Okay, Phoenix, Let’s Tango
Sometimes it feels like I, a person with a 408 area code, was always destined for the 480. The universe likes playing tricks, so it’s not a completely unreasonable suspicion. That said, as many of my AZ-native friends understand, I left, and I didn’t really expect to be back. In fact, if you asked me a year ago if I ever thought I’d live and work in Phoenix again, the answer would have been a vehement no.
On the flip side, when your partner gets the opportunity to study with one of the best trombone teachers in the country, you take it. (Dr. E, I don’t think you’re reading this, but if you are, hi!) As a Sun Devil alum, I’m thrilled John and I will both have degrees from ASU (and CalArts . . . but in opposite orders). As someone with a handful of friends I’ve missed desperately, I’m looking forward to reconnecting. But as someone who took some very bad moments and memories with me when I left the desert, as someone who realizes the reasons I was so frequently brushed over and passed by are myriad and gendered, I am . . . less excited.
To a certain extent, I’m not going to get into this again. I’ve put bits and pieces of this feeling in posts for at least two years (these links should get you started). I can’t always talk about this stuff clinically, though I try to make that side of myself available whenever possible. Beyond that, though, I’ve talked at some length about these topics with folks who need to know. More person-to-person conversations are forthcoming, I’m sure, but if you were somewhat caught up on this stuff when I left (or follow along with Misogyny Mondays on my Instagram and Patreon), most of this isn’t new.
The one thing I will say, though, to everyone from brand-new acquaintances to years-long friends, is this: you saw me for a pretty short time post-inauguration. And even those of you who know me pretty well—who think you know me really well—do not, probably, realize what the election and the subsequent actions of this administration have done to me and the core of my art. Most of you will be surprised at how regularly my music considers and pushes back against the realities of our sociopolitical landscape. None of you, I’m reasonably sure, fully understand how downright angry I am. (Except maybe Keith, but he follows me on Twitter, and that’s an unfair advantage.)
On the surface, as a concept, this might not be a big deal. I sincerely hope it’s not. But the area in which I expect I’ll receive pushback is that I find it increasingly difficult—and, to a certain extent, unnecessary?—to present music without a greater argument behind, within, or surrounding it. I really struggle to justify why we should still be doing shows full of standards or stiff concerts of the same classics in the same ways. Why aren’t we doing more to make our work make a point? How can we more actively cultivate community, understanding, and respect for our fellow human through our programming, our concert themes, our creators, our artists, and extramusical performance components? How can we clearly recognize who our music leaves out and work to include them? How can we use our platforms as artists to advocate issues that affect ourselves or our peers or the community we work in?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions—by my own best estimates, I’m just getting started exploring these topics and how they relate to and amplify the things that drove me out two years ago. There’s learning to be done, and that’s exciting! But it’s important to remember that we, as participants and spectators in spaces that are not equally accessible, have a responsibility to do the work to make our world accessible—not by dumbing it down or eliminating what we love, but by enabling those around us to be equally informed and welcomed. So you’ll still hear me talking a lot about what I’m seeing and what I think we can improve. If you’re not ready to listen, that’s okay.
I’ll meet you when you get here. ♦
Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.