Alicia Waller is a soprano from Northern Virginia and master’s candidate at Gallatin. At NYU, her research focuses on cultural diplomacy, which she uses to identify creative ways for classically trained musicians to facilitate intercultural understanding that transcends national, cultural, and social boundaries. She received her undergraduate degree in vocal performance from the University of Maryland at College Park. She was a 2015 finalist in the National Council of Negro Women Voice Competition and recipient of a Stringer Foundation Performing Arts Scholarship and a Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship.
At Gallatin, I’ve come to understand decolonization as the act of undoing detrimental and systemic societal norms that stem from our world’s complex colonial past. I have also learned that decolonization and I have something in common—I’d like to un-do some stuff too. In classical music, we follow a tonal system that was established by 16th-century European men and, centuries later, still adhere to the structural forms and techniques they created. This feat alone is proof of the tradition’s value and beauty. But there are many equally enthralling systems of sound from other parts of the world that merit the attention of the globally dominant West. I am determined to sing them. How can representations and enjoyment of music in Western culture be more inclusive and reflective of the diversity of our world? How can we evolve music diplomacy and cultural diplomacy so that they are even more collaborative and further reaching? Lastly, how can we decolonize classical music and the classical voice?