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  • Writer's pictureChoirclusive

Choirclusive Leadership Spotlight: JD Daniel

NAME: JD Daniel

PRONOUNS: they/them or he/him

HANDLE: @composinghumanism

LOCATION: Kansas City, MO

TITLES: Composer, Bass-Baritone, Writer; Board and Artistic Committee Member of No Divide KC (@nodividekc)

Why JD is #choirclusive:

"I’m no teacher or conductor, but I now have years of experience in the choral world as a singer and composer, from high school to college to community to professional. I’ve always sung in predominantly white choirs and almost always been the only South-Asian in the room. For awhile, I uncritically accepted the norms of choral music and the hegemony of western and white music over other vocal musics. As a high-schooler I didn’t know what “decolonization” was.

Now that I’ve taken it upon myself to begin decolonizing my own mind and discourse with other BBIPOC choral musicians, I can see how many problems one of my favorite musical mediums has. I love choral singing. I love writing for choirs. And I am so pained by its hegemonies and hierarchies. I am pained when white conductors treat BBIPOC music as just something “fun” to tack onto the end of a concert and not treat as serious music, when non-western-European languages aren’t given the same diction rigor as English and German and Latin, when white choral composers take what they want from Indian musics and then turn around and claim they know best when it comes to “Indian choral music” and refuse to hear any criticism about their harmful appropriation and ego, meanwhile my voice as a brown composer is drowned out as white Christian male composer after white Christian male composer gets professional choral commissions.

This isn’t about jealousy, though. This is about decolonization, liberation. Over the past year or two I’ve started to see white-dominated choirs with white directors finally make consistent effort to decolonize their classrooms and integrate diverse musics and perspectives. I continue to speak, advocate, discourse, research, organize, and write about these things in my classical-music community in the hopes that I might have a positive effect. Cultural appropriation in particular (its definition, its bounds, its manifestation, and what it isn’t) has been a strong theme in my writing and blogging (those who are friends with me on my personal Facebook profile, which I tend to be fairly private with, will have seen some of that). I continue to explore and listen into my own ancestral musics to fuel my creativity as a diaspora musician and to decolonize my own mind.

Currently I am part of organizing a local new-music event dedicated to centering and uplifting marginalized composers, and I’m writing an electroacoustic piece incorporating Carnatic rhythms. Both of these are expressions of decolonialism."

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