Below are a few of the arts organizations and projects in which I am proud to have played a roll. Each leverages music-making as a means of toward the goal of enacting substantive social change.
Cambridge Common Voices
Cambridge Common Voices is a community chorus established in partnership between Harvard College and the Threshold Program at Lesley University, a transition program for young adults with diverse learning challenges. This ensemble strives to create an inclusive musical space and practice, affirming individual voices, and explore innovative approaches to music-making, including elements of Universal Design for Learning and Empowering Song.
Cambridge Common Voices positions disability not as deficit, but as a facet of human diversity worthy of creative exploration and appreciation. Affirming the individual and collective funds of knowledge within its community, the ensemble aspires to frame disability as a resource of artistic ingenuity that holds the potential to broaden the concepts of choral music and revolutionize artistic praxis in conventional settings.
Director: Dr. Andrew Clark
Frederick Douglass Institute
As a Frederick Douglass Teaching Fellow through the Frederick Douglass Institute at Kutztown University, James initiated the now annual FDI Music Competition, in collaboration with FDI director Maria Sanelli, and funding generously provided by local businesses in Allentown, PA.
Center for World Music
In 2018 the Center for World Music (CWM) initiated the Songs and Stories series for the purpose of bridging San Diego’s growing refugee population with the public. Over 30 refugees living in San Diego county performed in public venues, free to attend, as a result of this initiative spearheaded by James Gutierrez (CWM board member) and Monica Emery (CWM Executive Director).
The program aimed to work directly with these local communities to identify performers and artistic leaders, and provide them the opportunity to creatively interface with the public, and immerse audiences in their traditions, journeys, and voices. The objectives were to (1) Demonstrate to the public the experiences and contributions of refugees through traditional arts; (2) Present the performing arts as a vehicle for introducing deep cultural institutions in a safe environment, reducing the social distance between San Diego public and its refugee communities; and (3) Give voice to populations that are invisible and excluded.
This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, matching funds from the Peacemakers Fund, through a partnership with the San Diego Public Library system. Financial support is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.