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Trinity University Music Project Tackles Racial Injustice

Gary Seighman
Choral Director Gary Seighman rehearses a socially-distanced choir

Trinity University’s choral director has launched a new video project in response to the nation's racial strife this year. Gary Seighman said the project is an attempt to explore a very difficult 2020.

“We couldn't just go as business as usual this year. I knew that we wanted to undertake some projects that really were relevant to what was going on,” he said.

The seed of the idea came to him last summer as he read the book “My Hair Is A Garden” to his children. Its protagonist is a Black girl shamed about her hair.

Gary Seighman by Anh-Viet Dinh.jpg
Anh-Viet Dinh
Gary Seighman

The story inspired Seighman, and he decided to produce a project that could explore past racial injustice and link it to recent events. He contacted the book’s author Cozbi Cabrera to share the concept.

“And within minutes she responded with an enthusiastic ‘Yes, I'd love to help you with this project,’” he said.

He then had to figure out who else to include, which turned out to be easier than he anticipated. His students had plenty of ideas.

“A lot of these collaborators were names suggested by our students, one of which was Andrea ‘Vocab’ Sanderson, who is poet laureate now of San Antonio,” he said.

Seighman said the production process began with initial dialogue about some difficult issues.

“We had a lot of frank discussions via Zoom and in person about racial injustice,” he said.

Gradually the musical ideas began to take shape, and everyone got to work on a variety of artistic contributions. COVID-19 prevented any in-person musical performances, so a mashup of remote performances and collaborations with other artists played out. What began to form was a collage of expression.

“It contains musical components, some story components, which contains some video, contains some poetry, some narratives, some quotations, some civil rights, historical archival footage as well,” he said.

Gary Seighman
choral group recording via Zoom

Seighman and his collaborators assembled the music and images into a 43-minute film, and put it on YouTube.

“In terms of telling the story, we chose historic photos and historic videos throughout the program as well to kind of help tell that story,” Seighman said. “But in a way that we hope also connects to current events.”

Seighman is quick to emphasize the collaborative spirit at the heart of the project and wants to try and see life through someone else’s eyes.

“It was really eye-opening for me to be able to understand in some part, some of that perspective.”

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