Building Belonging Through Music

The Kate Pretty Lecture 2023 by Sonita Alleyne

By Matthew Moss 2min read

The Great Hall was packed out for the 2023 Kate Pretty Lecture "Building Belonging Through Music", given by Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College and Chair of the Centre for Music Performance.  The audience were treated to a performance by singer-songwriter Eliane Brechbuehl, a PhD student at the CRUK Cambridge Institute.

The Lecture was all at once personal, celebratory and challenging.  Sonita described her school days, full of eclectic music from Mozart to Funkadelic, and the narrowing that was imposed on her musical identity as a student in Cambridge where, as she put it, "there are 29 organs but you sometimes struggle to find a working drumkit". 

Music, she said, had huge power to promote wellbeing, citing a survey showing that 85% of schoolchildren said that music "made them happy".  This made it all the more important that all students could enjoy and practice "their music" at Cambridge.

The Centre for Music Performance, Sonita explained, had inclusivity at its heart - providing opportunities for music-making at every level of expertise, for every audience both town and gown, and of every kind from orchestral to grunge to gamelan. She recounted the expansive variety of activities the Centre had instigated in its first year, reported the positive testimony of participants, and sketched out some of its future work.

As Master of Jesus, she said, she had a noticeboard which displayed her 'album of the week' - with George Duke's Brazilian Love Affair (1979) among the first, and Mozart's Don Giovanni among the most recent.

Noting that the University devoted great time and attention to questions of the 'size and shape' of the institution and its financial health, she challenged us collectively to consider too the question of what we teach - in particular, whether creative practice is neglected in the curriculum.


Eli Bray singing with guitar before the lecture
Sonita Alleyne indicating a slide showing the Overture to Don Giovanni
Students and guests in the audience
Audience member with a straw hat
Simon Woolley seated on the dais
Eli Bray in the audience
A recent alumna stands with microphone to ask a question
Group shot of Sonita Alleyne, Kate Pretty, Eli Bray and Simon Woolley
Guests mingling after the lecture
Homerton music students mingling after the lecture
Sonita Alleyne talks to audience members after the lecture
Black man with hat talking to East Asian student after the lecture
Black man with dreadlocks and glasses talking to audience members after the lecture