"I'm Possible" | Reviewed by Joan Kletzker
The title of the book “I’m Possible,” by Richard Antoine White, is a clever play on the word “impossible.” It is impossible that someone who lived on the Baltimore streets would become the first African-American to earn a PhD. in music for tuba performance. It is impossible that someone who struggled in school would be responsible for rescuing the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.
Richard Antoine White is “possible” because he did the “impossible.” His grandparents rescued him from the Baltimore streets where he’d lived with his mother until she disappeared. He almost died looking for her in a blizzard. He then lived with his grandparents. Life was different and difficult. He had structure, rules, chores and responsibility. Sometimes his mother would just appear, but her visits were sporadic and erratic.
Looking for an outlet, he and his friend joined the band. A light went on and he became “impossibly” talented with music and the tuba. He was accepted to the Baltimore School for the Arts, graduating with honors. He was accepted to the Peabody Conservatory of Music and finished his post-graduate work at Indiana University. He played professionally for the NMSO and is now the principal tuba musician for the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and teaches tuba and euphonium at the University of New Mexico.
As he navigated school and thrived with his music, White faced the socioeconomic/racial realities of being one of very few people of color in his programs. He was an angry youth, but he matured into an adult who made a change. He asked the Dean at Peabody why they didn’t have a jazz program, and eventually the Peabody expanded their horizons and added more music programs. When the NMSO ended in bankruptcy, he and the other musicians were able to resurrect it for a brief time. White relates his story in this insightful book, as he looks backward to Baltimore and forward to the future.
White knows he never could have done this alone. He remains grateful for the help he received from teachers, professors, family and friends. He was constantly pushed to do more: rehearse this way, take on that challenge, keep a journal, become business savvy. White was humbled by the attention and help he received. In addition to his career, he is a motivational speaker, a mentor and a teacher who loves what he does.
This is a story of persistence, perseverance and being “possible.” It also is a reminder that we all can help each other along the way.