SBO Staff • News • February 1, 2023

Eastman School of Music, at the University of Rochester, is proud to announce that it will host the inaugural Context Conference 2023: Contextualizing Equity and Inclusion in Music on November 3-4, 2023, in Rochester, NY. Conference Host Dr. Crystal Sellers Battle, Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion at Eastman, along with Dr. Lisa Beckley-Roberts, Chair and Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Jackson State University, are the keynote speakers. The two-day conference will include breakout group sessions, pre-concert receptions, two performances, and more.

This conference is for everyone who values conversations around equity and inclusion in music with the goal of making real, holistic progress at their institution or arts organization: from students who want to create space for repertoire by underrepresented composers to staff members wanting a more equitable and inclusive work environment to faculty seeking tools to incorporate this work into their classrooms, studios and mentorships.

“The dream of hosting a conference such as this has been percolating in me for some time now,” shares Dr. Sellers Battle. “We often talk about the concepts around equity and inclusion in higher education, but for a variety of reasons — from scarcity of resources to lack of support from colleagues – we are often unable to practice these ideas at our institutions.” She continues, “It is my hope that this conference will move beyond the talk and drive us toward true and unique implementation for each of our organizations.”

Jamal J. Rossi, Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music, adds, “The past few years have been rich with initiatives to study, perform and explore music outside of traditional boundaries. Eastman is excited about bringing together colleagues who are passionate about implementing meaningful and sustained change.”

Conversations will be framed around the following five areas:

  • Classroom Innovation
  • Curriculum Shift
  • Ensemble & Applied Area Repertoire and Performance Practice
  • Community Engagement
  • Recruitment and Retention

Dr. Beckley-Roberts is thrilled to be involved with the conference: “This will be an opportunity to share and learn not only theories, but ways of doing the real work of equity and inclusion in our music programs. The work is hard but necessary and we ALL have to do it. Being from an HBCU, I’ve realized that none of our institutions are excluded from the honest reflection and mindful actions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). This conference will provide opportunities for us to share the tools of the work, offer support for it, and learn from one another.”

Currently, the conference is soliciting proposals for sessions. These sessions can be any format such as panel discussions, lecture-recitals and/or presentations framed around the topics listed above. Proposals may be submitted online through the conference website. Submissions are due March 17, 2023.  Registration will not go live until April 2023.

To submit a proposal and learn more about the conference, as well as registration costs and fees, please visit the full Context Conference Website online.


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About Dr. Crystal Y. Sellers Battle (Host & Keynote):

Dr. Crystal Sellers Battle is the inaugural dean of equity and inclusion and the director of the George Walker Center for Equity and Inclusion in Music at Eastman. At The Ohio State University, where she earned her doctorate in voice performance, she was the first doctoral student to complete the Singing Health Specialist interdisciplinary graduate specialization. In that program, she studied medical tactics for repairing vocal injuries and rehabilitation of professional vocalists. Her DMA document is titled ‘I sing because I’m Free:’ Developing a Systematic Vocal Pedagogy for the Modern Gospel Singer. Prior to her arrival at Eastman, Sellers Battle served as the chief diversity officer at Juniata College and served on the music faculty at Bluffton University where she also served as department chair.

Sellers Battle earned a postgraduate artist diploma from Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, England, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in voice performance from Roosevelt University, Chicago, and Bowling Green State University, respectively.

About Dr. Lisa Beckley-Roberts (Keynote):

Dr. Lisa Beckley-Roberts, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Chair of the Department of Music at Jackson State University, earned her doctorate in Ethnomusicology and Masters Degrees in Ethnomusicology and Harp Performance at Florida State University, after having received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Harp Performance from Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Beckley-Roberts has taught courses including Minority Music in America, American Roots Music, American Popular Music, World Music Cultures, Western Music History, and African Music and Dance in addition to guest lecturing and presenting papers on Africana religious practices and the role of music in them, Peruvian shaman ritual chanting, and the creation of sacred space through music. She is also an accomplished performer who has been principal harpist with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and the Central Florida Symphony Orchestra. She has performed classically with orchestras throughout the Southeast, and was active in contemporary music having accompanied singers with the neo-soul and hip-hop performers of Tallahassee Nights Live between 2013-2015.

Dr. Beckley-Roberts currently teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in Music History, Studies in Historical Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Music Appreciation, Applied Harp Lessons, World Music Cultures, African music and dance, and Seminars in music history, and ethnomusicology. She began the Jackson State University African Drum and Dance Ensemble shortly after arriving at JSU and held the Inaugural performance of the ensemble on November 30, 2016. She has authored articles, book chapters, and film/album reviews that have appeared in the Journal for the Society for Ethnomusicology, Journal of Africana Studies, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and Repatriation, and Worlds of Music Journal and has presented at numerous professional conferences including African Studies Association Conference, Caribbean Studies Association Conference, African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association Conference, and Regional Society for Ethnomusicology Conference.

Having been a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar in South Africa as well as a FLAS scholar in Nigeria, Beckley-Roberts’ research focuses on traditional African religious practices in diaspora communities of the Americas and the role of music, dance and chant in conversion processes. However, she has also done research on exoticism in the Romantic era, the performance of gender in Western art music, and the musician’s role in contemporary resistance movements in America and the Caribbean.

A fierce advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Dr. Beckley-Roberts has advocated for those schools to be the center of research on the music of the Black Diaspora. Furthermore, she urges HBCUs to place equitable value upon the “classical” musics such as Jazz, Blues, Spirituals and Gospel. She serves as a board member for the HBCU-Jazz Education Initiative which offers support for music programs to provide degrees and programming in Jazz Studies. She is also a founding member of Diversity Inclusion and Equity in Music and Arts (DIEMA) consulting group affording her the opportunity to help equip music, dance, and art programs with tools in creating a more diverse and equitable learning environment.

About Eastman School of Music:

The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854–1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training.

More than 900 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Division of the Eastman School of Music—about 500 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. They come from almost every state, and approximately 23 percent are from other countries. They are taught by a faculty comprised of more than 130 highly regarded performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy winners, Emmy winners, Guggenheim fellows, ASCAP Award recipients, published authors, recording artists, and acclaimed musicians who have performed in the world’s greatest concert halls. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community. Additionally, more than 1,700 members of the Rochester community, from young children through senior citizens, are enrolled in the Eastman Community Music School.

About the University of Rochester:

The University of Rochester is one of the nation’s leading private research universities, one of only 62-member institutions in the Association of American Universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives undergraduates exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College, School of Arts and Sciences, and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and the Memorial Art Gallery.

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