Pinderhughes touts power of music at Thayer visit
Samora Pinderhughes is a Juilliard graduate currently earning his PhD in the Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry program at Harvard University. He’s also an accomplished pianist and composer who has toured with jazz great Branford Marsalis and collaborates frequently with hip-hop artist Common.
So it must have surprised some when, asked during a midday conversation with Thayer students about the greatest challenge to his creative expression, the award-winning musician said it’s not enough trust in his own ability.
“My biggest obstacle has been self-confidence,” said Pinderhughes, who visited campus Dec. 12 at the invitation of Dr. Joshua Bennett, a poet and professor of English at Dartmouth College who is also a scholar-in-residence at Thayer. Pinderhughes continued: “The mind will convince you what’s real is unreal and what’s unreal is real. The mind is crazy like that.”
Pinderhughes and Bennett began the day at the Upper School’s Monday Morning Meeting where the two engaged in conversation about the power and joy of music, the need to be “radically present” and vulnerable, and the importance of collaboration. Pinderhughes, who recently collaborated with Bennett on an upcoming album combining jazz and poetry, noted that singing makes a human being immediately vulnerable, which is also part of what makes it so special.
“I’ve never received more joy in life than by singing with other people,” said Pinderhughes, a native of the Bay Area in California. “It’s the purest example of community. Harmony means you have to listen to one another.”
Pinderhughes also performed some of his own songs during the assembly, including “Hold That Weight,” “Process,” “Kingly,” and “Holding Cell.” In “Process,” the lyrics are vivid yet haunting — Tell me / How do you name those secrets / That you never say out loud? / And why does the body see these demons, But keep me from calling out? The song “Holding Cell” is a commentary on the prison system in America and speaks to Pinderhughes’ role as an activist for prison reform. He created The Healing Project, a multimedia effort where Pinderhughes interviewed more than a 100 people to understand how they’ve found healing from what the artist calls “structural violence” in its various forms.
“There are so many ways that people are healing themselves and their community,” he said.
Pinderhughes and Bennett followed the morning assembly with a “Deeper Dive Session” later in the day. Students from Jazz Combo, Law & Society, and Global Scholars classes asked questions and heard candid answers in a more relaxed setting. There, Bennett echoed Pinderhughes’ call to walk that line between authentic confidence and a brash cockiness that is in many ways a false face. The accomplished poet and professor told students that at one point in his life, an all-or-nothing approach led him to believe that if he wasn’t the star, then he was somehow failing. Luckily, Bennett said, that worldview is no longer the case for him.
“It’s an adventure,” he said of the artist’s life. “Build little victories for yourself every day.”
Thayer Academy’s Scholar-in-Residence Program was created to “bring the world to Thayer,” part of efforts to develop curricula and training around critical communication and leadership skills that students need to navigate a changing global landscape.