OLIVIA SATHER: You're listening to Beyond the Stage from the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach. In each episode, we introduce you to the artists, scholars, students, and arts professionals interpreting our world through the arts. Join us this week and every week this summer as we explore their stories. Let’s get started.
OLIVIA SATHER: Hi everybody. Welcome to today's episode. I have with me Dr. Ray Briggs. Thank you for being here. As a saxophonist, Dr. Briggs has worked with John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Benny Green and Rufus Reid. As Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at CSULB, he has coordinated the jazz combo program and teaches jazz history and ethnomusicology courses. Dr. Briggs is also director of the Quincy Jones jazz camp and co-founder of FEED, which stands for focus on education, equity and diversity at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach, a bi-weekly forum that focuses on social justice activism and inclusion in the areas of music and music education. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that today on the episode. Hi Dr. Briggs how are you today?
RAY BRIGGS: I’m fine. Thank you so much for having me, Olivia. Very excited to be here. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
OLIVIA SATHER: I’m so glad. I want to get started with visual descriptions. Hello everyone, you know me, my name is Olivia. I am your host. I am a white woman with blue eyes. I have a pink and purple shirt on today, red lipstick, and turquoise headphones, and my visual background is the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. Dr. Briggs?
RAY BRIGGS: Yes, so I’m African American male and I’m wearing all black. I have medium-brown skin. I think I have pretty nice brown eyes, and I have a beard that officially grew out, and my background is my studio. I live in Pasadena, so this is where I kind of work and practice and study and so forth.
OLIVIA SATHER: Well, thank you again for being here with us today. I wanted to get started with just how are you doing? It's the end of the semester. How did the semester go for you and are you excited to return to campus maybe next semester?
RAY BRIGGS: One: the semester was, how to put it, there was a mad dash to the end, and it's always like that, you know, and in some ways, I get a kick out of that. I kind of like you know short periods of intensity, I don't like long period of intensity, but if I know, okay, over the next couple of days it’s going to be crazy, but by this date at this time, it'll be over. If I can push myself, cross the finish line and I can enjoy the rest of it that comes on the other side of really hard work. In some ways, I find that the rest isn't as sweet unless the hard work has come before it, right? If you’re just kind of at home doing want you want to do, that can be very, very boring. But if you've been really like on a tight schedule to get all these things done, then even just to sit in the back yard read a book is like, ah, wow, I can actually do this, but if we did that every day, it’s like this is boring right? This is nothing there's drive there, so I do appreciate the hectic quality of the scheduling. But, you know, I am looking forward to getting back on campus. Although I have to say there's some things I learned about my teaching and my connection to students that I would not have known had we not had this lock down. There was, I think, there was some things that I that I learned that are positive, some benefits that I can actually continue to use and utilize and I think we all have, like figuring out, like what actually can work and how can we do this, even if things get back to normal, what have we learned that can be maintained. I think this is one of the few periods that I’ve had in my life like that, where everything really shut down, we haven't had that and I think it allowed us to really kind of evaluate and take inventory, maybe forcibly so, but I think there’s some good in that. So I definitely think coming back to campus will be great because I do miss seeing people and seeing students and being a musician there's certain things you can do online, but you can't you know, trying to have a concert or you have students play, no, online won’t work. It’s a nice substitute but it can't replace the real thing. So yeah, I’m actually looking forward to getting back and seeing people and talking. Just the energy.
OLIVIA SATHER: What are some of those things you think you'll take forward with you this year into next year.
RAY BRIGGS: Yeah, you know, in my classes, I like to have a lot of discussions, I like to talk and ask questions and ask students to ask questions and I found that the online format, using Zoom, when the students have on their cameras, you can see everyone. They can all see you, and at least visually they're all on the same playing field. Right, it's not like a spatial thing, where in the classroom these people on the front row, and these people on the back, and the ones in the front row get a lot of attention, and the one in the back you think, well if they're sitting that far back, they probably not very interested in the material, so I won’t really engage so much. You don't get that feeling—I’m looking at you all and it seems like you all in the same you know kind of same place and same space. It fells to me a bit more like you know equal. I’m aware some people speak well on camera, some don't. I’m aware of that, but I do feel like in some ways, I had I had more engagement toward the students, engaging and it could be coupled with they have this need for connection that, you know, they’ve been at home and so normally they would be on campus and you're talking to people, but now there in the space every day all day. And so, when we have this class, it's one of the few times that they might get a chance to connect with people outside of the way they’re living, so it might be a greater need to ask the question. I’m thinking about when we talk about these things. So I do think I want to maintain that in some way. How I’m going to do in the classroom is yet to be, you know, maybe I’m thinking like a hybrid class where we have some very fixed days, when we’re on campus in person, and some days we're going to be online, right. Where we can actually try and kind of maintain that and see see how that fits in but yeah, I think that's one area, the other is just being able to draw, in terms of technology, you can draw things very quickly on the spot, you know, like I prepare certain things, but I teach I try to teach a class somewhat like I am playing jazz. Right, which means, as a jazz musician you practice and you prepare. You don't just get up and like, what are you gonna play? I don't know. Most jazz musicians don't do that time. We work up material, repertoire, and we have a list of things we're going to play. But in the moment, as we're playing it, something might lead us to a different place that we weren't prepared for. And we have to be flexible enough to say, okay I didn't I didn't mean for this piece to turn into a bossanova, but it seems like the rhythm is going there so let's change it, let's go this way. And so when I teach, maybe it feels to me more exciting and more honest when I allow for that to happen. So if a student says something in response to a question or prompt, and it leads me to think about something else, then I can very easily, you know, it's gonna, okay, let me show you this, I look up something, look at this this correspondence between this musician and that musician. I didn't have that in the notes before, in the lecture outline, but in the moment it seems to be appropriate. So when I bring that in it feels more like, okay, I can do this. Of course, you can do that in the classroom, but I think it's a bit more awkward because I’m standing up and I have to walk back to my computer or say hold on a second. But when I’m sitting here talking to you, I could be looking something up and putting something in and you don't see it until I screen share. Right, so I like to have like a bit of a smooth presentation that way, so I just feel like in this format, I can do that much more easily, so that's another one.
OLIVIA SATHER: So interesting I’ve talked to so many teachers over the last year and I don't think anybody's brought up that how you're the first to bring up how the kind of flattening of the classroom structure, the seating, and that's really interesting, almost really democratizes it in a way, which is really fascinating. And I love the analogy of teaching to playing jazz music and, you know, I’m not a jazz musician but I imagine your instinct is also a little bit off of like your fellow musicians and the audience, much as it would be for like an actor on a stage you you're feeding off of that energy and instead you're feeding off of their students and their questions and what's you know, so you see that spark in them.
RAY BRIGGS: Absolutely. And I think the students get that. I think they appreciate it when they know, okay, this is not a cookie cutter lecture, that no matter who he's talking to, it wouldn't be the same thing, like no, I am in this place of thinking about this material, as you are. I’m presenting it to you, so maybe I have a leg up. But I’m also thinking about it, and so, when you say certain things to me, it caused me to think differently about it, then, hmm, I’m going to start to go down a different path and I’m going to take you on a journey with me as I start to learn more and add more things to it. One of the biggest things that I try to get across to my students is that information, ideas, thoughts, activity, especially the arts, they are more connected than they are separate. Like, we, I think in the academic world, I think there's a lot of compartmentalization where, think about with the campus you have buildings that are dedicated to know certain discipline, like this is science over here, the arts over there, music is there, dance is over here, and so I think, while I understand why we do that [so] can we can really focus and like get the mechanics of that craft, I think, there’s also some detrimental parts of that. And that is a we don't think about it holistically. We think about it as a separate thing and onto itself. But when we look at it in the quote unquote real world, they're all these things that come to bear on that particular activity. That relate across campus, but we aren't studying it that way. In the real world it’s happening that way. But we aren’t really thinking about those connections. So in my classes I have a lot of new objectives one, let me, let me give you some information that’s going to give you a kind of a basic understanding of what we're talking about. But let's not stop there. Let’s not stop with: here's some facts, memorize these facts, the test is on Wednesday right. No, that's not really education. To me, education is: think about how these things are influenced by and influence other things .and might be seemingly unrelated. Right, because if people are involved, it is by nature interdisciplinary sometimes we use that as saying, oh no it's a special kind of. interdisciplinary study and like well actually like was interdisciplinary right, but it seems to me that would be the more common way of studying thing because that's the way things are happening. Not this compartmentalize, but I think we, maybe because we're creatures of habit, and that's how most educational models are set up that way, we come to high school, we come through an undergrad degree and that's what we're given. So when we are given the space, if we become teachers like I’m a teacher, then I know how that works, I know how to enter that space, I know how to play that that game. But there has to be I think some kind of rethinking of yes, maybe I got through this, but it was that the best way of going about it? But are there other ways to craft this in some way that makes it more meaningful. Is the work that I had to do outside of my basic curriculum that made it meaningful to me. And if I can implement that work into my students’ curriculum, then I think we get a little closer to you might say graduating them ready for the world. As opposed to you know, here's some information and you're gonna have to really work to connect it to real life stuff. I think we kind of do that sometimes and I’ll admit that, so I tried it in my classes always talk about what's going on in the real world like how how was this what was going on at the time, if it’s historical, how is it connected to what we see today? Right, because I think when we don't do that, we don't really bring the richness that’s obviously kind of on the cusp of doing it. But unless you really connect those things, it may seem like, okay that was nice, what's for lunch? what's for dinner? Right, like there's no real, I think we can do better with that, so I try to do that as much as possible.
OLIVIA SATHER: Right, I can tell you, and I know you from working on the Voices for Justice Series this semester, but you have such a passion for teaching, and I see that, I see that in you and I hope one day, maybe I could sit in the back of one of your classrooms and listen in. You know, absolutely I think you can look back and see how the arts has influenced culture and culture the arts. The arts hold up a mirror to the world, but they also you know, are influenced by it and influence it back and you know that that happens today, too, so thinking about the interconnectivity. And I think that's one thing that will be nice for students, and for everybody getting back to in person events, being on campus. I remember you know, being a student there myself and walking through the quad and seeing students work on a dance piece, and you know art students walking by with their easels and just, you're absorbing those things every day and they're influencing your life, but you may not know how yet. Or what you're learning from your fellow students and definitely the breaking down the silos of the art forms is important, those interconnectivity of things, and absolutely. I want to talk a little bit about about your your teaching and what brought you to teaching. So I know you studied music education. What made you want to be a music educator, and what brought you to being a professor and specifically a jazz professor.
RAY BRIGGS: Um, well, when I was coming up in high school, I went to a performing arts high school in Memphis, and I began to study privately with a saxophone/bassoon performer/player, and he encouraged me and instructed me to, you know, when you go to college and you major in music, don’t major in music performance. And his reasoning was not that music performance isn't a worthy pursuit, but his reasoning was: if you can play, it will show. Meaning, when you look at the professional music world, no one asks, excuse me, before you do this concert, do you have a degree? But it's, we know you're great musician so here's a platform for you to share your art with. And I’m saying this not to undermine the degrees of performance, that are important to prepare musicians, but on the speaking of my own development. So my teacher said don't get a music performance degree. Get a music education degree, because that will always be able to serve you, and it will be a part of your arsenal. And you're a musician and so many musicians teach. Most musicians teach. Not always like in a tenure-track position, like what I’m doing. But certainly they have students, they have people that they mentor. There's some kind of teaching going. All art has that kind of something that's built into it, where you pass it along. People who are coming up come to you or they watch you or they ask you questions. Sometimes in a formal setting sometimes informal, so when you do that, I thought, okay, I’m going to approach music in college as if I’m a performance major. So I’m going to practice, like my, you know, performance performance major classmates are doing, but I’m taking all these education classes in addition to that. And when I graduated, going to say I have a degree in music education, but if you look at what I’m doing, I’m also playing, right? And so that that's kind of how I got into music education. I n terms of teaching, I started teaching, actually here in California, so I was getting my first master's degree in in, it's funny that we're talking about this performance stuff, but I actually, I do have a master's degree in performance, it's in woodwind doubling, so it's you know flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon. And while I was doing that degree at the University of Redlands, I was teaching for the Community School. So they give students grad students a stipend to teach students in the community, so I would teach, for you know different, I would teach clarinet and saxophone, I think I think I did just clarinet and saxophone. And so I started teaching, but it's more like instrumental, like you know individual pieces, but in terms of my academic teaching, that didn't happen until my second master's degree in that was not in musical forms, it was in ethnomusicology. This was UCLA, and so when I [was] there, it was very much, you know it's the normal path. Most musicologists end up as a professor, you know kind of roles, we're they’re going to be teaching, so I kind of knew that would be there. But my assistantship was being a teaching assistant. So I had to, you know, open the classroom, help with some of the grading, So I was already kind of doing it, but it wasn't yet my passion. I think what helped me develop this, the passion and the skills, was one: seeing people do it on a higher level. So one of my best models was my mentor UCLA’s Professor Cheryl Keyes, and she is incredible and she really inspired me, because she was the first professor I saw who had the academic credentials, the knowledge, and the passion, and the relatability. I hadn’t seen that before. I had, at that time, two degrees right, my bachelor's in music and performance, now I’m in my second, and I had never seen all those things converge in that way. And, to be honest, it was like another world opened to me. So, I’m thinking, now, you mean you can actually talk about, and her specialty is African American music, alright, and so I’m thinking you can talk about African American music and as a profession? You can teach it and you don’t have to water it down, you can talk about all the things related to it, and it's real, it's as beautiful music and there’s endless, and now, it's like, wow, I want to do that. Right, so she mentored me and she really helped me kind of get my materials together, but also just watching her, just kind of metaphorically sitting at her feet watching her do it and realizing, okay, I want to do this, right, and I want to do it on the level that she's doing it. So from there, I actually got a call from Cal State University San Bernardino, that was my first teaching and they just called up and said hey we have an African-American music class, is anyone there that can teach it? You want a gig? Yeah, sure, all right. And they say the rest is history. So I started teaching there and I really started to learn the skills of teaching, but what I’ve tried to do more than anything else is connect. Right, sometimes I think like like music, you can focus on the mechanics of teaching, the nuts and bolts of it, how do you present, how do you prepare, you know, PowerPoint slides, how did you, testing, all those things you can you can do. And it's it's conceivable that you can do all the mechanics very, very well, and miss the core of what teaching is about. The same way, as a musician you can develop the mechanics of it, you know all the technical aspects of playing the instrument. Keeping it in tune, all the things you can develop a very, very high level, but it's conceivable, and I’ve seen it where there's no core. I was speaking to someone earlier about this today, I think, sometimes in academia, we focus so much on the mechanics of the craft in terms of the art, the music, we don't spend a lot of time on the why. Why am I doing it? Right, so as we're talking about the mechanics of it, and of course it gets people playing well, but the why, like what's the purpose behind why you're doing this art? What are you feeling when you make it? What are you trying to get people to feel when you express it? And so, when I’m teaching, again, I’m treating it like jazz. So this idea of: I’m going to perform, I’m going to do it through passing information, and it's going to be flexible, but there's going to be a goal in mind, but how we get there might change from day to day, right, it might be a little bit different each time. And we're going to discover it together, so, you know, in terms of wanting to teach, I think I am more inspired to do it now than I ever have been. And some of it has to do with different events in our in our world, that and the thing that I think, you know, education can really serve a great purpose here. Because obviously what we know and what we think we know, has an impact on how we see the world, how we see ourselves, how we engage in the world. So, I must say that is the end-all be-all to like world peace, no, no, no, but some things people do that are harmful to themselves or their communities, out of ignorance. There are things they do, and some things they they might think, because they haven't heard or been exposed to ideas that would help them expand their view. And not, just kind of act in a way that that shows limited understanding and sensitivity, like, so I really feel like you know, education and teaching, I can demonstrate that and demonstrate it in a way that inspires students to look beyond the veneer of individual people that they might be. That, you know, being a so-called Black man, I know , I’m not singling out any particular students, but I know, being an African-American teaching primarily non-African-American non-so called minority students, that there might be some, you know, stereotypes that students enter the space with, there might be some beliefs about who, I am as a so-called Black man. And so I’m very aware of that and I am not trying to project onto them any kind of beliefs, but I know that when I entered this space, there are some ways that I think, there are some way that I see the world that many of them have never been exposed to. And the danger is, they're going to go out into the world and make decisions about what is right, what is wrong, like what is what is justice, what does that look like. All those things are informed by life experiences, education, right? It all plays a role, so I feel more inspired because I think you know I need to play my part. Being in a band I got to play my part, got to practice it get it right and be fearless in presenting it. I can't sit back and just kind of rest in the mechanics of presenting because I may never get to what really is the core, and I think the hardest thing is feeling this this purpose in myself, but being too fearful to show that to my students. In my earlier years I was kind of that way, you know, but now I feel more like: you know, you know, the world is happening, and time is moving on whether I jump in the fray or not. So, if I am really trying to make a difference, there's there's more required, there's more required I can't just dial it in and I can't you know, I have to really be beyond it, and I need to tell students what I think is, you know, helpful, but also truth and trying to make them more understanding human beings, right, some of that is informational, a lot of that is also listening to stories. Really listening, and not just: I watched the news, or I saw some someone on on social media, they told me this like, yeah, but what do you really know, and how do you know what you know. So I think the teaching with me is like it's like never-ending gig. Well, eventually it’s going to end but you know what I mean, like I said it's a long, long-term gig, right, and I can I can approach the audiences and kind of give them what I think is important and get feedback from them and then come back to it—it's great, because I because I’m growing. That's the that's the short of it right. I’m growing, I think. As I grow, I can give them more, and I’m excited to see how will I grow the next year, two years, three years, four, five years from now, right? I am anything but stagnant. I don't want that, as a jazz musician, and I don't want to be stagnant as a professor I don't want to be stagnant. I want to be, you know ever-expanding so, that's kind of how I got there, and why why I’m passionate about and how try to stoke that fire.
OLIVIA SATHER: Wow. Yeah. it's interesting because you know, I love your story and your your approach to education, but arts education in general. I mean, studies show continually that music education, arts education, in schools, from a young age can build empathy and increase you know, test scores, intelligence, connectivity to a community and one’s history, yet it is often the first thing to go, and if it's doing all these things, if it's, if it's really creating better communities and better citizens, uh, better people, why, why is it the first thing to go?
RAY BRIGGS: You know, it's interesting point in part, when I think about that, I feel like in our lives, no matter what our backgrounds are, there are some things that shape us and some things that are very meaningful, even powerful in our lives, that we haven't yet taken inventory of. But they're there and they're doing their work, but we just haven't put any thought on it, or described it in any way. And sometimes I think, when we don't have that kind of introspective look at ourselves to really figure out: why am I the way that I am? How did this happen? What I like, what do I not like and how do I see the world? Why do I see it that way? When we don't do that kind of work, it's like someone else, something else tells us what's important. Right and then we get in the world, they say, well, the important thing is the bottom line, well how much money is it going to make. Right, okay, yeah, I guess, in a world where you know, exchanging goods and services as money, you have to know something about that. But what happens when that becomes the main focus? what happens when how much money you make is supposedly the arbiter of your quality of humanity. What happens when we get to that place, right? So I do think, where we are now in part, people who’ve met the bottom line, and since they haven't many of them, haven't thought, think deeply about what do the arts mean to us as human beings, you know, sometimes we take cues. I think we take cues and kind of leadership from the wrong people, let me say it that way. People that haven't been in touch with this part of their humanity, even though it might have done that work for them, they haven't really thought about it. But honestly, I believe that music as one of the arts does this to practically everyone. I think everyone connects this, the music, speaks to you and you feel connected to it, and when you hear it…I’m not a scientist, but maybe your molecular structure even changes, while you're listening to…something happens, and we know that. Some might say it’s psychological, some it’s spiritual, something happens when you hear some music, you connect with. So we all have it, but we don't, we don't quantify it so maybe there's not like a hard science if you hear this piece, you’ll have…there’s some attempts to look at what's going on the brain, but we don't really say, well this piece is worth this much, this one this much. We don't do that. We do commodify it, right, we do have like a sense that we're going to sell you this, but I think we don't talk about that and the power of it, so that if it doesn't have this bottom line, like, very easily identifiable, you know, contribution that we think that it's no of no consequence, or we can do without it, right. It's like you know we breathe air every day, how many of us think about air? How many of us think about the quality of air. We might watch the news and they say “tomorrow is going to be really bad so you don't want to go outside,” we don't really do it on a daily basis, so that's the most important thing that we know we need. So, there's no thought on it, right? We kinda assume it’s going to be there, and so, and I think with the with the arts, it’s one of the most important things that humans can make. Think about it. When I talk to young people, no matter what background they have there is some music that they see themselves in. That this music speaks to them and for them, and that’s their jam, and that's how they grew up on that, and that's what they believe, very much like a religion. That, if you say to them: “this music is is dumb or it's not good, or you're an idiot,” they feel highly offended. Right, if you say “you like that?” but if I say to you “wow that's really, I know what you mean, that's beautiful music,” now we're friends. You don't know me, but because identify something that you also value, music, now you're open, we can talk, we can hang out right, so what is that? In some ways, I think, music, does it, it’s like a religion, but I think music even does it more in some ways than religion. Think about, you know, all the various religions of the world, and sometimes they are these compartmentalized views that don't allow people who supposedly are the same faith to come together. So what keeps them apart if you say “I believe the same thing you believe then why aren’t we together?” But if I say “I like this music do you like it too” we can get in that space. What is that, that the music allows us to like bridge that gap in that way. So I do think the arts, we were told, we are told, the arts don’t matter, or we're told there's a hierarchy: first take care of this, and this, and this, and this, and there's something left over then there’ll be arts. Right first, get some shelter, you know, there's a whole kind of, and then, if you got time and effort, it might be nice to throw in the arts. So I wonder where that model comes from now, if you study Western history. It was seen as, I’m speaking generally, what they think it’s like an icon of my social economic status. If I had the money, oh look I study music, I do a little bit of this, it shows that I am well versed, we say well-rounded. But it's not at the core of who I am, it is something that I do to show, look I got some time, leisure time and money, I think I'll play the piano. Right, so it has some of that so sometimes we follow that model, and even though those of us who know that music does more or other arts do more, we aren't necessarily so vocal about it until we feel the pressure. Right, so I do think , as artists, we have to be more proactive and we can't wait for the axe about to fall to cut us off, and say, “Oh, by the way, that are so important,” No, I’m not saying it's too late, but it's harder at that point right it's hard at that point. So how do we put that at the forefront, how do we influence the influencers? It’s something we can we can really work on and try to make that more more part of the conversation, right, knowing that we are inclined and prone to think this about the arts, what do we do about that? Are we just sitting ducks in a waiting for it… or do we say no we're going to create a climate around this, that makes it much more difficult to happen. You know, and it's kinda like taking in survival mode all the time. Yeah, maybe some cons to that, but you know what I mean, this is the idea, knowing that we are on the chopping block first, how do we, how do we present ourselves so this doesn't happen so easily to us.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. I want to talk a little bit about the FEED program: focus on education, equity and diversity. This was, and correct me if I’m wrong, a new program that you started at Bob Cole in the last year, and I think it very much ties into what you were talking about just a few moments ago, about…this is something that needs to be in the water, it needs to be something that's integrated into what we are breathing in the air, and it's not right now, so how, how is that shifting, so, can you talk a little bit about about the program, what you're doing through FEED and what it is, and what you hope to achieve or what you’re trying to achieve with it.
RAY BRIGGS: Sure absolutely so, first I want to, I want to make sure I give credit that I’m one of the co-founders, so there’s several professors. First Alicia Doyle, Professor Josh Palkki, Professor Christine Guter, so there are four of us who started talking about, you know, it was really it was in response to, and then, after the murder of George Floyd. And you know many people and the whole country, some even say many parts of the world, were just on this heightened sensitivity of, hey something's not right, and and not only is this…and what was beautiful about this period is, it wasn't just centered on this one event, it was like we need to not allow Black people, especially Black man to be shot down in the street or killed in the street and nothing happens. But it seemed like, even though discussion with history that that it wasn't that clear, it seemed like people understood, we can do all kinds of things in the spirit of correcting this wrong. That is not just: we're going to make sure the police don't kill, no, no, no, that's that's the kind of the you know the symptom part. But there is something that leads us as a society to this way of thinking about Black people. And so, this program was is a forum, every two weeks we’d have different presenter and we were doing it as our kind of Bob Cole Conservatory-response to: what does it mean to be just and equitable and and and and represent the diversity of our students and the community that we serve? How do we do that in the arts, right, in music, so, you know, it was interesting because it was a time I think a lot of students were were wondering well, what can I do? I see this is not right and going back to my earlier years of teaching I remember sometimes when I will have these conversations. You know it's interesting how at different points of history, certain conversations don't do what they will do later. Like, I could talk about some of these things, and sometimes know certain certain student would be like you know, Yeah, okay, we know that or why we're talking about that? But now that are in America's history, I can talk about those same things as students who like yeah, thank you for that, I appreciate that now I understand. So it's like, it's kind of like you know I’m not saying I’m ahead of the pack but there's like kind of time caught up. You know kind of time caught up, so I think we're part of the conversations, and so I have to say that I am very pleased that our department has carved out a space for us to do this, because in my all my years of being here, it hasn't existed. It hasn't existed. I’m not saying that there's opposition against it, but it just was didn't seem to be a desire for it either. Right, so I think this all the pain that we saw with the murder of Georgia Floyd, that there are many people, Black and otherwise was saying, you know, we have to do what we can to change this climate. So every two weeks would have a presenter and I actually did the first one presentation on African-Americans, people of African descent in classical music. So the reason I started with that cuz I thought you know, let me think about my audience. As beautiful, as you know, the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music is, it is very much slanted towards Western classical music. And it's no fault, I’m not singling them out, I think most college music programs are that, kind of de facto, like if you're going to study music in college and university you don't ask well, what music are you going to study. It's like if you’re going to be studying music, it’s going to be Western classical. Of course we have jazz, but I think you know jazz is is a much newer form to be studied and, thirdly, if you look at the weight that's placed on how much jass you're starting as a jazz major, there's like a precursor of classical grounding before you get into jazz, so it's like classical stuff is well represented, so I’m thinking, how can I make the students aware that Black folks have done other things. Again, it's like like I’m mindful of how African-Americans are presented in media forms, movies TV so forth so on, how they're misrepresented. So when I’m teaching a group of students, not only am I giving them information, but in many ways, I am working against those ideas. Right, so I can understand the battlefield, like where they coming from and how much of this have they thought about. So when I when I did the first one, I thought okay, let me deal with Africans in a field that they are already familiar with. They studied Western classical, how it developed went, from you know how monks were doing it to like, you know, now composers are doing it—they know that, but how much did they hear people who are African Americans doing it or people of African descent doing it, probably not that much. Right, so let's let's expand what they know, what they think they know already. Let's start there, right because I’m trying to inspire them to say you know: hmm, I never knew that, as much as I’ve had classes in this, they never talked about some of these people before. And then the next question is, why not? You know I might ask the question of saying, once they learn it, hopefully it generates you know: hmm, I’m now in my undergrad degree, I’ve been studying for four or five, six, seven years, why have I not heard this stuff before? And if it's happening here, might it have happened in my general history class as well, might it have happened in how we talk about politics and sports and the whole, in other words, is it is lack of representation in other areas? And if so, what effect until the totality, what effect does that have on me? If I don't see Black people, except on the 11 o'clock news getting you know, choked out, or shot down, or seen as criminals, how does that affect me or how I see Black people? It has to have an effect. Right, it must, and so this kind of inventory, like you know, what I’m talking about, I think it’s imperative…we must have…if education is to be anything at all, it must be introspective. There has to be this look: where am I coming from, what have I learned, and it's not a good or bad thing. It's like being honest about like, did I see any people outside of my community, outside of people that look like me? When I did, how did I see them? What has been my real life experience, what has been my education, what has been my—even just a you know kind of encounters if I have any at all, and if I don't know, I ask, well why didn’t I? So, I think I think that kind of work we don't I don't think we really foster it, and the result is that we send people out into the world, just I think the dangerous part, thinking that they are well aware. And, as I said to my students all the time, whether you think you, you have it or not, you all wield influence. You all have it already, somebody's going to go on to have more influence. You become a director some program, they need some orchestra, being a professional musician, so what you think about these issues matters. Right, because people are going to follow what you say, if you're not thinking about these things guess what: it's probably not going to change. So one, are you taking an inventory? Are there things that you think we can do better if we are really equitable and fair, you know, a lot of universities, colleges… I joke about this, but if you look at most colleges universities websites, just pick one, I think the general kind of approach or you did something like this. You'll see the landmark of the university or the college wherever that is could be the clock tower…this identifies the space. And in front of it will be standing an African-American student, a white student, a Latinx student…we’re all welcome, come on in. That's okay that sounds great, it looks great on the website, but what I will say let's look at the curriculum. In other words it is…now, again, given our history, that is a step forward that's progress, because some of our institutions were not welcoming to non-white people. So, the very fact that we're saying hey these spaces are open that's a great message, but I’m saying lets not stop there. You can say, we’re diverse in terms of who we serve. That's cool. But once we get them here, what are we teaching them? How diverse is the curriculum? And if take it a step further, how diverse is who is teaching them? If we say representation matters, do kids see people like them teaching with authority, because if they don't, the message is: this is information you to take, not information someone like you to give. Right, it's really clear if you work your way up to administration, how diverse is that? Now, again I’m not calling on any one institution, but I’m saying in my years of being a student and teaching I’ve seen it. And again, what I’ve noticed is that usually maybe it's like tooting our own horn, but it's like it's a buzzword: diversity. Sounds great. Especially in southern California, we're a diverse Community. That is true, but diversity can also be seen or not seeing within the power structure. That's where work has to be done. That’s where we are now right, but we have to keep pushing, we have to keep questioning, we can't wait for those in power to say we have arrived. Right, so I think where we see now with George Florida, I know I’m watching this thing. And I’m thinking you know…and I want to say you know [this] kind of energy, but I I just wonder, you know, like what people will stay committed? Very honestly. Like when things snap back to normal, will they be, as you know, they feel the urgency? And I think this being know you how humanity works, there'll be some they'll stay in the fight, there'll be some who won't. So, knowing that we gotta strike while the iron is hot, we have to build momentum so that you know if things start to trail off a little bit there's enough critical mass that we keep it moving, that we keep going forward, right, and we make it a regular part discussion not. oh look another Black man got shot, oh let's—no, no let's, this is this is who we want to be, and it needs to not just be again, I don't want to make this about Black people, it should truly be about the diversity of our communities and are we focused on that. In other words, do we think we're doing our jobs well when we lack diversity of these various levels? Do we feel like we're doing well, I think, unfortunately, that decision is not left up to a diverse group of judges. Right so, then the people who are saying, we have crossed the line, don't represent the diversity they're supposedly we're serving. That's a problem. That I see as a problem, so we have to figure out how to keep addressing that. I think is is, logically, it makes sense, it's pretty clear, just looking around say okay here's a community, we see that in the student body, check. Do we see that in the faculty? Mmm? Do we see that at the administrative level? Mmm? So those are power structures, right. So how do we expect to get to this diversity that we’re talking about if the student kind of diversity is stopped at the student level? Yeah students have power, but they don't have the kind of power to change university the way faculty and, you know what I mean? So there's a real thorough look we have to make it at the very top for this conversation, so I think for the FEED forum allows us to deal with it at the student level, and it also allows faculty to see that we're very active, and again I’m very I’m very happy about it, because it is a space, to be honest, I never thought I would see. That to be very honest, I never thought I would see a ongoing forum that allows us to get to some of this. In my classes, I try to get to it, but I’m only one person. And you know I tried to implement as best I can, but, given the subject matter I can't just go on a tangent. I have to keep it, you know, in the subject matter. But, given that this is an open space, we've had presenters from the Long Beach Opera, Dr. Derrell Acon who presented on you know Africans in opera, and we've had great, you know, classical musician bassoonist Dr. Garrett Mcqueen, he came in talk about African-Americans in the symphony orchestra like in the lack of representation, all these things. We have this place to really get some some things that we don't normally cover right, so making it more more regular part of who we are, as the Bob Cole Conservatory, I think it’s in line with what we say our mission statement is, right, now we're just making it, you know, look at this, has anyone asked why are we doing this, why are you doing this, we have known this before? This is who we say we are, this is what we say we are. We're actualizing what we’ve put on paper and now we're going to hold ourselves accountable to this. I think that's that's to me as the next step and I know it’s a bit long, but I think…I connect this and it's not about connecting dots…I connect this to, you know, when we look at our country and many of us see there is a lot of work yet to be done. There are some who think we've already crossed the line, the threshold…there's no more slavery, segregation is no longer a part of our laws, what are you complaining about? There are some they say, you know now it's just you and it’s based on merit. If you do what you're supposed to do, you'll get it, not realizing that one, that shows to me the lack of understanding of how we actually got here. You talking about two-hundred and forty-six years of slavery, generations of free labor, Jim Crow after that, segregation after that and, to this day, it’s still happening, but if I think here’s where it gets tricky: there’s no name for it. If you say hey look, this is slavery, okay, wow, this is terrible. Look at this: here's some laws, segregation laws from 1896, oh yeah that's awful. What happens when it's no longer on paper? Now, you need some some you know heightened sensibilities and honesty to look at in conversation to say, okay, the America that I’m getting, are you getting that same one? Because, if you aren’t thinking outside yourself, look I don’t see any problem, why, they have no law, nothing's holding you back. What's stopping you? And so these conversations and education that they can really get to that place, but I think when presented with information and stories, many people outside of the so-called minorities that are affected mostly by, get it. Many understand it, say okay, it’s a terrible event, but I was very encouraged with the, with seeing the national response to the George Floyd, you know fiasco. Okay, say okay there's hope if people are touched in this way where they're going to move, no matter what the motivation: maybe it's morality, maybe it’s there religious belief, maybe it's a corporation is to you know stay in business, I don't know what what brought them here, but whatever it did, let's figure out how to maintain it. It shows that there is some way of moving this thing forward, so I’m very happy that we can do it, and I’m hoping it’s going to…who knows, maybe we can model it for others at the university will see this maybe we can talk to the CSU and say hey look, do what we’re doing in Long Beach and it works. What if we replicate this throughout our 23 campuses and talk about how to do this, and eventually it's not like a side thing, it's actually in the curriculum. That's the goal. Where's not just, there’s a class, a required class and everyone's going to go through this so, you know. I think it's working. I’m excited about the future. I think we can get there, but though, yeah this FEED forum is one step and like I said, I’m very excited about it, I want to see it move forward and, but I’m also very honest about it as well, so I think that's, we have to be excited and honest, right, at the same time yeah.
OLIVIA SATHER: It's a starting place but it's not the finish line.
RAY BRIGGS: That's right, absolutely.
END OF PART 1