Create scholarship fund and award B.M. degree for Austin bombing victim Draylen Mason

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On the 12th of March 2018, Double Bassist and East Austin College Prep senior Draylen Mason was killed by a terrorist’s bomb in Austin, Texas. While only seventeen years of age, Draylen devoted his life to the pursuit of music: he was the Bassist at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Principal Double Bass at Austin youth Orchestra, and Principal Bassist at Austin Soundwaves, and had even applied to study at the Oberlin conservatory of Music as a member of the class of 2022.

This past Friday we found out he had been accepted.

While the majority of the targets were people of color, and while the bomber was a conservative white Christian male, the investigating agencies have yet to uncover the exact reason why he targeted who he did.

What we do know is that Oberlin and its students have a rich history in the fight against inequality and racism in the United States. Our college played a role in the Underground Railroad; one of the earliest Obies, Mary Jane Patterson, broke gender and racial barriers by getting her bachelor’s degree; and Oberlin students spent their summers and winter terms working to register voters with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party during the Freedom Summers.

And yet, we also know that people of color continue to be appallingly underrepresented in the musical arts. A student who was clearly up for the challenge, Draylen would have been entering the world of music without many mentors who look like him. His entry into musical academia would in itself be a radical action, and for his sake, and for those who are put off by the lack of representation, this needs to change.

As a proud Oberlin Conservatory Alumnus, and person of color in the arts industry, I call on the Oberlin Conservatory of Music to recognize Draylen Mason and his family’s struggle by awarding him a Posthumous Bachelor of Music Degree. But most importantly, I challenge them to set up a fully funded scholarship in his name (with the permission of his family) for people of color to attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, continuing our institution’s role in changing the status quo around race in our profession, and our country.


Joshua Blue

Oberlin Conservatory of Music Class of 2016