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Hearing in Color highlights music of specific cultural origin within performances curated and performed by people of that lived experience.  It is a concert series aimed at highlighting music, composers, and texts who are often underrepresented in the larger musical world. We focus on art song--poetry set to music for solo voice and piano. Art song is a powerful medium for sharing voices, not only of composers and performers, but poets as well.  Hearing in Color is dedicated to exposing Chicago’s communities to emerging artists and shining light on cultural issues through the performance of music by composers of color. We believe in the power of music to comfort, embolden, and inspire in the face of subjugation and oppression.

Hearing in Color spotlights this music through performance and archives; all performances are recorded and then made available online to others looking to better understand the scope of what has been written. A conundrum of classical music is that it is difficult for pieces to be found and performed unless an example of a performance already exists. We provide a record of all pieces performed in order that others can discover and perform them.

Hearing in Color gives artistic license to marginalized cultures in classical music by asking people of that culture to produce the works by composers of that culture. Showcasing work by marginalized cultures necessitates research and musicological care and the ability to execute a thorough planning and rehearsal process that considers the experiences of the performers involved.

We additionally focus on workshop initiatives, informing singers and pianists of all background and ethnicities how to approach this music, bring it into their repertoire, and teach it to their students. Hearing in Color believes this approach is particularly powerful in classical music where so much of the repertoire in the western music canon is passed down from teacher to student. Unless an effort is made to significantly disrupt this apprentice/mentor model, it is extremely difficult for works to become part of this body of “known” repertoire. This is particularly troubling when examining the demographic makeup of faculty at notable music conservatories; for example: 87.1% of faculty Curtis Institute of Music are white, and at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 73.9% are white.

Hearing in Color believes that to effectively share song beyond the ‘ivory towers’ of conservatories, the music must speak to the communities it attempts to reach. We firmly believe that art song can be relevant to all experiences, but that it is most effectively done when the songs represent and amplify the voices of its audiences. Too often, classical music attempts outreach and education as a strategy to gain new concert-goers, without the critical element of incorporating those respective communities’ voices in the music itself. Hearing in Color integrates high-quality musical experiences with community-building initiatives to introduce song in a meaningful and lasting way for new audiences.

Founded by LaRob K. Payton in partnership with Scapi Magazine