I’M BETTER THAN YOU!: The Elitist Mentality Of Music Educators

2017 is not done with us yet! JUST when we thought we had braved the worst of this miserable year and had finally reached the home stretch where nothing other than Russian investigations and sexual assault stories were going on… This happened:


To be fair to Mr. Hilliard, someone who I’ve garnered a lot of respect for over the years, the context of his statements are not adequately represented here. The questions that were asked or the full conversation that was had (without editing) is not represented in the video. I would love to sit down with Mr. Hilliard and hear an explanation of his comments. However, the overall understanding of the video, as published, is “troubling” to say the least. Surely, a music educator of Quincy Hilliard’s stature would not be so limited in his understanding of marching band to purposely make such vague and generalized statements as witnessed in this video.

I’ll address a few of Mr Hilliard’s more controversial statements:

Q. Hilliard: “A Majority of the black schools are doing more of a dance (Southern or Grambling type style) marching.” 

I guess I’ll start with “dance marching”. Mr. Hilliard, there is no style of march defined as “dance marching”. There are several styles of which I detailed in this article. I highly recommend you review it. The style that I believe you are referring to is known as “Big 10 Style” and/or “Traditional Style”. It involves a knee lift as opposed to the rolling of the feet in Corp marching. I was baffled at how little you seemed to know about Traditional Style but you possess such a negative opinion about EVERY band within the style. I would suggest that you not paint every band with the same brush. In my 17 years of doing this, I’ve seen great Traditional programs and great Corp programs. I’ve also seen bad Traditional bands and bad Corp bands. I’ve never understood why the elite minded people in our profession always box EVERY “black” program into one box like they are all the same. However Corp programs enjoy the freedom to “suck independently”… If one corp band is trash it has no effect on every other band that marches the style. If one Traditional band is horrible, in the eyes of people like you, they are all horrible… every last one.

Q. Hilliard: Those kids don’t play that well. So they couldn’t get into my university if they tried.”  

So I assume you are saying all students in “black bands” don’t play well. This is the most insane thing I’ve read since the last Trump tweet. How did you assess the musicianship of every kid in every black band? What measure did you use?  Surely someone of your significance and importance to music education would not make such a blanketed statement. Mr. Hilliard, What makes you think students from traditional programs can not attend “your university” if they tried? I’m sure your comments were very upsetting to those students who fit that description:



 Q. Hilliard: “There’s nothing that’s keeping them back except, them being taught (if you’re going to be in a predominantly black situation) if they taught the correct skills and proper tone and technique, of which I try to tell them, instead of being able to only go to two universities they will have the entire gambit to audition for and go to.” 

Mr. Hilliard, I know you have colleagues and students who are directors and/or faculty members at schools you describe as “black situations”. Are you saying these people are not teaching their students basic musicianship? The theory, ear training, history, and form taught to majors at HBCUs is somehow lesser than what’s taught at PWIs? When these former students pass their state mandated certification exams to become educators like you and I, do they STILL not measure up to your lofty expectations? What about when they go on to graduate programs at schools that aren’t “predominately black situations” is it then that they have proven themselves in your eyes?

Q. Hilliard: “I don’t think, in the band world, that I can remember any publisher ever discriminating against me. If they didn’t want my piece of music it was because they didn’t think it was going to make them any money… And they do everybody like that… black and white by the way.”

This statement by itself, is totally legitimate. But in the context in which you are using it, it becomes deeply concerning. You seem to suggest that no discrimination against minorities exists in music publishing. That’s a heck of a suggestion to throw out there considering studies have proven discrimination exists within most american institutions in some form. Your thinking seems to be the mindset of those individuals that don’t believe something happens just because it has never happened to them…  For example, there is no police brutality against minorities because it has never happened to me. I am truly glad that you have never experienced discrimination in any form as a minority composer/arranger. However, just because you’ve never been discriminated against does not mean it doesn’t happen.

Mr. Hilliard you are an accomplished composer/arranger. I’ve played your material on several occasions and have become a fan of your work. However, I can not stand by quietly as you unjustly belittle and insult an entire group of music educators and students. In good conscious, I can no longer support your business until a full apology is given for the devastating comments you delivered against many hardworking music educators and their hardworking students in “predominantly black situations”. You seem to not prefer the traditional style of march, and that’s perfectly fine, everyone is entitled to their own tastes and opinions. However, negatively labeling an entire group of music educators and students as musically inept is wrong. As a rule we should refrain from projecting generalizations on an entire group without data to support the claims we make. As a businessman I’m sure you would agree that it’s not good business.


Reply to the interview from Dr. Nathan B. Haymer – Dir. of Bands Southern University

“My first thoughts were to let this issue slide, then I thought about what I owe The African-American community in the position that I hold. Especially when you have a professor teaching ignorance at an institution of higher education. Here you have an African-American composer that works at a predominantly white institution downing Southern University and Grambling State University, two places that he has no knowledge of by defining our Marching style as “dance march”. Dr. Hilliard, Our Marching Style Is traditional, which is The American Marching style. Corps style originated in Europe. Furthermore, America has been “white washed” They taught us how to hate ourselves and the only way to have credibility and validity is to go through them. Music, the major scale system and minor scale system, the pentatonic scale, and the piano was all invented in Africa. Jazz is also a black invention, now you have white people, who initially hated it and said it wasn’t real music, teaching it to us. I thank God that I went to an HBCU. It is important that we support each other because SOME blacks in predominantly white institutions are taught to turn their nose up at us. This is why I do not go to their workshops and festivals. I can’t play their game. These are same institutions that profits hundreds of millions of dollars a year off of our athletes. Dr. Hilliard goes on to state that most students in predominately black high schools in the state of Louisiana cannot make it into “his“ university, which is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Tell me how much notoriety does their band have? Their marching band is mediocre and their concert bands are nothing to write home about! Yes he is a nationally known composer especially for music for young bands but his music is like steak with no seasoning. Before you attempt to down our community, Look in the mirror for the person who you really are and not what you think you are. I have ZERO respect for people like him. I have students in my band who could play circles around anyone at the university of Louisiana at Lafayette. Case closed. For the record, we have students that come from predominantly white high schools as well (I was one of them). We even have some who TRANSFERRED from “his” University.”


Published by Ernest Stackhouse

-Music Educator -Marching Band Show Design -Musical Arranger -Adjudicator -Fine Arts Administrator -Band Director -Writer

3 thoughts on “I’M BETTER THAN YOU!: The Elitist Mentality Of Music Educators

    1. This article has nothing to do with these inflammatory comments made by Mr Hilliard: “Those kids don’t play that well. So they couldn’t get into my university if they tried.”  

      “There’s nothing that’s keeping them back except, them being taught (if you’re going to be in a predominantly black situation) if they taught the correct skills and proper tone and technique, of which I try to tell them, instead of being able to only go to two universities they will have the entire gambit to audition for and go to.” 

      These comments are elitist and ignorant and he should apologize to all HBCU music programs who have supported him by playing his music when others would not.

  1. Prof Haymer was totally justified in his defense. I was shocked by Dr. Hilliard’s comments. By saying schools like Grambling and Southern, I felt as if he was referring to all HBCUs. Maybe Dr. Hilliard hasn’t experienced discrimination, but many musicians and fellow directors like myself experience have, Just last year I took my band to area marching contest and a conversation occured along the lines of “Why are they here? When did UIL become equal opportunity?” That is discrimination. I work at an inner city school with limited funding, therefore many of our students can’t afford instruments. We do what we can, buy used secondhand instruments. At the end of the day I teach and there are many just like me. We probably will never score the same as our Caucasian counterparts because they have better equipment, but I can guarantee my kids can play just as well.
    Shout out to Prof. Haymer for defending the high ideals and values that we all beleive in.


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