Cathryn McGill

Featuring a moving performance of “Amazing Grace” with pianist John Rangel, Cathryn McGill shares how the inspirational song helps overcome unconscious bias.

AIRED: February 01, 2020 | 0:27:17

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

This project is supported in part by New Mexico arts,

a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the

National Endowment for the Arts.

Art works.

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>>Megan Kamerick: Cathryn McGill thank you for joining us on


>>Cathryn McGill: Thank you for having me.

>>Kamerick: Why is Amazing Grace particularly important for you

>>McGill: Music is the part of every part of my life,

every joy, and every sorrow, and I know that,

that when I'm able to allow my soul to sing,

that it naturally is going to heal me.

Going to church, like, was always just a part of what we

did, and my mother was a very, I think, that if I could say

I knew somebody who is a true Christian, my mother was.

Ruby Carter, she was a teacher, she was raising

five kids on a teacher's salary, but she always

found ways to give back and to try to teach us how

to be good people, and how to do the right think when

nobody's looking, and I remember that Amazing

Grace was kind of the soundtrack of our lives.

Like we go to church, and deacons of the deaconess

would be singing acapella, this song Amazing Grace.

So, I'd learned it when I was, I heard it from the

time I knew that there was music, I knew that song.

>>Kamerick: Can you tell us about the history of the song?

>>McGill: John Newton, who was the captain of a slave

ship, the coast of Sierra Leone, was transporting

people who were enslaved, and he had this

transformation, and he wrote the story of that

transformation in Amazing Grace when he said, "I was

blind, but now I see."

When he looked into the faces of people who were

considered to be chattel, property, they were not

considered to be human, they were actually listed as cargo.

And when you look into someone's eyes, if you say this

is a real person, and I can't no longer view them as chattel.

I was blind and now I see.

And so, that story has significant metaphors for

our lives, of like, what are we blind about, you

know, what if we take a deeper look, will we see?

>>Kamerick: His story is interesting because it

took him a while to make that change.

>>McGill: It took him a while, and it takes some

of us a while to make those changes, I'm still

trying to make lots of changes that I'd like to

make, but, you know, he got there, and his getting there

tells us that it's possible for everybody to do that.

>>Kamerick: And, how is Amazing Grace about our

daily interactions?

>>McGill: It is about being in a situation that

you, you look at and you start to say, it isn't

what it seems just on the surface.

When I go deeper, when I look further, when I look

beyond people's imperfections, to their

heart and to their intent, I can offer them a

compassion, I can offer them that love that might

not be possible otherwise.

>>Kamerick: What is mental image editing and why is

that important?

It sounds like you're doing a little of that.

>>McGill: Yeah, you know, and I think, like, so,

when I look at you, like I might have some

impressions about, well who is this woman sitting

in front of me with the, you know, beautiful pink

blouse and, you know, great smile and beautiful voice.

But I might have some things that I, that I'm

bringing with me, those sorts of things, well you

know, you have to think these things about, you

know, this woman, she's a white woman.

What does that mean?

I'm a black woman.

When you see me, what does that mean?

If somebody's walking down a dark street and you see a

young black man walking up behind you, what does that mean?

So, in your head you have this image of what that

means, and who that person is that may be completely

erroneous and in most cases is, and so if you

take the time to say, I want to evaluate people on

an individual basis, I don't want to bring with

me something somebody told me that I should think

about them, and so, I want to like, you know, figure

out how I remove those stereotypes, and remove

those things that I've been told that I have to

think, and really just look at the person.

If you don't like me because you think that I

am not a good person, I'm so okay with that, but if

it's because you think that because of the color

of my skin that makes me inferior, then we got a problem.

>>Kamerick: But it can also be something positive?

>>McGill: It can be something positive, it's

totally something positive and I think that's the way

we want to look at it to say, because what it is,

is that introspection that we all I think have to

engage in to say okay, let me evaluate this, is this

really what's happening or did I bring in some other

stuff to this that I need to remove from the situation.

What's my lens in this particular situation?

Is it the, the Course in Miracles talks about, you

know, the thing is never really the thing, you know?

What we believe is based on something that we've

been told, so evaluate that in every situation I think,

and it's a daily, minute by minute, hour by hour challenge.

>>Kamerick: As individuals, how can we

come to this realization?

>>McGill: I think you just have to say, stipulate

that it is happening even in this moment, as you're

looking at me, as you're looking at any other person

in your life, you're doing it in every single moment.

So, you also have the ability to undo it, if you

are conscious, if you become aware of those

areas in your life where your unconscious racism,

or your unconscious sexism, is affecting other

people, then you're required, I think, to say,

I'm going to take a look at it, and I can, you

know, I have that ability.

>>Song: Amazing grace!

How sweet the sound, that saved and set me free.

I was, was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.

Through many, many dangers, toils, and

snares, I have already, I've already come, I've

already come, 'tis grace hath brought me safe,

brought me safe thus far, and I know grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand, ten thousand

years, bright shining, bright shining as the sun.

We've no, no less days to sing, to sing and praise

than when we'd first begun.

Amazing Grace!

Amazing Grace!






I've always painted, I've always drawn, I've always

told stories, but I've gotten into narrative painting

and portraiture, more so in the last seven or eight years.

I, kind of, made it my mission to try and bring

narratives of people who look like me, more into my work.

What's wrong with advocating for more of

your stories being told.

Like, that's always the weird thing, people would

be like, "what's the wrong I'm doing by saying I want

to see more black people on my TV screen, I want to

see more people on paintings, I want to see

more black people everywhere." In everything

because I act in a world where I see black people

every day and, like, you do to.

Being black is, like, only part of the experience

when you're getting to know me.

Like, you know, my blackness is just, like,

the first thing you're notice.

I know who I am, I know that I'm, like an African

American, heterosexual, cisgendered male who

exists in a world that has socially constructed ideals.

So why not place those ideals and challenge those

ideals in my work.

We usually are always pitting ourselves up against a

white standard that was never built for us to exist in.

That trail has already been laid for white males

to walk through fairly easily.

And if you don't fit into that subject or that

theme, you have to either assimilate to that or you

have to challenge that system.

I was reading this book, talking about the history

of the black image through cartoons and, kind of,

made me investigate, like, other identities, like

kind of, how we perceived people of color throughout

our entire lives through the lens of cartoons,

comic book strips, and it's, kind of, built these

stereotypes out of these fun images, or playful images.

But I also latched onto the symbol of the coloring

book, now, how in our millennial age adult

coloring books are a thing.

And so, because we are introduced to color in

general through a coloring book as a child, but now

color is being expressed to us as adults as this

thing to build your brain.

You can build through learning how to color.

But in our society now, color is an issue, still.

And nobody wants to build their brain to understand

color on a social context.

So, by me, placing color people of color in these

coloring book pages with these images that are

stereotypical images, right.

So I place the stereotypical images in

there with them and it kind of builds this world

that they exist in.

This world that doesn't exist.

It's a world where we're understanding color as

adults, you know, in the literal sense but not

understanding the people Of color today.

So, my role as an artist is taking you into that world.

It's like my grand hall of oppression because I want

you to feel the way I do.

Being of color in this world is, like, a gift and a curse

because you love yourself, you love your identity,

but the world doesn't necessarily love you back.


Why you gotta be so cruel

- When you walk the halls at DIME you hear incredible music.

- You feel the music industry.

Da da da da da da da

Most places measure success in music by complication.

So more complicated music is better than simple music.

But in the music industry it's the reverse.

Detroit has got the best musical bones of anywhere

in the world.

So the chance to build a college here was an amazing thing.

In 2001 in England we built five colleges there,

so that young people had an academic path into the

music industry that valued modern music at the same

level as traditional music.

We really wanted to help young, modern musicians,

entrepreneurs and songwriters understand how

the business of music works, and that was really

the motivation about setting up DIME.

DIME is different because it focuses on the

contemporary music industry.

A lot of universities you'll study, like one

track you'll do a classical track or a jazz track.

DIME is more fit for students who wanna do pop

music or anything along those lines of being in

the contemporary music industry.

Much better, okay?

It's just amazing how like when you really like get

into it, like as far as your character, how much

that helps the voice.

What you get at DIME is the real deal.

What it's really like every day, and how you

also have to have entrepreneurial skills to

survive in today's industry.

And we want young people to understand it's not

just about playing guitar in your bedroom or being

the next Beyonce, there's everything between.

There will be some singers who realize they're not as

good as some of the other people in their class, and that's okay.

Think how you can find your path in the music industry.

And it doesn't mean that you will never sing again,

it just means that you might do something else as

your primary source of income and that will allow

you to continue your singing passion.

Okay good, very good.

Now, as we go...

Do ti la Just make sure we have a nice blended sound.

All right?

Most of our faculty members, if not all,

they're all practicing musicians.

And so we're all familiar with what it takes to have a career,

have your nine to five, and also pursue this dream.

When I leave class, most of the times on the

weekend I'm going to the airport to catch a flight

to go do a one off or a tour date with one of the

artists that I work with.

So I'm able to bring that experience back to the

classroom Monday morning, and that's one of the

things that separates DIME and makes it unique.

The degree that DIME students get is a bachelor

of arts in commercial music performance or

commercial songwriting, or music industry studies,

and the degrees are awarded through

Metropolitan State University of Denver.

If you're a performance major you'll take a class

that's called Live Performer's Workshop,

where you have to learn a different song each week.

In Songwriting, they take classes like Lyric

Writing, Foundations of Song Writing, Writing for Artists.

And then for Music Industry Studies, some of

their main classes are like Domestic Music

Market, International Music Market, Politics of

A&R, Establishing an Artist.

So just kind of like getting a feel for different aspects

of being behind the scenes and not being on stage.

We want students in their first week, when they

enroll in the program, to feel like they've already

entered the music industry.

So it was really important to build a building that

feels inspiring, that's full of music, that has

vintage and new equipment everywhere that students

can trial and test.

>>Eric: We don't have classrooms, we have studios.

So when we go in the studio we're working,

we're vibing, we're collaborating.

We often describe DIME like a development deal.

So we say during your four years, come here and make

all your mistakes.

Use DIME, the program and your academic studies to

figure out who you wanna be so when you graduate

you're gonna get that job that you want.

Yeah, come on.

There we go.

Funky drummer.

I try to be relentless at making sure I empower them

to know that you can make music, you can turn this

music into a passion and make it a career.

>>Sarah: It's really important for us to open

our doors to the city, and we wanted DIME to feel

like anyone in the city is welcome in these four walls.

>>Kevin: We saw the basement here and because

I'm from like deep jazz world we modeled this on

Charlie Parker's club.

That kinda speak easy, open door attitude about

there's music going on here and anyone can walk

in off the street.

All our events are free, and if someone enjoys a

show we have a student scholarship fund, they can

put a couple of bucks in to say thank you.

Because we are the Detroit Institute of Music Education

we're taking that tagline all round the world with us.

So we have now just built a college in Denver, it's

called DIME Denver, but it's powered by the

Detroit Institute of Music Education.

So we are trying to fly the flag for all Detroit

performers, within Detroit and also outside of

Detroit, and tell the world what an incredibly

talented city this is.

>>Kevin: And, we've also got DIME Online, which is

in 23 countries right now.

And that's also powered by Detroit.

It's also powered by Detroit.

One of our mottoes is like simple done well, so being

able to really take on a song and communicate it to

the point where it just feels like you're just

having a good time and you're really like

touching the person with your music.

You have all of these tools in your tool bag but

you make it look effortless.

And so I think that that is one of the things that

we try to get across here at DIME.

You're here by my side


[Music and Chanting]

>>Sandy: With ceremony and reverence, the Tibetan monks of

the Drepung Loseling Monastery prepare the sand

that will become an intricately crafted mandala of

ancient spiritual symbols and geometric patterns.

[Music and chanting]

>>Sandy: Created over 3 days, the mandala's design

promotes peace and healing.

[Music and chanting]

>>Sandy: Just as important as its creation, the ritual of

destroying the sand mandala is a reminder of the impermanence of

life, and the blessings to those that have

experienced its beauty.

[Music and chanting]


COLORES PROGRAMS GO TO: New Mexico PBS dot org and

look for COLORES under What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

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