Students in the Macaulay Honors College and Honors Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice saw “An American Triptych: Mazzoli, Davis, and Adams” at Alice Tully Hall on Friday, Oct. 22.
The highlight of the evening was a clarinet concerto written by Black composer Anthony Davis entitled, “You Have the Right To Remain Silent.” Davis won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his opera, “The Central Park Five.”
“You Have the Right to Remain Silent” is based upon Davis’ own experience with the police during a traffic stop in Boston in the mid-1970s. The concerto consists of four movements: “Interrogation,” “Loss,” “Incarceration” and “Dance of the Other.” The sound of the clarinet, contra-alto clarinet and synthesizer penetrated the walls of the auditorium. Many members of the audience likened the dissonant, yet beautiful, sharp notes of the contra-alto clarinet solo to that of a person crying. The voices of the solo instruments translated to the voices of both those suffering in the criminal justice system and those advocating for its reform.
Anthony McGill, the first African American principal orchestra member, starred in this concert as the principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic. Students after the performance were invited to speak with him, Davis and other members of the NY Philharmonic staff who coordinated this event.
“The piece did more than tell a story, it portrayed reality,” said Andrew Vargas, a freshman at Macaulay John Jay. “I never thought of classical music as a tool in bringing light to social issues until I saw this unforgettable performance.”
“It was exciting to not just hear world class artists, but to have a chance to chat with them about our shared commitment to justice, and how the arts have enabled them to share their voice with the world,” said Dr. Raymond Patton, Faculty Director of the Honors Program and Macaulay Honors College at John Jay.
The Friday night performance is one of the first in-person events that Macaulay and Honors students at John Jay attended since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This performance was the second event in a two-part series surrounding the theme of justice and the arts. On Friday, Oct. 15, students attended a panel discussion entitled “How Arts Organizations Speak Up for Justice,” with Davis, McGill and formerly incarcerated poet Ian Manuel being featured as guest speakers.
Manuel, who was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 13, discussed how poetry helped him through solitary confinement, and why the arts are crucial for advocacy within the criminal justice system. Recently, he published a book entitled “My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope, and Redemption.”
John Jay President Karol Mason, who also attended the performance, said she learned so much after hearing students reflect on what they felt the performance accomplished. The NY Philharmonic has since invited students to submit reflections regarding the performance in an effort to continue organizing such partnership events.
Eyhdi Osorio, another first-year Macaulay student, observed the performance as one “filled with a wide range of emotions that fostered strength, power, and determination — determination to be heard and fight against injustice.”