Aaron Paige, Ball State assistant professor of music, was surrounded by music from a young age. He started singing in the church choir, where his dad was preacher. His talent and passion for music led him to a performing arts high school and then, Cass Technical High School in Detroit.
“[Cass Technical High School] wasn't a performing arts school. It was a technical school because STEM was the new thing in the 90s and they just happen to have a very good arts program — that program prepared me,” Paige said. “I went to college for music. Then, I went to grad school for music. I spent some time in the military doing music, and here I am at Ball State teaching.”
With the support of retired Professor of Music Meryl Mantione and Associate Teaching Professor of Music Performance Yoko Shimazaki-Kilburn, Paige sent his application for the Cleveland Institute of Music’s (CIM) Future of Music Faculty Fellowship Program in April 2021. He was one of 35 people selected for the program, which aims to elevate and engage Black and Latino music educators.
The Faculty Fellowship Program is funded by the Sphinx Organization, a “social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts,” according to its website.
CIM’s Dean for Musician and Community Advancement Jerrod Price contributed to putting the program together.
"Diversity, equity and inclusion is a key part of our culture. CIM's president Paul Hogel has an extraordinary intention towards diversifying classical music,” Price said. “We saw the opportunity to address a gap [in racial diversity] and are excited to see how the fellows transform our industry.”
Paige hopes to see if the position of an administrator in either a nonprofit organization or a university is something he would be interested in.
“I just want to make sure I have the tools to lead or I have the tools to be a fantastic follower,” Paige said. “That’s ultimately what I’d like to get from this fellowship, because everybody wants to be in front and it may be my job in life that I’m a fantastic right-hand man.”
Paige encourages Ball State students to find community through expressing themselves and standing out.
“You got to turn over some rocks, you got to be courageous. I don't like saying ‘safe spaces’ anymore. I like saying ‘brave spaces,’ because I think saying that spaces are brave spurs some sort of action,” Paige said. “So, in situations where you want to express yourself, express yourself. There are people who think like you in many, many circles and sometimes, they are equally as scared to speak up, scared to stand out, scared to volunteer, and if you do it, you may encourage someone else to do it.”