In the world of Classical music, there has developed a certain flow chart of interactions. Within this flowchart, the musicologist who is primarily a musicologist is very rarely part of any significant interaction with a performer or a composer (the music critic is even more rarely part of such interactions, perhaps for good reason!). I specify this because I personally have friends who are primarily performers or composers who occasionally or often write scholarly articles, conduct research, and present at conferences, but they are not primarily musicologists. I cannot say the same about the highly awarded, accomplished, and incredible Dr. Kira Thurman, who I had the honor of collaborating with for a Castle of our Skins residency panel discussion!
Dr. Kira Thurman is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, specializing in history and German studies, but also works in the fields of modern central Europe, cultural history, musicology, Black studies, nationalism and racism, and transatlanticism and transnationalism. Dr. Thurman is a clasically trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, Austria. Combining her Afro-German and Classical musician identities, Dr. Thurman earned her PhD in 2013 from the University of Rochester, majoring in history and minoring in musicology through the prestigious Eastman School of Music. Among her awards and fellowships are the Berlin Prize from the American Academy of Berlin, the University of Notre Dame Peters Fellowship, and the Fulbright.
Dr. Thurman has articles published in numerous journals, such as the Journal of World History, the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and the German Studies Review, among others. Last June, one of Dr. Thurman's articles went viral in the music world, and justly so. This article - entitled Singing Against the Grain: Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter Era which you can read HERE - spotlights an unfortunately too common narrative of a young, Black male youth who was murdered by a racist bomber targeting one of Austin TX's oldest Black neighborhoods. The unique aspect of this story, however, is that the young man who fell victim to a racist attack was a contrabass player who had recently gained admission to Oberlin Conservatory, one of the institutions who rejected me for undergraduate study. In four parts, the article goes on to discuss issues of Blackness (with regards to Black artists involved in predominantly non-Black artistic practices), cultural responsibility and expectation, personal anecdotes and observations, and more. This utterly relevant article should be read by every musician, amateur and professional alike. Nay, it should be read by every human.