On March 26, vocalist Keisha Hutchins joins Intercultural Journeys for Going Home. But what happens before the curtain rises? Read on for Keisha's insightful behind-the-scenes peak at her approach to music and programming.
Behind the Scenes of Going Home
By: Keisha Hutchins
Music has the power to stir deep emotion. To serve as a conduit for resistance, social justice, hope, and change. To provoke and inspire us in disparate directions and calls to actions. It held that power for centuries, and it is an apt, powerful tool today.
As an artist, I have a responsibility to bring social-justice into my practice and performance because my art is so public. If I have the privilege of holding the audience’s attention, then why not create an opportunity to share a deeply held belief or concern that affects us all? As human beings, we want to be seen, heard, and ultimately, loved. When a performance can tap into some or all of those things, that is when that incredible transformational experience can happen for the audience member and artist alike.
As I prepared for Going Home, current events swirled through my mind. The prison- industrial complex, the brutal mass killings of Black bodies in this country, oppressive systems that are still hard at work—centuries of policies based on biases and unchecked assumptions that have been harmful and downright dangerous to humanity. It is for this reason that I also intentionally chose pieces that reflected my sorrow and grief around these systems, while also trying to open a space for light and hope.
In preparing for this concert, I have thought deeply about what each song I am performing means to me as an artist and what it could mean for my audience. Not all of the pieces are songs of resistance, per se. Rather, the act of resistance for some pieces is in just performing the pieces at all–for instance, being a Black performer singing a piece of classical music, my voice inhabiting an aria from a role that was never intended to be played by a Black woman. I challenge both myself and my audiences to consider the biases we all have around what it means to both Black and a performer: who has the ultimate say as to what art is? Who determines what Black art is? And why does it matter? Or does it? Who can say who can play?
I am a citizen-artist hybrid: I draw attention to social justice issues as one of many ways I can add my support to the movements of positive change by lifting up different struggles and offering my support through song. And I feel a greater urgency, now more than ever, to use my platform as an artist to engage more often and more intentionally in social justice. Using one’s art form to engage oneself and her audience around these issues can only deepen connections and create spaces for growth and a shared vision for collective peace and ultimately, change.