Music from the Margins

Primary author: Chris Dickey

Primary college/unit: Arts and Sciences
Campus: Pullman


There is an alarming lack of diversity in today’s classical music programming. In the past two years, for example, one of the world’s leading orchestras—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—announced an upcoming season’s program that lacked a single piece written by a woman. Dickey, a tuba player and member of the LGBTQ+ community, also notes a lack of diverse programming in his own field of tuba performance. He performed a recital tour to four Midwestern universities that showcasing a variety of music, some of which was composed by individuals holding marginalized identities (women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color). Discussing inclusive, thoughtful programming with audiences of aspiring educators, composers, conductors, and performers was an effective way to change the conversation in classical music. Addressing music from underrepresented populations did not diminish the music written by those of a dominant identity; instead, this project helped people understand how rich the music truly is when one makes an effort to be more inclusive. The tour addressed a large-scale problem in classical music by understanding gender, gender identity/expression, race, sexual orientation, and culture through the lens of music performance. Music is a shared cultural experience, one capable of expressing a group’s values and traditions. Bringing these underrepresented composers into the conversation can stimulate more interest and understanding of what those groups represent in a global society. This project asserted Washington State University’s artistic presence nationally and its commitment to expanding individual opportunity and equity.