2021 has been quite the year for the Canadian University Music Society. Like many of us, MusCan has become somewhat settled in the strange (yet increasingly familiar) routine of conducting almost all of our scholarly and professional business online, including our conference, our AGM, and our board activities. We’ve also, as many members may know, resolved to drastically re-envision our operational model with the resolution passed at the 2021 AGM to part ways with the association management firm with whom we’ve partnered for many years. Part of this transformation in the society has also been to rethink who it is that we want to serve; what are the society’s goals, what is its vision, and, perhaps most critically, what is its place in the landscape of music studies in Canada in 2021 and beyond?
Like many scholarly societies, MusCan is grappling with its history of exclusion. During my term on the board, we—a predominantly white and non-diverse collection of academics—considered drafting a statement addressing the society’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and decolonization. But it’s imperative that if we are going to meaningfully participate in the equity and diversity work that needs to happen in music studies, we just have to put our money where our mouth is, and ensure that our activities are aligned with any position statements we issue to that effect. MusCan has, over the past several years, endeavoured to centre IBPOC voices and perspectives in our annual meetings, by inviting keynote and plenary speakers from equity-seeking groups. Our conference themes, when they are thematic, have been welcoming to musical decolonization. We, as a board are discussing how we might re-purpose the Beckwith Fund to assist graduate students who identify as coming from marginalized or racialized cultural backgrounds to succeed in an environment that has
historically and systematically relegated them to a position of disadvantage. The last published issue of Intersections, (Vol 39, No. 1) was dedicated to interrogating the very ways in which music education and pedagogy could be decolonized in Canada. It included an open letter—an injunction, a call to action, an accusation, and a set of instructions—by Dylan Robinson, whose transformative monograph Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies (2020) continues to reverberate across disciplinary boundaries and unsettle the foundations of music studies in Canada. Robinson’s letter is a form of “direct address” at all of us, to amplify IBPOC voices in our community, to urgently enact structural change through nine actionable pathways for change.
As a white cis-gendered male whose academic voice has become channelled towards making decolonization work in Canadian music more centred, I am well weary of the dangers of performative allyship. So must our society be. Our Board needs far better representation from IBPOC members of the scholarly community of music researchers and performers in Canada. Our journal needs to continue to reflect the urgent needs for structural transformation of music studies in Canada
as we painfully move along paths towards equity and reciprocity. We are in a moment of acute organizational transformation, and the time is right for MusCan to take on a leadership role as a society that accords responsibility and accountability as a key part of its core mandate in fostering music studies in Canada.
Jeremy Strachan, Treasurer