All posts by mattielevy

Highlighting Black Artistry: An Evening for Sarah

Happy Black History Month! This month at the EXCEL Log we are highlighting Black Artistry by featuring student projects and highlighting the contributions of Black artists to music, theatre, and dance. It’s important to always celebrate Black History, but Black History Month can be a time to intentionally reflect and educate ourselves on the ways Black people have shaped and continue to shape performance, art, and culture. We kick off this series with a brief interview with 4th-year dance major, Brooke Taylor, about her project An Evening for Sarah, a performance honoring Sarah Collins Rudolph on Friday, February 10th at 7pm. 

Mattie Levy: What was the inspiration behind creating an Evening for Sarah

Brooke Taylor: Last May, I was watching Channel 7 news and there was a story about a woman named Sarah Collins Rudolph. I quickly found out that she was the fifth little girl, who survived the 16th Street Church bombing on September 15th, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. I was so shocked because throughout my years I was only aware of the 4 little girls, who were killed due to the bomb. This news segment was not only the telling of Sarah’s story, but it was also about Oakland University honoring Sarah Collins Rudolph with an honorary nursing degree because she wasn’t able to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. As I continued to watch this story, my mind started to turn and I got the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. This feeling, which I am very accustomed to, means I have an idea to plan something. I thought to myself, I want to plan a concert at the University of Michigan to honor her through art and dance. 

Mattie Levy: Can you tell us about some of the performances we’ll see at an Evening for Sarah?

Brooke Taylor: You will see students from across the University of Michigan honoring her through song, dance, and poetry. 

Mattie Levy: Is there anything else you would like to share about the project? 

Brooke Taylor: This year will mark 60 years since the hate crime that was the 16th Street Church Bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to remembering these impactful moments of history, we should also be honoring and learning from the ones who lived through them. 

Check out An Evening for Sarah on February 10th, 2023 at 7pm. The concert will take place at the Dance Building’s Performance Studio Theatre, 1000 Baits Dr, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109. Tickets will be available for free an hour before the show and are first come, first served. 

Additional Resources on Sarah Collins Rudolph:

“Birmingham’s 5th Girl” a Washington Post article that provides more information about the 16th St. Church Bombing

Sarah Collins Rudolph’s website 

Taking the Stress out of Social Media

Image description: An image of a laptop keyboard is shown against a black background. Logos for various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and youtube are situated on top of the keyboard.

I’ve always been an introvert. I enjoy my time to myself, and I use alone time to recharge. As I came into myself as an artist I realized some “extroverting” was required. Some recent examples were when I gathered up the 60 seconds of confidence required to talk to a clinician in a master class, or randomly approached an instrumentalist I didn’t know to play one of my pieces. Those moments of putting myself out there took effort – lots of it – which means that posting videos of myself on Tiktok dancing or playing music, curating the perfect caption for Instagram posts, or creating content to advertise my performances is overwhelming.

This month at the EXCEL Log, I’m hoping to overcome these fears and learn more about how to navigate social media. To help with this I reached out to EXCEL Program Assistants KJ Ludwig and Lesley Sung. KJ is a singer with Anytime Band and an Instagram wizard. Lesley is a 3rd year piano performance student, helps manage EXCEL social media and graphic design, and just so happens to be a TikTok icon.

I think what makes me so nervous about social media is not that I don’t know what to post, but that I don’t know HOW to post. I feel like sometimes when I share links to my recordings, or when I want to encourage people to attend a performance, I just don’t know how to convey that information in a digestible way. I end up with awkward long captions, weird pictures at odd angles, or random videos that don’t get any views. I asked KJ and Lesley for their top tips on how to navigate these areas, and this is what they recommend:

  • Create posts before, during, and after a performance

One key tip that KJ recommended was to keep your audience engaged throughout the performance process. She says: 

“It’s your job as the digital marketer to hold guests’ hands through the experience. Before the event, post a story of where to park with an image of the parking lot. For dinner or drinks before or after, feature local restaurants. Before the event, take a picture behind the curtain. Your audience will appreciate feeling a part of the journey” 

Keeping your audience engaged throughout a performance day can make them feel like they’re a part of the whole experience. This often leads them to engage more with your content because they get a more personal connection to you and your work.

  • It’s important to follow social media trends

This tip is especially important for TikTok. Lesley says that keeping up with social media trends allows you to get multiple views on your videos and posts. Now if you’re like me, you are probably wondering: “How do I even know what a social media trend is?” 

Trend is a very broad word that generally means “a prevailing tendency or inclination” or “general movement” but TikTok uses it to “describe the creative formats, ideas, and behaviors that get a lot of attention and in turn influence what people do on the platform.” When you open the TikTok app, you’re able to see numerous examples of what is currently trending. You can also explore various trends on TikTok’s creative center which allows you to get a detailed view of trending hashtags, creators, and songs. You can even browse what is trending in different countries, figure out what age range content is trending, see for how long a topic may be trending, and more. Lesley shared with me an example of one of her videos that blew up in 2021 she said: 

 “Back in 2021, there was a massive trend that was going around where people would utilize the Siri voice effect to make funny videos. I decided to hop on this trend using my actual personal experience to engage with my audience” 

@lesley_sung

✨My thoughts on stage when I’m about to perform✨ #fyp #foryoupage #pianist #performance #umich

♬ original sound – Lesley Sung
Image description: An embedded video from Lesley’s Tiktok. She is seen walking toward a piano and the caption “My thoughts on stage when I’m about to perform” is written under the image.

Social media trends aren’t only found on TikTok, though they tend to hit TikTok first and then migrate to other platforms. However, if you don’t have TikTok, you can still follow other creators in your niche, see what’s trending on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram or google, or join Facebook groups that reflect your audience to keep up with current trends.

  • Pay attention to how you frame your caption

Captions are a small detail that I never thought mattered, but it turns out the perfect caption can go a long way. KJ and Lesley say to try to keep your captions concise and to try to use captions that engage your audience. Social Media Today says to use captions that encourage conversations. This can be done by posting open-ended questions, so your audience is invited to share their opinions and connect with you. You can also use social media captions to add value to your audience’s day. Perhaps you can include a funny/satisfying pun, or share some inspirational advice, “giving a little something can encourage your audience to give a little back. They may thank you, or share their own take on your post.” 

Here’s an example of a great caption from KJ (notice the wonderful Mr. Roger’s neighborhood pun): 

Image description: an Instagram screenshot of KJ’s post. A crowd stands at the diag watching KJ perform with her band “Anytime band” A caption is written under the image that says “It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood

And if all else fails and you can’t think of one, you can always look up engaging captions online.

  • Utilize Planning and Graphic Design Software

KJ and Lesley both agree that posting frequently will help you build your social media presence. However, you also need to be careful about posting too much, as that would overwhelm your audience and cause them to unfollow you. Christine Galbatto, a travel influencer and business educator for creatives, says that Instagram recommends posting “A reel 4 to 7 times per week, an in-feed photo 3 to 5 times per week, a set of stories 8 to 10 times per week, an IGTV and go live at least once per week.” However, if you don’t have the time for this kind of schedule that’s ok. Ultimately you need to set your post schedule and be consistent with it. Social media planning software allows you to set up your posts in advance. You can schedule when each post goes live to strike a balance between posting too little and posting too much, and be consistent with your posting schedule. KJ recommended a variety of resources for setting a posting schedule in the EXCEL Creative Marketing 101 Toolbox. 

In addition to knowing when to post, you should also make sure what you’re posting looks great. This is where graphic design software comes in handy. There are plenty of resources like Canva, Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Express, and Google Doc templates that can make your posts more engaging to viewers. It’s important to pay attention to the appearance of your posts because “94% of first impressions of a brand or company are design-related and 75% of people judge how credible a brand is based on its website.” This probably means that people will do the same thing for your posts on Instagram, or your videos on TikTok which definitely makes me nervous. However, I think using the software above could ease some of that stress. 

  • Post Consistently

This is probably the hardest and most important thing about social media. The key to building social media presence is consistency. This is especially difficult for me because as I said above, I’m an introvert, so posting on social media always takes a lot of energy. I am also always running around, and never have the energy to try to take the perfect video of my composing process, or pose for a photo before a concert.

As mentioned above,  KJ and Lesley both agree that posting regularly is key for building your social media presence. “If you go weeks between posts, it’s unlikely that your audience is seeing your message frequently enough for it to be memorable and make an impact.”  However, thankfully KJ says “If you don’t have the capacity to use all social media platforms, using one platform pretty consistently is a good thing.”

My to-do list for my social media future

After talking to KJ and Lesley, I’m still freaking out about social media (and how much work is involved), but I feel better because I have a clearer idea of how to approach it. I’m going to use this post for some personal accountability and set a few goals for social media this month. I’m going to:

  • Download a TikTok (nervous laughter) and plan my first video 
  • Schedule out posts on Instagram and Facebook using some of the social media planning software recommended above
  • Be more consistent about posting and set a dedicated time each week to schedule my social media posts. 

Thanks for tuning into the EXCEL Log. I hope by reading this you feel a little better about social media and think of ways to use it that work for you. Visit the EXCEL Log next month to find out if I stuck with my social media goals, and hear about more topics regarding life in the performing arts, arts entrepreneurship, and more. 

Resources 

For keeping up with trends: 

8 Tips for Finding New and Emerging Trends on Social Media

For creating a social media marketing plan

The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan From Scratch

Scheduling software and calendar templates 

Buffer.com

Hootsuite Post Schedule App

For graphic design/content creation

How to Canva tutorial by Lesley

Creating YouTube videos

Learn more about KJ 

KJ stands on a bridge with trees in the background. Her hands are raised and she is smiling. She is wearing a blue jacket, a bright orange shirt and some jeans.

Karen Jane “KJ” Ludwig, [she/her] a curious Yooper, born and raised in Marquette, MI, is actively questioning the world-at-large, through a lens of painted color and song. KJ is dreaming BIG as she enters her Senior year at the University of Michigan, where she studies voice performance with Professor Stanford Olsen. KJ is working toward a multidisciplinary degree within the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, which allows the freedom to concentrate in music composition and performing arts technology, as well as minors in arts administration and entrepreneurship. There’s a world of pure imagination in KJ’s brain, and while creating, KJ feels the most at peace and present with the world at large. Learn more about KJ here: karenjaneludwig.com

Learn more and Lesley

Lesley Sung is currently a junior studying Piano Performance and Film, Television, and Media studies at the University of Michigan. Although her passion for music plays a huge role in her career path, her passion for creating content has grown in recent years due to the influence of Tiktok trends and viral videos. She has been managing multiple social media platforms such as those for clubs, Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, and her parents’ donut shop Instagram/Facebook accounts. With these experiences, she was recently recruited to work with EXCEL as a Program Assistant that solely focuses on social media. Her role in EXCEL consists of creating graphic designs for newsletters, planning content for Facebook and Instagram, organizing events, and attending weekly meetings to discuss and plan for future projects.

The Legal Side of the Performing Arts: Trick…or Treat?

Image Description: A banner with white string and orange flags spells out the words “Happy Halloween” in black font. Jack-o-lanterns are also hanging from the banner, which is pictured in front of a black background.

I’m walking into a dark room, unable to see or hear anything around me. My stomach curls inward, trembling with fear as I open my laptop, and take in the details of…ENTERTAINMENT LAW. *DUN DUN DAAAA* 

Happy Spooky Season! This month at the EXCEL Log, we’re taking a look at entertainment law which I think is one of the scariest things about being a performing artist. What is it? How does it work? What’s an LLC? What are contracts? Copyright?? AHhhh. 

To help defeat the entertainment law demons, I talked to Schuyler Donahoe. He’s a 4th-year student in percussion performance with a minor in performing arts management. He also works as a program assistant for EXCEL, and we spoke about his career journey, and his decision to work specifically within the legal side of the performing arts.

After the isolation and canceled concerts due to the pandemic, Schuyler – like many of us may have – says he “lost his drive for performing a little bit.” It led him to wonder, “What else is there?” 

In his sophomore year, Schuyler got an internship with Just a Theory Press, a music publishing company that works to publish music in a fair and equitable manner. Working with Josh Devries, an EXCEL prize winner, at Just a Theory Press ignited the “legal spark” within him. 

“I was just doing a bunch of random stuff for him where he needed extra help: emails, taking notes, phone calls, those kinds of areas, but then he asked me to help with contracts,” says Schuyler. He thought he was going to hate it at first. But then, “​​I got more into it, and I was like oh, I really like this.” Soon, Schuyler realized that he wanted to help musicians with legal issues and started to actively pursue entertainment law by looking into law schools and talking to people who went to law school but had a music background.

Entertainment law is basically “a broad legal area that encompasses a wide variety of issues, (including intellectual property protection, endorsements, licensing and personal service agreements)” that performing artists may encounter. It involves business structures of organizations (e.g.: starting a non-profit music organization or arts collective), copyright (e.g.: obtaining rights to music compositions or sound recordings), or contract and labor laws (e.g.: a contract between two collaborators or labor unions respectively). 

Schuyler took classes in arts administration and the business side of the performing arts and did his own research to learn more about these issues and other legal situations artists were facing. Soon he came to EXCEL with his thoughts, he said, “ ‘Hey, I saw you have Grant writing modules. What do you think about having something like this for entertainment law? Is that something you’re interested in? Do you want some legal stuff?’ And EXCEL being EXCEL was like ‘yes, absolutely.’” 

EXCEL is always looking for new ideas and does everything possible to help bring student initiatives to life. The EXCEL Lab works to “explore students’ individual visions and goals, and then connect them with the resources they need to thrive.” Schuyler’s initial meeting with EXCEL served as a catalyst for the development of a much-needed resource for performing artists. 

He started off working as a contractor for EXCEL, slowly developing a document to present entertainment law to the SMTD community. Pretty soon, he was working for EXCEL in a program assistant capacity and developed “The EXCEL Lab Legal Resource, Module 1: Business Structures and Incorporation” the first in what will become a series of modules that demystify the “legal jargon” of entertainment law.

Many student artists within SMTD (myself included) want to express their discipline in innovative ways but have a hard time jumping through the many legal hoops involved. For example, I’m hoping to register my music as a composer, but I’m not sure of the steps I need to take. My friend is starting a non-profit to diversify flute performance repertoire but is overwhelmed by the process of establishing an LLC.

Schuyler said, “[I] thought of what people in the school were having issues with, and sort of narrowed it down to 3 different categories. The first module talks about how to start a non-profit, or how to start an LLC. for an organization. What do all these different business structures mean? What do I even do to start these?” This module is already available online. After reading it myself, I can say that it delivers on its promise of being accessible to the public. It explains different types of business structures, the definition of some of the common legal terms associated with them, and provides resources for further reading. 

The second module will be all about copyright, exploring topics like how to avoid copyright infringement, and what to do if someone infringes on your copyright. I can’t wait for this one to come out. As an oboist and composer, I’m often confused about the process of performing arrangements of other’s songs or how to protect my work from theft. Module 2 will be available later this semester. 

“The third module, which is a work in progress, is going to be all about contracts. It will answer questions like: What should I be looking for in a contract? What if I’m writing one, what do I need to make sure is in there? The modules just have a lot of different things that will make sure that musicians are well protected” explained Schuyler. 

The modules provide an accessible starting point for musicians to tackle the mysteries of entertainment law in an understandable and efficient way. Schuyler says that: “One motivation for this project comes from the fact that musicians don’t have time to do anything. Time is a valuable resource that we have.” 

As a performer-composer getting 2 degrees, working 3 jobs, and gigging I completely agreed with this sentiment. Every minute is valuable. I appreciate how Schuyler uses his music background to inform how he approaches entertainment law. There are many resources on legal issues out there, but I feel like this one is special because it really approaches entertainment law from the lens of a performing artist. Schuyler pointed out that: “If someone said: ‘Here are some of the things that you need to know in one document.’ That would save you from a lot of random Google searching.” The modules aren’t exhaustive, but Schuyler hopes that they can give musicians a starting point so that when they go to a colleague, to EXCEL, or to an attorney for help they have a “grounded foundation” to build upon. 

After learning about Schuyler’s journey and the canvas modules, I asked him to offer up his top three tips for navigating the legal side of the performing arts: 

1.) Know the basics of copyright and be careful of copyright infringement. 

Schuyler points out that “there are three aspects of copyright that I wish everyone was aware of: The first is Protection is present at the creation of the work.” 

Schuyler says that this means “If you make something it is automatically protected under copyright.” If you write a song and it’s on some staff paper in your house, it’s protected. Did you write a script in a notebook and throw it under your bed? That’s protected too. The second thing Schuyler wants everyone to know about copyright is that “If someone steals your work that’s illegal. However, you do have to register your work with the copyright office to enforce the copyright.” 

Registering your work with the copyright office involves going to copyright.gov and following the procedures listed for your respective discipline. For the performing arts, this involves filling out a form, and submitting the work that you wish to be registered in a certain medium- either printed or electronic- depending on the circumstances. You will then have to pay a registration fee. Click here for more information

Schuyler says, “The 3rd thing to be careful about is sampling or using other people’s work, even if it falls under fair use. If someone says, ‘you stole my thing!’ they can sue you and dealing with lawsuits can be very expensive” Just as copyright can be beneficial to creatives, it also can get uncomfortable and spooky if you use someone’s work without their permission, so be careful everyone! 

2.) Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable conversations during collaboration.

It’s important to discuss ownership in formal collaboration at the beginning to avoid personal and legal consequences. 

An example Schuyler shared is, “let’s say two people are in a duo, and one person composes a piece for their instruments. Person A could be under the impression that [the two musicians] would share the copyright and Person B could think that they would own the copyright for the whole thing. If this project starts to make money, it can get dicey if these parameters weren’t discussed beforehand.” 

Schuyler and I agreed that performers and creatives are very particular about their work, and the credit that is due when it is created. Artists put a lot of time and effort into their craft, and everyone wants proper recognition for that work. You don’t want to lose important relationships with colleagues over disagreements in ownership or end up dealing with an expensive lawsuit due to a miscommunication between two parties. 

3.) Take your time. 

This one is simple. Schuyler says “The legal stuff is really complicated. There are so many moving parts, and it’s okay to ask for help, it’s ok to google stuff, ask colleagues, or set up a meeting with EXCEL. Don’t fall into this ‘musician trap’ where you need to like, know everything. Take the time to get the legal stuff right the first time.”

After talking to Schuyler, the legal side of the performing arts seems less scary. This conversation was just a starting point, and I’m sure I have plenty to learn when it comes to entertainment law, but I feel like I learned some of the basics. To the artists in the SMTD community: I hope this article made legal stuff less spooky, but if you’re still scared, check out the EXCEL Legal resource. I promise it will be a treat, not a trick ;). 

Thanks for tuning into the Excel Log! Check below for some more resources and to learn more about Schuyler, and I hope hearing about our conversation allows you to think of new ways to enhance your artistic career! 

Sources/Additional Resources: 

Entertainment Law Overview – an overview of the basics of Entertainment law

All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman – Schuyler calls this the music industry bible

All You Need to Know About the Music Business  -A link to check out “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” from the UM library 

Student Legal Services– A legal resource for University of Michigan Students

Featured image source

Schuyler Donahoe is pictured smiling. He is wearing glasses and a blue shirt and are standing in front of a brown and white background.
Image Description: Schuyler Donahoe is pictured smiling. He is wearing glasses and a blue shirt and is standing in front of a brown and white background.

Schuyler Donahoe (he/him) is a senior majoring in Percussion Performance and minoring in Performing Arts Management and Entrepreneurship. In the EXCEL Lab, his primary work is to expand SMTD legal resources by creating a series of modules called the “EXCEL Legal Resource” as well as curate events around legal topics.

Happy Hispanic/Latine Heritage Month!

Image description: The words Celebrating Hispanic/Latina/o/x heritage month September 15th-October 15th are written in multiple colors.

Happy Hispanic/Latine heritage month! In case you didn’t know Hispanic/Latine heritage month takes place from September 15th through October 15th each year. Since this year’s blog just launched with an intro post, I thought now would be a great time to celebrate! 

First, a little history. 

Hispanic Heritage” month was originally “Hispanic Heritage” week, and it was created by then-president Lyndon Johnson in 1968. The celebration was soon expanded from one week to one month, in 1988, by then-president Ronald Reagan. On August 17, 1988, the recognition of the “Hispanic Heritage month” we know today, which lasts from September 15th through October 15th was enacted into law. 

I put “Hispanic Heritage month” in quotations above because the term Hispanic does not emphasize all of the groups that are included in the month. Though many people use “Hispanic,” “Latino,” and “Latinx” interchangeably, there is a difference between the terms. “Hispanic” now refers to anyone who speaks Spanish, though this excludes Brazil, whose primary language is Portuguese. Some people take issue with the term Hispanic because it originally referred to Spain, a country that at one point colonized many countries (including Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Philippines among many others) that have since gained their independence. For this reason, many people identify with the term “Latino or Latina” which refers to any person from Latin America or of Latin American descent that is currently living in the United States. However, Latino/a is not the same as the term “Latin American” which refers to any person living in Latin America. 

Since Spanish is a gendered language with masculine and feminine spellings for words, the term,  Latinx, was coined as a gender-neutral alternative. Some people are against this term as well though, because “Latinx” is harder to pronounce according to the Real Academia Española (the group that maintains the consistency of the Spanish language). Others argue that the word latinx was imposed by non-Latino whites, but some say that the term was created by queer latinx people. Finally, there is the term Latine which is used as another gender-neutral alternative. It was created by feminist and nonbinary communities. According to El Centro at Colorado State University “The objective of the term is also to remove gender from Spanish, by replacing it with the gender-neutral Spanish letter E, which can already be found in words like Estudiante.” In addition, some people just like to be referred to by their specific country of origin, instead of using a term that unites all Latin American countries. 

Terminology is important. The words we use can be powerful in understanding one another and learning about varying perspectives. Further, broadening your horizons, beyond terminology and history can be one way to celebrate Hispanic/Latine heritage month. 

With that effort in mind, I thought I would gain the perspective of two Latine students at SMTD to see how they feel about the month and the ways they celebrate. 

When talking to 4th-year BA dance student Annabella Vidrio, she says that she “doesn’t like Latine Heritage month events that are just lectures that educate others outside the community.”  

However, she does think that the Office for Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) took that into consideration when planning their events this year.  “I went to the Latinx Heritage Month Opening Ceremony and I plan on attending more of the other events too. I just enjoyed seeing my community and going to an event that celebrates us,” says Vidrio. She believes “Hispanic/Latine programs should be celebratory events for those who share a Hispanic/Latine identity and allies.” 

MM in Violin Performance and Chamber performance student Javier Torres believes that it’s important to celebrate Hispanic/Latine heritage and that celebrating the month looks different to each person.  “I think because I haven’t been in the US for that long, celebrating my culture is different for me. I still feel connected to Puerto Rico and when I go home, that’s where I celebrate. I think Hispanic/Latine heritage month is especially for people who have been in the US longer, it’s a time that they can remember their roots, celebrate their families, abuelos, and abuelas,” says Javier Torres.

“I am so honored to have a month that is dedicated to honoring my culture which is a melding of so many cultures.  Particularly where I am from, Puerto Rico, we have a beautiful mix of African, Taíno (Indigenous Caribbeans), Spanish, Arabic, and many other cultures.” -Javier Torres

Just because people have different backgrounds, does not mean they can’t find ways to relate to one another. Javier believes that Hispanic/Latine heritage month should be about all Hispanic/Latine cultures coming together and being in community with one another, while allies support them in that effort. 

SMTD still has an opportunity for growth in supporting Hispanic/Latine students.

So far, SMTD has advertised MESA Hispanic/Latine heritage month events on social media. The SMTD Office for DEI also did Instagram takeovers sharing resources on Hispanic/Latine heritage month. However, many feel that SMTD as an institution still needs to create more tangible initiatives to support Hispanic/Latine communities. Javier says that “if [SMTD is] doing Hispanic/Latine heritage month we have to go all out, with Bomba events, Salsa events, El Jarabe Tapatío, and more. We need to incorporate Hispanic/Latine culture into the music, theatre, and dance.” Offering internal programs to both support Hispanic/Latine students and properly celebrate Hispanic/Latine heritage month could establish a stronger sense of belonging among Latine students. An effort that is especially needed, since the white-dominated fine arts world is often one that excludes them. 

Annabella also believes that SMTD needs to do more to support Hispanic/Latine students. She thinks that “presence is the most important thing. Supporting Hispanic/Latine people and DEI in the arts should be about an emphasis on bringing our school and its resources to people of diverse backgrounds, not just advantaged ones.”

In addition to planning for the future, SMTD as a school needs to extend its reach to marginalized communities and work internally to support the marginalized students that are here now. All performers, composers, artists, students, and faculty members both within SMTD and outside of it need to be more intentional about the ways we uplift marginalized voices. Working together, we can create tangible strategies to facilitate systemic change. Yes, performers/conductors can program more works by BIPOC composers, but this needs to be more than just tokenism on a few choice concerts. Representation is important; it fosters a sense of belonging among marginalized artists and encourages more marginalized people to take up performing arts disciplines. Yes, professors can offer classes on “Hispanic/Latine music forms,” but they need to be more specific about accurately representing the wealth of cultures and styles that exist so students can broaden their horizons beyond western classical music, and thus enhance their creativity. Yes, everyone can read a quick article or watch a video on Hispanic/Latine heritage month, but we need to continually celebrate Hispanic and Latine people, listen to their perspectives and learn to dismantle any unconscious bias or stereotypes. These actions, if applied in relation to both Hispanic/Latine and all BIPOC communities, will allow students of these marginalized identities to feel seen and valued in the performing arts, redefining the meaning of the performing arts canon and who has a place within it.

Hispanic/Latine heritage month should be about making space for Hispanic/Latine identities within the arts and beyond. SMTD and EXCEL have plenty of funding, performance, and collaboration opportunities, and all students, faculty, and staff can use these resources to make room for identities that are often silenced. Through this, and by continuing to broaden our perspectives, we can learn more from one another, and create art that is by and for everyone. 

Thanks for tuning into this post! If you’re curious about what our guest contributors Annabella and Javier are doing, you can look forward to seeing Annabella Vidrio in the Annual Dance concert at Power Center for the Performing Arts in February. She is also performing in her sister Ariel Vidrio’s BFA concert in April. Javier Torres will be performing Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s Violin Concerto Op. 80 in the Sphinx Competition in January. More information about the dance concerts can be found here. To learn more about Sphinx visit Sphinxmusic.org.

Additional Sources Consulted: 

https://maizepages.umich.edu/organization/lacasaumich

https://mesa.umich.edu/about-us

​​https://www.history.com/topics/exploration/exploration-of-north-america#section_5 

Image description: People of all ages sit outside, some looking at the camera some not. The words the invention of Hispanics is written on the bottom, and the beginning lines of an article are written beneath that text. Click the image to learn more.

Image from Florida Atlantic University: https://www.fau.edu/student/features/posts/2021-hispanic-heritage/index.php

Introducing the New EXCEL Log Writer, Mattie Levy!

Image description: Mattie Levy, the person writing for this blog stands in a clearing with green trees and a pond blurred in the background. She is smiling and happily waving her arms. The words Introducing the new Excel Log writer Mattie Levy are written at the bottom of the image.

Hi, I’m Mattie! I’m a first-year master’s student pursuing an MM in oboe performance AND an MA in music composition and I’m so excited to be here writing on the EXCEL Log!  I went to UM for undergrad, so I came into my master’s having already been a part of many organizations within the campus community. You can also find me working as a (now Graduate) student coordinator for the SMTD office for DEI, a poet on the arts, ink. column “Mannerisms,” and leading events as a Black Leaders in Art Collective executive committee member.  

Aside from my other activities, EXCEL has been critical to my success as a musician here at SMTD. I think the reason I was able to pursue graduate school here is that I had coachings with EXCEL staff to help bolster my career.  My resume and CV were both improved with the help of the wonderful EXCEL Program Assistant Gala Flagello, and I even was able to utilize the EXCEL Enterprise fund, to create a project last year titled No Dead White Guys that was a performance series celebrating BIPOC composers. 

In case you’re new to SMTD or did not know, this lovely website you stumbled upon is called the EXCEL Log and is an extension of the EXCEL Lab which works to provide resources for entrepreneurship, leadership, and career services in the arts.  We have A LOT of exciting things planned for the EXCEL Log this year, including posts discussing burnout, social media, the legal side of performing arts, and so much more. Through these topics, I’m hoping to showcase many resources to students on this platform that will help us navigate the challenges and roadblocks we face as performing artists. We are also expanding the reach of the EXCEL Log to include the voices of SMTD students, highlight intersectionality in the arts, and celebrate the diverse world that is the SMTD community. 

Tune in once a month as we uncover the world of resources that the EXCEL team and artists both within and outside of SMTD have to offer. By engaging with the EXCEL Log, we can broaden our mindset and think critically about innovative ways to expand the reach and impact of our artistry. We can learn new skills we need to succeed and be in community with one another as we embark on our journeys as performing artists. That said, I hope you continue to check out the EXCEL Log and I can’t wait to engage with you virtually!