Joseph Hallman, Composer

Sunday Sunday Sunday. Join us! cocktails after!
Jan 18

Sunday Sunday Sunday. Join us! cocktails after!

Dec 29
Go check out the new site! ;)
Dec 12

Go check out the new site! ;)

Nov 6


That one time when cellists claimed their rightful place in music history…

Alisa Weilerstein performing for POTUS, and his crew. 

fresh…well not-so fresh… pieces from days of yore.  Bunch of earlier works, including all the cello musics.  enjoy!

Aug 29
new (sorta) music!!!
Kundera  (Taken with Instagram)
Jul 18

Kundera (Taken with Instagram)

Jul 14
check out Composers Circle.  I am today’s composer. one day. one composer. one discovery.
Jul 9

check out Composers Circle.  I am today’s composer.

one day. one composer. one discovery.

Antilovelovesongs  (Taken with Instagram)
Jul 8

Antilovelovesongs (Taken with Instagram)

Sister Jay.

Jacinto Grant has been at the Attic Youth Center for five years as its Director of Intake.  He can’t remember if it was seven or eight years that he served as a volunteer at the organization.  It was during his tenure as a volunteer, administering free HIV tests at the Attic, that I met him.  Obviously, this is a delicate process and can be a fraught one.  Jay, as nearly everyone calls him, swabbed the inside of my cheek with a long cotton swab.   This was a new testing procedure, the OraQuick test.   He was enthusiastic about its application in this setting; urban, low-income, and a majority of black men who have sex with men (MSM) could learn their status in a single visit and be connected to care immediately.  “One consequence of the disparity between same-sex identity and behavior can be inaccurate assessment of risk: If people who identify as straight stereotype HIV as a gay issue, they may not see themselves at risk, regardless of their behavior”. (Myrick, 1999, p.163)  He projected a sensitive and caring demeanor- it did little to abate my anxiety at that time, but I do remember his warmth.

            Roughly ten years later, Jay sits across from me in his small and cramped office in the double converted row home in the posh Rittenhouse Square area.  He sits at his desk chair, a black swivel turned towards me.  My chair is a deep and low black fabric one with steel frame, a fairly common institutional chair.  It is mid-March and a balmy day at 80 degrees and sunny.  He wears neutral toned preppy clothes that fit him well enough to see that he is a fit man, not muscular but there is not much fat on him.  In his late 30’s, he is a handsome black man with a light complexion and an infectious broad smile that turns up at the corners of his mouth.  I imagine the youth might find him attractive and that he might have to deal with crushes fairly often.  He seems a little nervous but I have his trust; I am aware of this.  He knows I really want my work at the Attic to benefit the youth there and he wants to assist me in this endeavor.  

            Jay is proud of the work he does.   He doesn’t say it, but he glows when he talks about helping unfortunate youth who deal with major problems: abuse, homelessness, drugs, and HIV status.  In my participant observation, I have spent hours watching Jay talk to kids about relationships, breakups, drugs, money, and just about everything else.  Jay cares deeply for these youth and genuinely wants to help them change their lives for the better where he can.

            He talks about the Attic and how people come to find it.  He asserts that information about the Center is spread mostly through two ways: word-of-mouth and through seminars and trainings given by the Attic’s Bryson Institute at schools and other organizations across the region.   The majority of youth who use the Attic’s services find out about it through their peer networks:

They may have heard about that the Attic was having a party and so they were invited for that party or a friend, again, was coming here after school: ‘Oh, you should come with me, hang out, I’m going to stop through there.  I’m going to see if my other friends are there (Grant, 2012).


            Jay understands the mechanics of why these youth need a safe space like this.  He is the only gay black male working at the Attic.   This also happens to be their largest population group: gay black males between 18 and 21.  This is a rough place in life to navigate, especially when the youth lack support not only from home, church, or school, but also from the gay community at large.   Black youth have a much harder time feeling comfortable into gay bars, because the clientele are primarily white.   One of Green’s respondents lamented:

In New York City, Delaware, and Philadelphia as well, there is a hierarchy of gay imagery and gay ideals… And mostly it is the masculine White male at the top of the pecking order. If he walks into a club, he is the cock in the henhouse. He’s strutting his stuff (2007, p.765).

There are bars that cater to a more diverse consumer base and some that cater mostly to the black gay community, but they are few.  The youth lack the ability to express themselves and Jay and I talk about them sculpting and chiseling their personalities and identities here in the safe space of the Attic’s old ballroom. 

But Jay recognizes that creating a safe space to “stop through” is not enough for them.  They need to acquire skills that they might miss out on in their school classes, many may be bullied at school, or not in school often, or perhaps even homeless and out of school.  McCready posits that bullying and misunderstanding not only come from the youth’s peers, but from their teachers as well:  “Gay and gender nonconforming black male students are given less attention because the marginalization they face stems for multiple forms of oppression” (2004, p.142). They could often benefit from therapy but many are reluctant to seek it and when they do, wish it to be extremely private and unknown to anyone.  Some youth take full advantage of the Attic’s programs, while others are more transient; they enter and leave when they please and don’t want much to do with working in groups.  They might prefer to work alone on an art or fashion project that may have been working on for a few weeks.  Others simply want to just hang out and “chill”.  “Stopping through” for them is an attempt to create a safe social space without structure in which they can interact with their peers, find dates, and make new friends.  This is in direct conflict with the “regimented” structure of the Attic’s programs and causes tension between group leaders and youth in the groups: those who want the structure and those who do not. Jay led a youth CAG (Creative Action Group) for an eleven-week cycle that solicited the youth’s preferences through informal interviews, group discussion, and surveys.  A majority of the youth wanted the programs and the structure and not just a space to “chill”.  They wanted to “stop through” and enrich themselves and could see the value in program development.  Jay also asks the youth to talk about their experiences -good and bad- at the Attic, with him.  He guesses that about 60% of the youth are happy with the programs and other aspects of the Attic.  The other 40% find barriers to their interaction at the Attic:  the structure, the clientele, the unhappy ex, who “pisses them off when they see them on a weekly basis”, and so on (Grant, 2012).  Jay strives to help these 40% further by pushing them towards integrating into a group or activity that fits their need for skills for life or career, or their talents in some segment of the arts.  Jay is aware that the youth still face a larger and more troublesome road outside of the Attic:  they face institutionalized racism, homophobia, and a lack of empathy for or understanding of their cultural and socially-driven gender constructs.  He has done his best to give them the best footing possible for this journey for over thirteen years.  He is a role model to them- a friend, a father figure, a sister figure, and a shoulder to lean on when needed.  

Jun 25
"Sister Jay"- an excerpt from my ethnography on the Attic Youth Center. "Stopping Through".