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Listening to Perspectives on Cultural Equity and Belonging: Part Four

NEC's Cultural Equity & Belonging initiative will soon release a report and action steps, with recommendations informed by 140 listening sessions with NEC community members.

In advance of that report, join us in taking a look back at the first phase of this initiative.

Recapping Our Community Conversations: Part Four

In today's recap of "NEC: 50 Years Apart," Cheryl Susheel Bibbs ’70 MM discusses the social and political turmoil that led to the cancelation of the 1970 graduation ceremony, and shares her ideas and suggestions in support of breaking down "otherness" and increasing inclusion and diversity at NEC.

New to this series? Visit Part One for an introduction

Highlights, Ideas, & Suggestions:

  • In 1970, NEC's graduation ceremonies were canceled amid the social and political turmoil of the day, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy, the expansion of the Vietnam War in Cambodia, and the Kent State murders. This was a challenging time for the students, with most focused on societal and political issues.
  • Cheryl Susheel Bibbs speaks via Zoom
    Cheryl Susheel Bibbs '70 MM is an alumna of BU and NEC, and her celebrated vocal career is intertwined with her advocacy for the contributions of Black composers in classical music and opera. 

08:17: "My thesis is that if you expose people to this music [of Black and other marginalized composers]; if people get a chance to hear it and perform it they will love it. We're talking of great music, and we are talking of a great conservatory that presents great music.

  • Black composers who enhance their music with their musical "folk" experience are no different than Chopin using mazurkas and polonaises, Copland using American folk melodies, and Schubert using Viennese quotes.

19:57: "We shouldn't make that something to overcome with African-American composers."

  • Mandating the inclusion of works by Black composers on major concerts on campus and incorporating the learning of works by Black composers in the curriculum could help the NEC community change its perception.

21:43: "Experience the music; enjoy the music; have played the music. It's not hard to put it into the curriculum if you appreciate it."

  • Stanford Thompson via Zoom
    Each semester, offer course credits for the study and performance of works by composers of different cultural backgrounds. These could be accomplished in masterclasses, coursework and special projects.

22:09: "Add credit for certain things, which gives all students the feeling like it's important."

  • 34:01: Create merit awards to increase financial aid to minority students, and prizes for excellence in community programming, or performance of music by Black composers.
  • Provide opportunities for NEC students and faculty to teach, mentor and inspire culturally diverse youth musicians in Boston.
  • The music of Black composers, and other underrepresented composers, must be integrated throughout all musical and academic disciplines.

42:11: "This is music that we can pick up right away, that's accessible. If you like avant-garde music, there’s avant garde. The Pulitzer Prize winner this year was a Black opera composer—do one of his operas! The early music department—go get the Mass of José Nunes Garcia.

"It doesn't take time. It's there; it's recorded; there are many models, and I just want to say: please don't ghettoize the music. It need not be."

Join us tomorrow for Part Five in this five-part series, in which four distinguished Black alumni—Carmen Johnson-Pájaro ’18 MM, deVon Russell Gray ’01, Darynn Dean ’18, and John Alexander Garner ’06—share their vision of what the future of NEC could look and feel like. Subscribe via email

Read parts one, two, and three