For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 71: Da Capo Conversations with Juhi Bansal and Brice Smith
Looking for a way to listen to diverse creators and to support equity in the arts? Tune in weekly to For Good Measure!
Today we revisit Juhi Bansal’s and Brice Smith’s perspectives on identity, culture, and music making. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Juhi Bansal and Brice Smith, check them out here and here. Parts of this episode originally premiered on February 21, 2022, on Youtube, click here and on September 20, 2021, on Youtube, click here.
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Co-Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Co-Producer and Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
With assistance from Adrienne Anaya, Hannah Chen, Sam Mason, Renata Volchinskaya
Nanette McGuinness 00:00
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists, sponsored by a grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble for These Times. In this week's episode, we continue our Da Capo Conversations, a mini-series where we'll be giving familiar segments a topical twist [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]. Today, we revisit Juhi Bansal's and Brice Smith's perspectives on identity, culture, and music-making. Here's what Juhi Bansal had to say.
Juhi Bansal 00:41
In a very, very broad sense, that like issues to do, women and girls and getting an education are things that are just always been really important to me. For the obvious reasons, I think we should all be caring about it, frankly. But also, you know, thinking about like, women in my family, and even my mom wanting to study music when she was younger, and she wasn't allowed to. And I've had cousins who are still in India and family members who wanted to pursue education and weren't allowed to. So there's like, there is a personal element to it, as well as just the obvious, of course, all girls should be given an education and given those opportunities. So one of the volunteer projects I did, this was a few years ago, there's a group with, they recently changed their name, which is why I'm hesitating, they used to be called the Bangladesh Girl Surf Club. Then it became the Bangladesh Girls and Boys Surf Club, and I think just in the last couple of months, they've actually been adopted under a larger umbrella group as well. But this was a group I got to know about through some volunteering I was doing here locally in Southern California. And, you know, this, this fascinating story about this group of girls in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, which is one of the poorest parts of Bangladesh, which is already obviously such a such a poverty stricken country. And this group of young girls, basically, they saw a lifeguard surfing on the beach one day, and they asked him to teach them how to surf. And what I loved about their story, and what I loved about kind of volunteering with the group afterwards, was that they built what started as just teaching the girls to surf turned into a school for the girls, so that they were, you know, given an education, and many of them had until that point, never gone to school. Often the girls in that community are married away at like 11 or 12 years old to much older men, the club, because of donations, because of fundraising, because they were able to give food bags and aid to the families, kind of then enabled also the girls who are not married away that early, they actually had kind of bought them literally the years to be able to go to school and be able to learn and be able to graduate. So kind of, you know, as a group I was volunteering with on and off for a couple of years, mostly through our work here in Southern California. But, you know, their stories really stuck with me. And I got to know the founders of the club's, we've had a couple of Skype calls on tiny screens with the girls and getting to hear their stories through the language barrier. And, you know, I think that's led to a couple of things. One is in just in a very broad sense, wanting to push in every way possible for girls to have a voice, that's girls as composers, that's girls to have an education, like in any way that we can talk about that and make that possible. I think I want to be doing that. More, kind of, I suppose, more specifically to your answer about how that's inspired my work as well outside of, outside of speaking about it, and outside of kind of trying to fundraise for it, we also did a musical project, I want to say last year, for the prototype festival, that was also a little digital short about that same story about the girls and about their experience and about, you know, fighting to be able to make choices and get an education.
Nanette McGuinness 04:07
Here's what Brice Smith had to say.
Brice Smith 04:11
I am an African and indigenous American flutist, educator, and activist. As a person with intersecting identities, I exist in this sort of paradox. In one light, what I perform reflects who I am, and in no way can I be separated from that art. Simultaneously, I am highly regarded in an art form not created for my identities. For example, many of the gems in the repertoire that perpetuate white supremacy are based on cultural hegemony. Whether or not I accept it, there are societal expectations for me to be an individual that bridges race and classical music. Tokenism is at once necessary for appearances. However, still, successful people of color are often not perceived as a part of the collective. The synthesis of these things has created a responsibility to liberate preconceptions of how black musicians are, and can be involved in classical music.
Nanette McGuinness 05:06
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure's Da Capo Conversations, and a special thank you to our guests for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button, and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media, and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT, our concert season online and in the Bay Area, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit us at www.e4tt.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. For Good Measure is produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times, and designed by Brennan Stokes, with special thanks to co-producer and audio engineer Stephanie M. Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure" [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS].