The MSM Cultural Inclusion Initiative

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The mission of the Cultural Inclusion Initiative is to foster diversity, equity, and inclusive practices throughout Manhattan School of Music

MSM’s Cultural Inclusion Initiative (CII) was launched in August 2019 as part of MSM’s Strategic Plan 2019-2024. The mission of the CII is to foster diversity, equity, and inclusive practices throughout the School by auditing current practices, identifying areas where additional attention is needed to achieve change, and creating regular discussion forums for students, faculty, and staff.

The CII provides support and opportunities for each of us in the MSM Community to:

  • Develop a greater understanding about our own worldview and how it influences our actions
  • Consider how we are positioned in relation to others and recognize differences based on our respective worldviews
  • Seek out opportunities for greater openness to new and unfamiliar ideas and behaviors, to diverse cultures and cultural backgrounds, and to all identities
  • Take risks in our learning by developing greater openness and to learn more about ourselves and those in our community
  • Take action to promote equity on and off campus

2023-2024 Priorities

  • Create time and space for academic and artistic curiosity about diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Better understand the identities, concerns, and engagement of our student body
  • Expand work with peer institutions for improvement in our applicant experience and collegial connections
  • Connect with our Harlem community through new partnerships and community engagement

Contact Information

Nicolas Gonzalez
Assistant Vice President for Strategic Innovation and Special Initiatives

Room A-411

Two student organizations, The Black Student Union and Queer People for the Betterment of Society, hold a joint meeting with Alexa Smith, former AVP for Strategic Innovation and Special Initiatives, and President James Gandre, with his husband, Dr. Boris Thomas.

Annual Progress:

2022-2023: Reflection and Transition

  • Nicolas Gonzalez is appointed as Assistant Vice President for Strategic Innovation and Special Initiatives
  • Alexa Smith, MM’10, transitions to Public Theatre
  • Reflection: Review of faculty and staff feedback and engagement for past activities; review of roadblocks since launch
  • Programs: Duncan Williams Voice Competition for Black and Latinx singers

2021-2022: Repertoire and Guest Artists

  • Cultural Inclusion Policy finalized
  • Repertoire: Artistic Planning Committee Launch to synthesize repertoire and performance ensembles
  • Workshops: DEI Training with Resident Assistants, New Students DEI Orientation, and New Faculty, Vocal Arts, and Musical Theatre
  • Programs: Artists Scholars; MSM Artist Citizen in Residence; Guest Artists through residences and masterclasses

2020-2021: Curriculum and Programming

  • Curriculum: Application of policy; Department goals and assessments
  • Planning: Faculty diversity audit; Listening sessions, forums, and monthly town halls conducted; Library resources enhanced; Values Partnerships consultations
  • Workshops: Foundations of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for new student orientation; Equity in Rehearsal Spaces and on Stage; annual training in implicit bias for all MSM Admission department faculty and staff; Representation in the Theater: Do I Belong on Stage?; Implicit Bias for the MSM Admission department; Admitting the Full Musician for the MSM Musical Theatre program
  • Programs: Black Creators Initiative; Black Artist Scholars

2019-2020: Data Collection and Audit

  • Launch: Cultural Inclusion Initiative created; Strategic Plan to include CII; Alexa Smith selected to lead
  • Data Collection: Gauge Study conducted on race and equality sentiment amongst students, faculty, and staff; Orchestral Repertoire Scorecard created
  • Programs: Activist, Ally, or Advocate Panel with Terrance McKnight, Ras Dia, Harolyn Blackwell, and Mark Campbell 

Alexa Smith, MM'10, former AVP for Strategic Innovation and Special Initiatives, holds her first town hall for MSM with guest artists.

Land Acknowledgement

We want to acknowledge that we gather as Manhattan School of Music on the traditional land of the Lenape and Wappinger past and present, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations. This calls us to commit to continuing to learn how to be better stewards of the land we inhabit as well.

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