Kei Slaughter Named OneBeat Fellow

In addition to the fellowship, the music therapy faculty member recently conducted an original commissioned piece at the Pride Arts Showcase in Cincinnati.

April 14, 2023

Kei Slaughter, an associate professor in Berklee’s Music Therapy Department, has been named a OneBeat Fellow, a distinction given to leading musical and social innovators. With the honor, Slaughter joins the OneBeat 11 cohort, a group of 25 artists from 17 countries that includes musicians, instrument builders, sculptors, educators, and entrepreneurs.

Slaughter's selection for the fellowship was a notable achievement, as the 25 artists were chosen from a pool of more than 1,200 applicants. The selection theme for 2023 is “Buried Knowledge,” a concept that examines music’s role in unearthing, reviving, and celebrating hidden or suppressed histories, traditions, and cultures. Fellows will work with renowned musicians and cultural leaders such as Lonnie Holley, Carlton Tuner, and Matthew Evan Taylor to create original works that inspire deeper connection to diverse cultural heritage.

Created by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, OneBeat connects musicians from around the globe to collaboratively write, produce, and perform original music while developing strategies for arts-based civic and social engagement.

“I look forward to working alongside a host of so many amazing musicians and creative collaborators from all over the world, and learning things that I can integrate into my teaching here at Berklee and into my clinical practice as a music therapist serving marginalized communities," said Slaughter. "I also want to express my gratitude to my department chair, Dr. Joy Allen, and my music therapy colleagues here at Berklee, for their unwavering support.”

Kei Slaughter conducting their original work "ban"

Kei Slaughter conducts a flute choir through their original work, "ban," at the Pride Arts Showcase.

Vincenzo Volpe

In addition to the fellowship, Slaughter was recently commissioned to compose an original work for the Pride Arts Showcase on International Transgender Day of Visibility in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their piece, titled “ban,” was performed by queer and allied flutists from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) as part of a community celebration of art and expression. Slaughter conducted the flute choir through the performance, which served as a workshop for the piece before its official premiere this summer.

Fellow flutist Vincenzo Volpe, a D.M.A. candidate at CCM, tapped Slaughter to write a brand new piece for the Pride Arts Showcase, a cross-disciplinary event that aims to amplify the voices of transgender and nonbinary artists alongside the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. As a queer Black composer, Slaughter drew inspiration from the recent antitrans legislation they believe threatens their basic right to a safe space for authentic self-expression.

“My work 'ban' is an extension of my reflections, reactions, and relationship to the current sociopolitical climate and the blatant violence against and discarding of trans people,” said Slaughter. “As a nonbinary transmasculine person, writing this piece was very cathartic for me. The fact that it premiered on International Transgender Day of Visibility was even more special.

Vincenzo Volpe and Kei Slaughter

Kei Slaughter with Vincenzo Volpe at the Pride Arts Showcase

Vincenzo Volpe

"Our community has done very little to amplify the voices of Black and brown composers, and even less for our transgender and nonbinary siblings," said Volpe. "Considering the political climate of today, it is important now more than ever to practice social justice through our work as artists and celebrate all identities.”

While Slaughter has been a board-certified music therapist for over 12 years, their original dream was to become a pediatrician. However, with roots deeply embedded in classical flute and the spiritual songs of the New Orleans church, Slaughter could not abandon their passion for music. Music therapy proved to be a perfect match for Slaughter, who specializes in therapy for BIPOC youth, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, and survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Additionally, Slaughter is the founder of S O U L F O L K Sounds, a music and wellness practice that focuses on elevating and sustaining Black queer and trans communities.

Slaughter will be present when “ban” officially premieres at the annual National Flute Association Convention, held in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 5. The piece will be performed by the National Flute Association LGBTQ+ Flute Choir.

“Our team is incredibly proud to work with and learn alongside Professor Slaughter. We are beyond excited for them to receive this extremely well-deserved fellowship,” said Dr. Joy Allen, chair of the Music Therapy Department. “Professor Slaughter brings a wealth of experience as an educator, clinician, musician, and community leader. Furthermore, their authenticity and presence resonates with students, faculty, staff, and the greater community. Professor Slaughter has a deep understanding of music’s vital ability to give a voice to those who have been silenced and marginalized and its ability to foster hope and build community. This is reflected in their empathetic approach to music therapy, and their dedicated efforts as an advocate for the LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC communities.”

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