Ezra Haugabrooks is now in his fourth year as the Atlanta University Center Symphony Orchestra conductor, and he has a vision to continue to push Black musicians forward.
On Dec. 17 at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center on the campus of Morehouse College, Haugabrooks led an ensemble composed of multiple local high school talent who sight-read music for the AREA Atlanta winter dance recital. He had to use high schoolers because the college students were in different states on Christmas break.
After the recital, Haugabrooks spoke to rolling out about his mission.
How did you get this current role?
I’ve been doing this for a long time. I met one of the teachers here at a gig. He referred me for the job because of my enthusiasm and my energy level. This is what it takes, it’s not an easy place to build anything, mostly because it requires a great sacrifice. The sacrifices, the time, because there is a lot of time necessary to build programs like this. You’re investing in people, people need to know it doesn’t take five minutes, it can take years to get the most out of them. You got to give them all you have.
That’s what I’ve been doing here, is giving my best. That’s the way you build a program. Somebody’s students have played here, will come to school here, that’s what it’s about. It’s the investment of time that brings people back and keeps them in Atlanta.
Speaking of sacrifices and building a program, a lot of people have been talking about Deion Sanders leaving an HBCU for the University of Colorado. What has it been like for you to deal with the resources you have at the AUC?
The interesting thing about being at an HBCU is we can complete each other. There is no need to compete. Those differences in words are so important.
I think other institutions that are PWIs, they fight because they can. They have huge endowments, and that’s their whole thing. But for us, Morehouse can complete Clark, Clark can complete JSU, JSU can complete Howard, why do we need to compete? It’s not like us to do that.
I think what Deion Sanders did for JSU was show that I’m here to show completion. He gave his salary, he gave his time, he brought in his friends, he brought exposure, and he completed. Now, they just have to take that and run with it. Same here, we don’t have all we need, but we have each other. That’s more than enough resources. The human is the resource first. Everything else comes after. Money, accolades, that’s nice. But what’s first? You, I. The us, the we, the melanated mind, that’s the most important resource.