This is the second installment in Learning from Difference, a five-part series on diversity at Harvard.
James Mathew ’21 enrolled at Harvard for many reasons, but being part of a class with no racial or ethnic majority has turned out to be one of the most powerful dimensions of his campus experience.
That recognition prompted him to form 21 Colorful Crimson, a musical group of 21 freshmen of diverse backgrounds and gifts.
“The most important piece of our name is ‘Colorful,’” said Mathew, who is from Hinsdale, Ill., and serves as the group’s president. “It’s truly amazing, the diversity we have.”
Mathew got a first look at how talented his classmates were during orientation week’s freshman talent show. Several performers kept in touch, meeting up for casual jam sessions in the Yard and for meals in Annenberg, where they’d tap out beats on the table.
“It was all casual,” said Mathew. “But I thought, ‘If it works so well when it’s informal, why don’t we make it formal?’”
Over winter break, he formalized his idea with a mission statement. Students sent in audition videos, and 21CC was assembled in February. The group performs a mix of covers and originals, with hopes of eventually recording an album of their own material.
Members have turned their diversity into a strength, said Jenny Baker, a singer from York, Maine, who is enrolled in Harvard’s dual degree program with Berklee College of Music.
“Music is universal and it has no boundaries,” she added. “Everyone in the group has different perspectives and different talents, and when we come together, it’s incredible.”