In January 2021, The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music launched the Still Waiting speaker series, with the goal of facilitating much needed dialogue about the racial reckoning that has occurred across the nation. Still Waiting challenged community members and institutions alike to acknowledge and address the impacts of systemic racism, with particular focus on the arts and music.
The series was created through the work of the School of Music’s Anti-Racism Action Committee (ARAC), which was formed in June 2020. Chloe Swindler, a doctoral student studying trumpet, is one of the co-chairs. She describes the committee as “a coalition of faculty, staff, administration and students all together.” The group examines and addresses issues ranging from relationships with campus police to issues of representation with the school’s curricula.
Arturo O’Farrill, associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion, shared that the Still Waiting name was born from an idea he had about the long wait for racial justice that continues to this day. “Our ancestors are still waiting for a measure of justice,” said O’Farrill. “We’re still waiting for things to change, and we’re going to fight within the School of Music to change what we can in our culture, in our community and in our university.”
The speaker series became a way to gather people from both within UCLA and outside of the university to have important discussions. Seven talks filled the inaugural season, which launched with a wide-ranging conversation between O’Farrill and renowned professor, author and orator, Dr. Cornel West. West set the tone for the series and its focus on arts and culture. “What great art really tries to get us to do is to see things more clearly and deeply; to feel things more profoundly, and then to act more courageously and compassionately,” said West.
O’Farrill and the Anti-Racism Action Committee sought to include speakers who could speak to issues directly impacting School of Music graduates. Dr. Phillip Ewell and Dr. Danielle Brown both gave presentations examining issues of race facing academic music studies, and Simon Woods from the League of American Orchestras explored the legacy of racism in the orchestral world. Speakers also represented diverse fields within performance, including dancer Ayodele Casel, singer-songwriter Noelle Scaggs, and trombonist and band director Dr. Isrea Butler. Each presenter provided engaging, first-hand insight into their experiences within the industry.
Swindler hopes that more students will be inspired to join the ARAC and engage in the work being led by the committee. “There are things students can fix.” said Swindler. “I’m hoping students will see that by getting involved, they can make actionable changes happen.”
As the School of Music prepares for a new academic year, O’Farrill plans to continue the Still Waiting Speaker Series. “Until the institutional world of music education changes, we’ll be around,” said O’Farrill. “We’ll have speaker series, we’ll bring in people who will not only challenge our students to show up—to be bold—but also challenge our faculty to examine why we teach what we teach, and how we teach it.”
To view 2020-21 Still Waiting series events and to stay up to date on future events, please visit our Equity, Diversity & Inclusion website.