President’s Leadership Council: Dr. Jason Oby, Texas Southern University

What are you hoping to accomplish as a member of the President’s Leadership Council?

The students at TSU are often the first in their families to attend college. Furthermore, if they come from college educated families, it is often seen as vocational rather than as a means to broaden the student in an existential way.  That being the case, music is valued, but not as a viable venue for college study.  Being a part of the MDG PLC helps me to take a direct part in freeing the most talented students at TSU from the ongoing burden of finances as a barrier between them and their musical education.

Did music impact you as a child…in what way?

Like many, and particularly those in the African American community, my strongest influences in music were introduced to me in church. As a member of the African Episcopal Church, the musical tradition was rich.  We sang great anthems and hymns. There was a gentleman in the church choir named B.J. Wailes who was a great influence on me.  He had sung as a soloist in the Negro Opera Company of Detroit. As a teen, I was impressed by him and his wife.  They were both very distinguished and elegant people. In my later high school years, I was further influenced by my high school choir director, Cecile Richinse, a former nun who encouraged me to go to college as a music major at Loyola University in New Orleans. I went on to Manhattan School of Music in NYC where my teacher was Adele Addison, I was so naïve that I didn’t know that she had been one of the most famous and influential African American singers of era.  That relationship with her continues until today.  She is currently 91 years old.

What’s your favorite story of how music has had a positive impact on the life of a child?

Going all the way back to when I was an elementary school student, I can remember singing and the power that singing had over people. I recall a specific occasion wherein I was singing Oh Shenandoah in front of an assembly of some sort in the auditorium. I was a boy soprano. Although I didn’t understand the power completely, I could feel the connection between me and the audience. I knew that they were transfixed. That was the day that I understood that music has the power to heal, to move, and to soothe.

How do you think music can help the next generation?

On a practical level, I think that music should be integrated into curricula on every level.  Science has already determined that music effects the brain in fundamental ways. It can be a tool for learning other subjects.  Also, there is so much work going on with music therapy working with victims of all kinds of diseases.  The Arts should take their rightful place along with the sciences as a viable, fundamental part of comprehensive learning.

What are you excited about that’s coming up in the PLC’s future?

Everybody knows that governmental funding for Music and other Arts programming is dwindling. The PLC is filling a much-needed void spreading assistance to deserving students through its concerts and other fund raising activities.

Why is the work of the PLC important to Houston’s future?

The overall impact of Music Doing Good is not completely known.  Of course, there is the immediate impact that comes from the funding of scholarships to deserving students.  Down the road, the impact that these students will make as performers, teachers and leaders in the music community for generations is immeasurable.