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Opening a Dialog in Band about Racism, Racial Tension, and Our Society

Since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing realization that we have not made the progress in our country that many have thought, I've been struggling to find a meaningful way to address what is happening in our country. It's easy to change your Facebook profile picture or retweet a #BlackLivesMatter post and feel like you've made a contribution, however, I knew I needed to do more.

The first step in reconciliation and building a better community is opening a dialog to gain understanding so that we can make positive change.

I realize that for some, this may be a difficult thing to do and there is apprehension about even broaching the topic. There a lot of people who hope this just goes away so we can "get back to normal." But the truth is, this is issue real. This issue is important. And this issue is going to be on the hearts and minds of our students when they come back into the classroom this fall.

So the challenge is not whether we should begin the conversation, but rather, "How do we start?"

Earlier this month, Ricardo Brown (Associate Director of Athletic Bands at UConn and trumpet instructor with the Blue Coats) spoke about his challenges entering the predominantly white DCI community as a young black man in the early 2000s. It was revealing to me and, in many ways, caused me to look at my own experiences and to question whether I have passively or unintentionally promulgated institutional racism in our culture.

I asked Rick to help me put together this panel discussion for Wind Conductor to open the dialog in the band community regarding racism and racial tension. The product of that conversation was a panel discussion with 5 power-house band directors:

  • Rick Brown - Associate Director of Athletic Bands at UConn & Blue Coats Trumpet Instructor

  • Brandon Howard - Director of Bands, Jefferson Davis HS (AL)

  • Julian Luke - Director of Bands, James Madison HS (TX)

  • Errick Prince - Fine Arts Department Chair, McCollum HS (TX) & Blue Devils Brass Instructor

  • Bryen Warfield - Director of Bands, Homestead HS (IN), Blue Coats Tuba Instructor

I am grateful to these directors for giving me their time, and for their willingness to have an open and candid conversation on this challenging subject. I hope this will help you on your journey, and will shed light on the difficult challenge of systemic racism that we are facing together.

For more resources on starting a conversation on the topic of racism and racial tension, follow this link to a list of reading materials, videos, and conversation starters:

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