Get Comfortable……Being Uncomfortable

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Get Comfortable……Being Uncomfortable

Calida N. Jones, Co-Founder & Artistic Director, Bravo Waterbury!


What a great opportunity it was to be together with over 100 leaders, teachers, students, and curious individuals this past weekend at the El Sistema USA first-ever symposium. You could feel the excitement, energy, and buzz around Duke University as we took over the Nelson Music Room with live performances, slideshows, and plenary presentations. I believe some of our plenaries really gave space for people to think, reflect, and then hopefully plan a course of action.

I had the honor and privilege to open my heart to all attendees and talk about ESUSA’s new committee for Racial Diversity and Cultural Understanding. I shared my personal experiences growing up as a black female violinist, administrator, and now leader in the field of social change and advocacy. The key takeaways I wanted to leave our attendees with were:

v Once you make the choice to participate in this work (and really, it’s a life choice), this is where personal sacrifice and growth come in. It’s no longer about us. It’s about embracing and understanding backgrounds, cultures, and experiences that are different than ours.

v Don’t be defensive; don’t simply react in conversations. Instead, reflect and try to understand someone else’s journey. Listen, listen, listen to your community. Respond accordingly, and remember that what you think they need may not be what they actually need. Allow them in the kitchen to add to the recipe of love, hope, leadership, and social change.

v It’s time to start being even more inclusive of black and brown composers, musicians, educators, and leaders. We are kidding ourselves if we think the work is actually done. We haven’t even scratched the surface. This will require uncomfortable conversations with leaders who don’t recognize the importance of this shift musically and socially. If we ever expect to see change, we must lead it with our actions, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel.

I’m convinced that with our voices combined, our actions will leave a strong foundation for our current students to stand on. As actor David Oyelowo said: “Unless you consciously decide you must do something about it, especially if you are in a position of power, it won’t change.” Tocar y luchar!


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