September 18, 2020
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dear Members of the Shepherd School Community:
Our challenge to effectively eradicate systemic racism and social injustice in America stands before us in clear view. The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, as a school dedicated to enabling gifted, young musicians to reach their full potential, is committed to using any and all means available to us to confront these issues and effect meaningful and sustainable change, consistent with our mission.
I wrote to you last June announcing the creation of Musicians United for Social Equality (MUSE), a Shepherd School of Music task-force charged with increasing our understanding of how racism manifests itself in the world of classical music and recommending ways that the School might use its educational and programmatic resources to eliminate it. I appointed Geoffrey Scott, Director of Admissions for the Shepherd School and Kurt Stallmann, Professor of Composition and Theory to serve as co-chairs of the task force and together we have assembled a diverse group of eighteen administrators, faculty, current students, and alumni (please see below).
In my initial meetings with the co-chairs, we identified three issues that can serve as initial points for a broader discussion: Early Education, Curriculum, and Public Programming. We expect that these topics will evolve and expand as we gather more input from our community.
As MUSE commences its work, the national crises we are experiencing continue to inflict severe and pervasive psychological stresses on our community. We are working to mitigate these effects by introducing all incoming Shepherd School students to the mental health resources at Rice University. Information on how to access services at Rice’s Wellbeing and Counseling Center is now disseminated as part of our student orientation. Additionally, Geoffrey and Kurt are establishing linkages with the office of Professor Alex Byrd, our newly appointed Vice Provost for Diversity Equity and Inclusion and Associate Dean Catherine Clack in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
I would like to acknowledge those who have already contributed to the formulation of our initial response. Shepherd Equity, a proactive community of current and former students of the Shepherd School formed voluntarily over the summer. They concentrated their time and efforts in townhall meetings and conducting surveys, resulting in actionable recommendations. Their input and suggestions have been invaluable and MUSE looks forward to continuing that dialogue. In addition, many members of our Shepherd School community have provided guidance including Leone Buyse, Mary Brower and Janet Rarick. Finally, my deepest appreciation to the members of MUSE for understanding the critical nature of this work and agreeing to serve in this capacity.
With utmost sincerity,
Robert Yekovich, Dean