Alexis Ligon Holloway

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Duke U.

Grant number

Gr. 10421

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Holloway, Alexis (Duke U.) "Composing Whiteness: Visuality, Racial Hierarchies, and Classical Music"

For me, playing music was being me. Whether it’s Mozart or Motown, it’s all just music to me.’ This quote from Melissa White, the Black first violinist for the Harlem Quartet, speaks to the lived experiences of Black classical musicians in the United States. While caught at the intersection of racial and aesthetic hierarchies, where only certain modes of cultural production and ideas of excellence are valued, Black musicians still find fulfillment and joy in playing classical music. This multi-sited ethnography investigates the underrepresentation of Black musicians in North American orchestras to understand how anti-Black racism shapes not only the profession but music itself. Approaching music as both an aesthetic/theoretical object and as a workplace, this project asks: How do color-blind racism and racialized aesthetic hierarchies coalesce on the Black body in pedagogical and performance practices? How do Black musicians grapple with the simultaneous and contradictory experience of being both invisible and hypervisible within the realm of orchestral performance? And how do Black musicians find strategies for resisting racist ideologies and structures so that they can continue to find enrichment and joy in dedicating their lives to classical music?