Participants from the Sō Percussion Summer Institute 2019
Sō Percussion is a percussion-based music organization that creates and presents new collaborative works to adventurous and curious audiences and educational initiatives to engaged students, while providing meaningful service to its communities, in order to exemplify the power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.
To create a new model of egalitarian artistic collaboration that respects history, champions innovation and curiosity, and creates an essential social bond through service to our audiences and our communities.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
Sō Percussion, Inc. is examining how our organization can further our work within Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), and advance antiracist efforts. We are programming a diverse range of voices, commissioning flexible new works, and re-imagining educational programs. We are also convening and participating in advisory groups to learn more about how we can have a positive impact on our community, industry, and art form.
Here are the initiatives the organization is currently pursuing. Some are new, some represent a continuation of ongoing projects.
- New Work Development Program – Flexible Commissions. Flexible instrumentation pieces provide a model of collaboration which removes barriers of access to performers and composers, and which encourages bringing many voices into the room. This year, Sō Percussion is commissioning Darian Thomas, Bora Yoon, and Kendall Williams as part of our New Work Development program to write new “flexible” pieces which can be premiered remotely, but which we will also perform with various groups once live concerts have returned. These pieces allow us to invite a diverse cohort of performers into the collaborative process with Sō Percussion.
- New interpretations by Sō Percussion of past works written by composers of underrepresented genders, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ identities. This includes a deep dive into the incredible work of Pauline Oliveros, a new realization and recording of Julius Eastman’s Stay On It with a range of collaborators, and many other pieces by past and living composers.
- Sō Percussion is proud to be a founding signatory to the New Music Equity Action Pledge. This commitment arises out of the work of a number of peer organizations who want to work actively against inequity, racism, and anti-Blackness in our field.
- Examining our education programs. We are permanently removing application fees for all of our festivals. In 2021 we created the Sō Percussion Collaborative Workshop, which is open to musicians of many different practices. Since the festival is all online, we employed a Pay What You Can tuition model. Also beginning in 2021, the long-running Sō Percussion Summer Institute includes BIPOC scholarships as one of its multiple scholarship opportunities.
- Re-inventing the intern program. Sō’s intern program has been restructured as a compensated program. Interns participate in a rotation of mentoring in both artistic and administrative areas. Sharing of studio space will resume once pandemic conditions subside.
- The Studio Residency Program provides space, mentor-ship, and financial support to organizations by application. This year, we are proud to have Pan In Motion, a Brooklyn-based, Black-founded non-profit, as well as Longleash as our residency partners.
- Expanding So Percussion’s Board of Directors and staff to include a more diverse range of voices. We are actively recruiting cohorts of new board members, with a commitment to adding more BIPOC members to our governing body.
- Living Land Acknowledgements: Sō Percussion convened a group of artists to participate in workshops with the Lenape Center on how to incorporate living land acknowledgements into our practices and materials.
Some terms we use:
People of Color – First popularized in the 1960’s by Black Civil Rights activists, this term is generally used to refer to anyone who does not identify as White.
BIPOC – This term is an acronym for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color”. This term originated more recently and names Black and Indigenous people in addition to People of Color, specifically, in an attempt to highlight the particularly concentrated forms of discrimination Black and Indigenous people face.
LGBTQIA+ – A common abbreviation for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Asexual and other queer-identifying community.
One of the first things any group needs is a name. When our group was founded in 1999, we cast far and wide among our friends and family for suggestions. The winner was this simple, short word offered by Jenise Treuting, Jason’s sister. Jenise has been living and working in Japan as an English-Japanese translator for 20 years. The word “Sō” was punchy, enigmatic, and memorable.
“The Sō in Sō Percussion comes from 奏, the second character in the compound Japanese word 演奏 (ensou), to perform music. By itself, so means “to play an instrument.” But it can also mean “to be successful,” “to determine a direction and move forward,” and “to present to the gods or ruler.” Scholars have suggested that the latter comes from the character’s etymology, which included the element “to offer with both hands.” 奏 is a bold, straightforward character, but lends itself to calligraphy with a certain energy that gives so a springy, delicate look.”
– Jenise Treuting