For Michael Stern, ’18, M.M. ’22, the symposium was an opportunity to reflect on the work he’d done to prepare for his graduate conducting recital. In planning the performance, Stern happened upon Song of Hope, a choral and orchestral piece composed in 1930 by Florence Price, a Black female composer. The piece was never performed live in its intended format until Stern took on the incredible feat of “re-introducing it to the world” at his recital.
“As a white male graduate student, I felt incredibly ill-equipped and afraid to be the leading voice in bringing this piece to light,” he said. “The text largely centers around Florence Price's experiences living as a Black woman in the deep South – something about which I could never fully comprehend. It was this recognition and understanding, combined with the incredible guidance of my mentors, that allowed me to hold space for Price to be the leading voice, rather than my own.”
During his presentation at the symposium, “An Exploration of Allyship Through Music,” Stern spoke to the extensive research that went into the musical decisions he made when conducting the piece, as no recording exists to serve as a guide for what Price intended Song of Hope to sound like.
“It was a very special thing for me to participate in the Whalen Symposium. Having an event to promote the cross-curricular sharing of ideas is critical to developing a more complete and progressive worldview,” he said. “I was also reminded that there are students across IC who are so deeply invested in their research. It sounds like a silly thing to say, but when we’re focused so intensely on what we're doing, we often forget that there are other people in the world giving the same energy to something that interests them.”