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On this page, you’ll find all of the installments of our “Do the Works Wednesdays” series in one place. Along with following this series, we invite you to visit our Anti-Racism Music Resources page for more anti-racism discussion and action items.

“Do the Work Wednesdays”: A Series on Anti-Racism & Music

Text Reads: Do the Work Wednesdays

Welcome to “Do the Work Wednesdays”

August 12, 2020
by Catherine Zachary, B.Mus. ’10

Over the summer, the faculty and staff of the music department have been hard at work examining our internal systemic racism and looking for ways that we can begin to enact real and meaningful change. Over the past few years, the department has seen small shifts in programming and teaching towards these efforts, but we know that more can be done. Many potential actions are in discussion and we look forward to sharing more about those with you in the future. … Continue reading DWW 1

DWW: Sweet Honey in the Rock

August 19, 2020
by Kendall Winter, Third-Year Musicology Graduate Student

It’s been said many ways that communal singing brings people together in music, in mind, and in action. And I can think of no artist who has worked longer or harder to take anti-racist action through singing than Sweet Honey In The Rock. … Continue reading DWW 2

DWW: Philip Ewell’s “Confronting Racism and Sexism in American Music Theory”

August 26, 2020
by Assistant Professor Aaron Harcus

In this series of six blog posts titled, “Confronting Racism and Sexism in American Music Theory,” music theorist Philip Ewell examines the ways in which the institutional structure, underlying ideologies, and aesthetic value systems of music theory continues to perpetuate gender and racial oppression in our field. In doing so, he draws especially on sociologist Joe Feagin’s concept of a white racial frame, Ibram X. Kendi’s notion that one can either be a racist or anti-racist when it comes to the eradication of racial and gender oppression, and Sarah Ahmad’s work on the role of citational practices in either reproducing or challenging gender and racial hierarchies in our intellectual work. … Continue reading DWW 3

DWW: Anthony Davis

September 2, 2020
by Ryan Ebright, Ph.D. ’14

American opera underwent tremendous changes in the 1980s. Spurred on the one hand by an influx of money from the National Endowment for the Arts and various philanthropic foundations, and on the other by a rekindled interest among musicians and artists in a genre that some had thought moribund, opera companies throughout the United States began commissioning and producing new operas. This revitalization has continued into the present. In the past five years, more than 200 new operas have premiered, whereas the first half-decade of the 1980s saw fewer than 50 premieres. As a result of this expansion, American opera has transformed in myriad ways. This transformation is the focus of my research. … Continue reading DWW 4

DWW: Kajikawa’s Call for Reform in Music Education

September 9, 2020
by Professor and Chair David Garcia, Ph.D.

A statement of diversity and inclusion is not enough nor is a one-credit hour global music requirement so long as the core of our BMus and BA degree programs perpetuates the myth of a “legit” music that stands apart from all other musics. As Dr. Kajikawa asserts, a hierarchical organization of music mirrors a “hierarchy of human types with racialized bodies at the bottom and white people on top” (159). This reading will challenge almost everything many of us have taken for granted in what we have required music students take and what we have not required. … Continue reading DWW 5

DWW: Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, pianist

September 16, 2020
by Associate Professor Clara Yang

Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins was a virtuosic pianist, gifted composer, and one of the most in-demand musicians of his time in America in the late 19th century. Born in 1849 into slavery in Columbus, Georgia, he was blind and autistic. People quickly discovered that he had an unusual gift for music from an early age. He was able to perform any musical piece to its entirety with little effort and amassed a repertoire of thousands of pieces over his lifetime. … Continue reading DWW 6

DWW: Expanding the repertoire

September 23, 2020
by Catherine Zachary, B.Mus. ’10

On our Anti-Racism Music Resources page, ‘Music Catalogs’ is featured as one of the six categories of resources and it is this week’s DWW feature. This list is by no means exhaustive. We hope that it will provide students, faculty, and community members a place to start when exploring the music of BIPOC. … Continue reading DWW 7

DWW: Violinists Melissa White and Elena Urioste

September 30, 2020
by Associate Professor Nicholas DiEugenio

The Sphinx Organization, founded in 1997 by Aaron Dworkin, is a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Violinists Elena Urioste and Melissa White, both first-place laureates of the Sphinx Competition, are living examples of artists who are transforming the lives of others through their music and their visionary projects, such as INTERMISSION. Co-founded by Melissa and Elena in 2017, INTERMISSION is a program that unites body, mind, breath, and music-making through yoga and meditation. Offering retreats for professionals, sessions for students, and an app for all, INTERMISSION seeks to reach musicians of various stages, levels, and life experiences. … Continue reading DWW 8

DWW: Some thoughts on piano teaching

October 7, 2020
by Lecturer Robert Buxton

The world is changing dramatically from the COVID-19 pandemic, and many old ways of thinking are being challenged. The flawed system of meritocracy, at the heart of US culture, must be reconsidered. In this system, the aim of so many activities is to assert superiority. Students are expected to outdo each other in order to win scholarships, prizes, and status. The western musical canon is also based on a sort of social Darwinism. Certain composers are presumed to be super-human while others are denied a coveted spot in the pantheon. These values echo a nineteenth-century concept of genius and Nietzsche’s übermensch. In classical music (which itself is an unclear term), these values lead to perfectionism, exemplified by literal interpretations of the score and the disappearance of improvisation. Many say that competition brings out the best in people, but it can also deaden the creative spirit. Racism, sexism, and classism are intertwined with a competitive, hierarchical worldview. What if we began with the assumption that every person has unique, intrinsic value, and consequently, so does every student, every composer, and every work of art. Then, the nature of education would be to elicit and develop the individual’s latent voice, a process akin to gardening or story-telling. The following are suggestions for piano students to develop their individual style. Hardly new ideas, most of these activities were once part of a typical eighteenth-century musical education. … Continue reading DWW 9

DWW: Rap and Redemption on Death Row


by Professor Mark Katz

MAILED FROM CENTRAL PRISON was printed in large capital letters across the top of the envelope. That was the first thing I noticed when I pulled the letter out of my faculty mailbox. I read it as I stood in the green-linoleumed mailroom of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Music Department. “Dear Mr. Mark Katz,” the letter began in exceptionally neat handwriting, “I am a reformed prisoner, writer and rapper on North Carolina’s Death Row.” … Continue reading DWW 10

DWW: Teaching Tolerance


by El Fisseha, business manager

Teaching Tolerance states, “Our mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy.” By offering free classroom resources and professional development opportunities Teaching Tolerance aims to help educators grow young minds to be agents of change through social justice and anti-bias education. …. Continue reading DWW 11

DWW: Haydar on the Radar: Resisting Orientalism and Global Patriarchy


by Sophia Rekeibe, ’21 |

Raised in Flint, Michigan, Mona Haydar is a Syrian-American Muslim who defines herself as a rapper, poet, activist, practitioner of Permaculture, meditator, composting devotee, mountain girl, solar power lover and a tireless God-enthusiast (Haydar 2015). She started her rap career in 2017 with her ground breaking single “Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab),” which quickly gained millions of views and Billboard recognition as one of 2017’s top protest songs and later named top 25 feminist anthems of all time. In 2018 Haydar released her EP entitled Barbarican and continues to release music while actively participating in social justice. This summer, under the guidance of Dr. Michael Figueroa, I was able to explore Haydar’s music as an intervention to global patriarchy and contemporary Orientalism by analyzing three of her songs – “Barbarian,” “American,” and “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)”. … Continue Reading DWW 12

DWW: A Reflection and Call to Action

November 4, 2020
by A. Kori Hill, Ph.D. Candidate

Cultural appropriation is not a buzzword or hypothesis. It is a process where the creative knowledge and skills of marginalized artists are exploited by individuals and institutions with systemic privileges. Most often, this process manifests through a lack of adequate financial compensation and public acknowledgement. In U.S. history, cultural appropriation’s most popular representative is the racist, 19th century genre minstrelsy and its continued manifestation in modern popular culture. But where popular music is often the setting for these discussions, Western classical music has too often escaped the necessary call-ins. … Continue Reading DWW 13

DWW: Martha Flowers: A Black Music Faculty Trailblazer


by Professors Marc Callahan, David Garcia, and LaToya Lain

Upon listening to Martha Flower’s 1973 performance of Francis Poulenc’s Miroirs brûlants, recently uncovered in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Music archive collection, one can only imagine that this very text by Éluard was describing the performer herself. From the moment the illustrious soprano spins a perfectly crafted chiaroscuro tone on the opening text Tu vois le feu du soir, the listener hears what Maya Angelou once described as a voice like “hot silver melted.” All at once, the singing embodies an icy metal like that of mercurized glass yet containing molten passion, glowing from its confines. As the ethereal sound washes over the listener, everything seems to disappear. They find themselves alone—transported—mesmerized by the youthful voice of Ms. Flowers from a half century ago. … Continue Reading DWW 14