By now you’ve heard the heartbreaking news that Draylen Mason, a preternaturally gifted classically trained bass player, was killed by the Austin bomber who eventually also blew himself up. Now CNN has reported that another African American classically trained musician, Joshua Blue, has begun a petition to create a music scholarship at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where Mason had been accepted and from which Blue graduated.
“[Draylen] would’ve gone on to be a mentor to the people that will come after him,” Blue told CNN.
As an African American classical musician, Blue says he understands the hurdles Mason had to leap over to succeed. He wants to make it possible for other people of color to pursue the musical arts, he is quoted as saying in the CNN piece, hence the scholarship effort.
According to CNN, Oberlin has yet to agree to the scholarship effort. But an update from Blue on the petition site states that Mason’s family is on board.
“We have been in contact with Draylen’s family, and they have given their blessing to fully pursue the awarding of a posthumous Bachelors degree and creation of a new scholarship in Draylen’s name! This is an incredibly important step in the journey for accessibility, and visibility for black musicians at the collegiate level,” Blue writes.
By all accounts, the young man was a superior musician—perhaps a talent that comes along only every other generation, if that often. And he wasn’t just a gifted musician—he was a gifted person.
“Dray had it,” William Dick, conductor of the Austin Youth Orchestra, is quoted as saying in a heart-rending Texas Monthly tribute. “A lot of kids have the talent, a lot have the artistry, a lot have the discipline, a lot have the personality. He had it all.”
The Texas Monthly piece also notes that Mason was the only African American in the AYO symphony. It asks: “Why is it that the only black kids who seem to benefit from many of the resources around Austin’s famous creative scene are the ones with Dray’s supernatural level of talent?”
We know the words to that tune: You have to be twice as good… .
Blue, now a master’s student at New York’s elite Juilliard School, addresses the issue of underrepresentation in his online petition.
“People of color continue to be appallingly underrepresented in the musical arts. A student who was clearly up for the challenge, Draylen would have been entering the world of music without many mentors who look like him. His entry into musical academia would in itself be a radical action, and for his sake, and for those who are put off by the lack of representation, this needs to change.”
He already has more than 11,000 signatures at press time.
To add yours, go to Change.org.