The faculty and staff of the Division of Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas stands in solidarity with the Black community during what has been an extremely sad and eye-opening past two weeks. We are indebted to the musical legacy of Black American culture that has provided much of the foundation of our livelihoods, studies, and passions. All of us have studied the improvisational and compositional creativity of Black jazz artists and their extended musical communities throughout our careers. We view ourselves as grateful participants in the tradition they established.
The history of our art form in jazz is intricately interwoven with social protest and that aspect does not change now. We are appalled and saddened by George Floyd’s death as we are with each needless loss before and since brought on by the institutional violence, inequitable policies, and police brutality exhibited towards Black Americans. We are musicians, but we are human beings first and recognize that no person should be treated the way George Floyd was, among countless others. This is another instance in a series of blatant wake up calls to ALL Americans that we need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again. Though the scale of needed societal change is grand, adjusting our individual and institutional actions can have a lasting impact on these issues in our surrounding community.
We recognize that the Division’s history has not always adequately reflected the values of diversity and inclusion. The program was founded in the academic year of 1946-47 on a still-segregated campus. It would be many years before full integration took place both within the university and in our program. Despite our best efforts, echoes and residual effects of this founding context still occur.
To overcome our shortcomings, we must listen: to our students, to our community, and each other. As musicians and as people, we listen in order to understand where our musical partner is rooted and respond to them in kind. As we improvise, we must respect and include all voices, taking explicit care to elevate the marginalized. We recognize and celebrate our students, faculty, staff, and broader community members for who they are – their whole person.
The mission of the UNT College of Music is “to serve our diverse musical culture with excellence, integrity, and imagination.” Reaffirming that Black Lives Matter supports all three aspects of this mission, as we affirm the value of diversity, strive to meet the highest standard of integrity, and imagine a better future. We are resolute in our commitment to this mission and look forward to working more purposefully towards a more diverse and inclusive culture in the Division of Jazz Studies at UNT.