Teaching About Black Lives Through Music
by Matré Grant
Guthrie Ramsey, Jr. is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Music Department here at Penn. From assigning Straight Outta Compton as scholarly course material to letting students design the course syllabus for one of his classes, Guy Ramsey is doing something quite different than most of the professors in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Professor Ramsey is a pianist, composer, and arranger for his Philadelphia-based band, Dr. Guy’s MusiQology which is performing at the Harold Prince Theater this Friday at 8pm. We were excited to sit down and talk about his performance as well as how one can protest through music. See below for our short Q & A with him:
Q: How can we protest through music? Do you think it is effective?
A: The amazing thing about music is that it has the capacity to absorb and communicate any connotation that we desire. So a larger question might be “how does music allow us to achieve anything through its praxis?” This flexibility is why we’re so attracted to it.
Q: What kind of pieces can we expect to hear?
A. The band will play music that crosses genres and that will show the audience how malleable older and newer songs can inspire contemplation about protest.
Q. How did you choose the title?
A. The title of the show was inspired by James Baldwin’s 1949 essay, “Everybody’s Protest Novel.” It’s a playful way to engage how music has become a central art to communicate social meaning to contemporary listeners.
Q. Do you think “everybody” applies to black people or people of other races?
A. When I say, everybody, I mean everybody. Most of us will face challenges to our humanity. And we should all rise up fight those injustices.
Q. What will we gain after seeing your show?
A. We hope to show audiences that notions of protest and come in many forms.