid and wanted to further support Larry. Within the last 24 hours, due to the unrelenting pressure, voices of dissatisfaction, and protest, apologies and plans-of-action have been written and posted both by Larry, and Carl Fischer LLC, the company that originally enabled his works written under the pseudonym to be sold.

The people that are so quick to come to Larry’s defenses, I believe, are the same people that horde the power. They’re the ones who clutch their pearls at the thought of someone of another demographic standing alongside the aggrandized white men who have historically looked down from their pedestals for so long.

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Many of us (White Men) will never fully admit it though. No, that would be acknowledging that we have previously used our status to our advantagE, and done nothing to fix the inequalities that have plagued our profession for so long.

If I can sit on my elevated side of the see-saw while everyone else is bunched together on the ground on the other side, why should I invite any of them to cross the fulcrum so that the balance may work less in my favor? Sure, I can offer advice and maybe the occasional favor to them, but that’s only as long as my position at the high end of the see-saw isn’t impacted.

Carl Fischer LLC and Larry Clark have since stated that they are financially committed to the efforts of diverse programming, and are actively working to replace all music distributed as having been written by the fictional composer. Time will tell if these are empty words, or if we will see real, meaningful change. I want to believe these are more than words, and that they are doing this as a morally conscious means to right a historical wrong. Unfortunately, the cynic in me believes that they will only go as far as they can go if it still benefits them in some way, financially or otherwise, and isn’t an inconvenience to them.

I just hope I’m wrong.