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Furman Engaged: Exploring the Black experience in classical music

Kayla Moses ’24 will be presenting “Classical Music and the Black Experience” during Furman Engaged.

Last updated March 23, 2023

By Furman News

Kayla Moses ’24 has been playing the flute since sixth grade.

“When I was young, I saw a commercial on TV with someone playing the flute,” Moses said, “and I said, ‘That’s the instrument I want to play.’”

Studying the instrument at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and playing in the Furman Symphonic Band, the flutist came to appreciate the community that music creates for performers as well as listeners. But Moses, who was the only person of color in the Symphonic Band’s flute section when she joined, also knew that not everyone shares equally in that community.

“Anybody who has studied music has recognized the disparities that exist within the classical music community,” Moses said, “not just in not having access to certain things but also having to work harder to be accepted or feeling isolated being the only person of color.”

Isolation and Optimism

Those disparities are the focus of “Classical Music and the Black Experience,” the short documentary Moses, a Japanese studies major from Florence, South Carolina, will present on April 14 during the 15th annual Furman Engaged, a day dedicated to highlighting diverse and immersive learning experiences.

Moses worked on the documentary during a digital storytelling course led by Mary Sturgill.

“Kayla’s story shows the importance of having inclusive spaces,” said Sturgill. “No change is ever going to take place until light is shed on the subject. So, it’s stories like hers that need to be told, and what better place to start than in a storytelling class?”

Moses interviewed some of her fellow musicians, including Taryn Marks ’23 and Xavier Johnson ’24. Each had unique experiences, but common themes emerged.

Xavier Johnson ’24, drum major for the Paladin Regiment Marching Band, in a scene from "Classical Music and the Black Experience," a documentary by Kayla Moses '24.

Xavier Johnson ’24, drum major for the Paladin Regiment Marching Band, in a scene from “Classical Music and the Black Experience,” a documentary by Kayla Moses ’24.

“Being at Furman can be pretty isolating as a student of color already, but (especially) when you’re in the music community,” Johnson, who plays saxophone in the Symphonic Band and is the drum major for the Paladin Regiment Marching Band, said in the film.

Love and Music

For the musicians, that bright side includes the power of music to unite diverse people.

“We love music so much that we want to play it,” Marks said in the film. “That’s what ties us together.”

Marks, who wants to advocate for composers in marginalized communities as a music professor, concluded “Classical Music and the Black Experience” with a call to action.

“The ultimate goal is justice for all, making sure that everyone has a space, everyone is included, and there isn’t hatred in the world,” she said in the documentary. “No matter what occupation we’re in, we need to keep pushing for that. Love and music bind us together.”

Furman Engaged and Clearly Furman: The Campaign for Our Third Century

We’re excited to connect the 15th Annual Furman Engaged with our campaign launch to amplify and showcase all that our students work toward during the year, and how deserving they are of our support. Join us for this signature event and others April 13-15 as we feature the best that Furman has to offer. Learn more at

Furman Engaged: April 14

Furman Campaign Launch Weekend: April 13-15

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Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy