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Thursday, June 13, 2024
(Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

The DEIB Festival, An Interview with the President and Secretary of MTNA

In lieu of a year full of much-needed movements, protests and advocacy for systematically marginalized people, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) is putting on a DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging) Festival. This is a new festival for the Mead Witter School of Music and hopefully will not be the last of its kind. 

Music studied at the UW-Madison Mead Witter School of Music is predominantly white. Required music history and theory courses for music majors only cover western music. Though elective courses can be taken in more diverse studies, it is not required. 

Secretary of MTNA, James Osorio, states the purpose of the DEIB Festival is to “elevate composers who are underrepresented, marginalized and living.” This elevation is done through the festival’s performances with musicians, poets, dancers and many more artists. These students involved in the festival will bring a platform of collaborative works by diverse marginalized artists to hoist their voices. James continues that the DEIB Festival will “introduce a diverse array of equally strong and important composers who are not part of the ‘canon’ [Western classical music].”

The DEIB Festival hosted by MTNA directly affects the students of UW-Madison by promoting the visibility of marginalized communities. This festival will project a stage to voice beliefs/concerns while providing a source of inspiration. President Lina Lee mentions, “Although the global classical music community has been somewhat better at acknowledging the work of many contemporary non-western composers, they are still not sufficiently introduced, least performed, studied or properly interpreted.” 

Lina continues to explain that the majority of musicians here at UW-Madison, including ones performing for the festival, have only been trained in classical western music. Classical Western music includes pieces by Western European and North American composers. According to Lina, the DEIB Festival will feature “repertoire outside of the Western canon can be something beyond [the performers] comfort zone.” 

This festival will inspire and continue to inspire marginalized students of UW-Madison across contrasting majors of study. James states, “there is a beauty in connecting students from different fields together and finding a way to converse their own respective crafts with each other.” This connection across vastly different majors is not something seen often or easily done. 

The future, in regards to the DEIB Festival, seems bright. When asked if we will see this festival again in the future, James states, “We are definitely working towards that.” A repeating festival like this one would mean the continuous representation of marginalized artists by the students and faculty of UW-Madison. It has all the potential to become the most exciting Mead Witter School of Music event of the year. As Lina explains in regards to the future of this festival, “I hope that this festival brings an opportunity for everyone to spread this spirit outside the school of music as well in awareness of underrepresented and systemically excluded groups.”

The future of marginalized artists consists of initiatives much like the DEIB Festival hosts and the artists performing for it. Secretary James expresses the importance of initiative and emphasizes, “I think what lacks right now is initiative and initiative is what we need more than ever.” This initiative goes for the artists performing in the festival and the surrounding UW-Madison faculty/students' support. Lina followed James' comment, stating “People can promote more art by marginalized communities by performing more of those works themselves through their own initiative.”

Making this festival possible requires initiative from the students and faculty of UW-Madison. As the hosts of the DEIB Festival have explained, initiation is the future of marginalized artists. How people initiate and involve their support will directly affect these systematically marginalized communities. 

The DEIB festival dates are Feb. 21, 23, 24, 26 and March 1 and 4. Tickets are free for faculty and students. 

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