The Du Bois Orchestra at Harvard fosters an inclusive view of music history and performance, and has developed outreach programming to engage and mentor the next gen of musicians.
By Sasha Barish ‘20Last year, Kai Johannes Polzhofer, a doctoral student in composition, and Karen Cueva ’16 HGSE founded a Harvard group with an unusal approach to music. When not playing concerts with works by marginalized
Could you tell me a little bit about the Du Bois Orchestra?
We are a diverse group of people university-wide, so we have Harvard graduate students and undergrads, we have a faculty member, but we also have players from the Boston Conservatory, New England Conservatory, and the Longy School of Music. Our goal is to raise awareness about ongoing social discrimination in classical music. We know
What are some of the social issues facing classical music today, or that are preventing social inclusion in classical music?
If you want to get into classical music, either as a performer or as an audience member, this requires a lot of training, especially on the performance side. If you want to participate in this culture, usually you have a family providing the access from a very early age. So there’s a lot of social exclusion in classical music, because there is a lot of social exclusion in society. The opportunities are just not made accessible to everyone. It’s also an issue that, even though theoretically classical symphony concerts are accessible, it still feels like the culture around performance is owned by a specific social class. But there can be not such a class ownership regarding the music itself, because the music, the works of art reveal to everybody and on many different levels of understanding the same uncompromising truth.
What should people listen for in the concert this Friday?
First and foremost, listen to the music. Don’t judge the music by the name or by the social heritage. I don’t want
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
In the spring semester we will have a project called the Du Bois Orchestra Youth Arts Leadership Program where we select highly talented young people ages 12 to 16 from underserved communities to visit Harvard. They will be given the leadership tools to create and execute their own service leadership programs to bring the arts to their communities. In the fall, they will present on their experiences as arts leaders to the Harvard community. And as usual, we will do two concerts at Harvard, because we want to contribute to the atmosphere and discourse on campus, and because I think service can only work if we create a community of mutual service. For that reason I am really hoping that our audience will grow – an audience that might learn a lot from the presentation delivered by one of our future leaders.