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January 18, 2021

A Special Message

Hello All,

Today is the day that we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Personally, I tend to cringe at the fairy tale perspective of MLK as a Santa-Claus-like character. This reaction is primarily because many people have only internalized five lines from the “I Have a Dream Speech”, and this understanding is all that they have to go on. Not to be misunderstood, it is not because the “I Have a Dream” speech wasn’t meaningful and historic. The challenge is that many have very little appreciation for the fact that Dr. King’s beautiful mind gave us so much more than that one speech.
With that in mind, it seemed appropriate to honor Dr. King by sharing words from some of his other writings in this letter to the CMCB community.
As most of you know, I am a former bassoon professor and performer. One of the things that I told my former bassoon students was that the beginning of their time with me would be focused on developing their ears. The students had to commit to learning how to ACTIVELY listen before we could do our work together. The main reason was that musicians cannot get better until their bodies learn to do what their developing ears can hear. They hear themselves fully in service of being able to “listen to the truth of others.”
As a performer, some of my most challenging performances were with wonderful musicians who were not great at playing with others. They would simply drown out the rest of the world with the expectation that others would just follow them. They have forgotten that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
On the other hand, some of my fondest performances were when the artists were completely musically aligned while fully trusting our ability to be flexible and cooperative. We were working together like those “creative dissenters” who called on ourselves “to a higher destiny, to a plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humaneness.”
These anecdotes are microcosms of our current state. So many people in the world are behaving like musicians who don’t recognize that their destinies are tied together. They seem to not understand that “life’s piano can only produce the melodies of brotherhood when it is recognized that the black keys are as basic, necessary, and beautiful as the white keys.”

If we can open our ears and truly listen to each other, we can make even better music together.

Lecolion Washington, CMCB

Many are looking backward to a time in which so many voices were marginalized and silenced rather than looking forward to a time when those voices are being amplified. Rather than using the past as a way to divide us — trying to make things great again — we have an opportunity to use the lessons from the past to help us light the way forward. “A society is always eager to cover misdeeds, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist in the present.” What we must recognize is that those who have stood in opposition to progress have consistently been on the wrong side of history. That being said, “no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability.” If we can open our ears and truly listen to each other, then like my former students, we can make even better music together.
At CMCB, we recognize that our work exists in the broader context of the world around us. Maybe CMCB can become a beacon of light for the future. Maybe the challenges are so great that we can just be a safe oasis for each other to gather as a community that is galvanized by our love of music and music making. Either way, we will be making music on this journey — together.

Wishing you all the best,
Lecolion Washington

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