June 2, 2020

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Though delivered in a Selma pulpit some 55 years ago this past March, this oft-quoted call to action from Martin Luther King’s sermon on courage has never been more urgent or necessary.

And we, at EMA, hear the call.

At this heartbreaking time, Early Music America writes to you in the hopes that you and your families are well and safe. Our world has been rocked by unrest and violence even as it is still profoundly disrupted by the global health crisis. And many of those hit the hardest by COVID-19 are people of color, particularly Black Americans – the very same people in communities already burdened by a history of prejudice, poverty, and especially racism.

We hear the call.

We are despondent, sad, and angry, and we don’t have the answers today, but we do see this moment as a call to action. We cannot look away or view this moment in isolation, and it should be seen within the context of unending racism and bigotry.

We hear the call.

In early music, too, context is all. It does not exist in a vacuum, but is the product of places and people, many of whom have been systematically denied access to the educational opportunities that might lead to a career or an interest in early music. And the same might be said for those few people of color who have had an opportunity to take this journey, but have struggled to be heard, respected, and accepted as scholars and performers in the field. We must expand our understanding of what “early music” stands for; where it came from and who plays it and enjoys it, now and for our future.

We hear the call.

Earlier this year, Early Music America created a taskforce focused on “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access” to examine how EMA can better serve people of color and reflect their contributions to early music. The Staff and Board of Directors of EMA are committed to supporting this work and to engaging with EMA members and supporters to break down the silos that separate us, encourage thoughtful debate, and safeguard the dignity of everyone in our community. Therefore, we fully affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.

And, as a community of musicians, we affirm the intrinsic value of communal music making — that essence of music’s discourse that so mirrors the societal cohesion all of us long for, now more than ever.

On behalf of EMA’s staff and board of directors,

We hear the call.

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