From Homeless to Resilient: Bryan Crumpler Brings Social Change Through Music

Bryan performs Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire i.a. in Brussels
with Ensemble Aton. Sara Picavet, co-founder of Aton' et Armide

Lost in Marginalization

Close your eyes and pretend you are a distinguished music scholar having studied classical music performance, awarded a Magna Cum Laude for academic excellence with numerous scholarships, winning international competitions that spanned nearly 100 concert venues and 4 continents. Your compositions of two dozen singles, LP, and EPs air frequently on the radio, reaching a million listeners each week. Next, transition yourself to the future. You have been evicted from your home; losing your instruments, computer, and music equipment. There is nothing more devastating than achieving and performing at the highest level to then having nothing, at a moment’s notice.

Now, open your eyes and look around you. Most of you might be relieved that you are reading this on a device you own in the comfort of your home. Unfortunately, that relief is a stark contrast to the reality of many LGBT persons of color and was especially the case for Bryan Crumpler, a highly esteemed Clarinet performer, composer, and educator.

“This happened largely due to many things,” Bryan recalled, “but largely because my immediate family believed I should have been prepared for ultimate success in their eyes by the age of 18 or the time I finished undergrad. It was a very naive proposition, considering what I know now as a 41-year-old man. I had become homeless because my blood family and people I believed to be friends saw fit to abandon me when I needed their help most. I am a cis-gendered gay male of African descent who is underrepresented everywhere except homeless shelters and prisons.”

What Bryan claims is not hyperbole. African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1. And, according to the Williams Institute, 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT. That means that LGBT people of color, like Bryan, are at twice of a disadvantage in society.

Bryan introduces new Atlanta Music Project students to the Clarinet.
Photo Credit: Lauren Thomas

When ‘Otherness’ Becomes Familiar

“I have always been aware that we have Native family (Cooweescoowee band) on my father’s side, and Lumbee Indian in a small percentage on my mother’s side; however, much of our family history has been erased as a result of the One-Drop Rule enforced by Walter Plecker, [a physician, and white supremacist]”. Further, the One-Drop Rule, through the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 asserted that any person with even “one drop” ancestor of black ancestry is considered black. 

Sadly, this is not the first time the U.S. government interfered with the blood of Black people. In 1932, the ‘Tuskegee Study for the Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male’ gave rise to the sentiment of Black men having “bad blood”. And considering their history with the U.S. government, it’s understandable why many Black people are hesitant about getting the Covid-19 vaccine. And even though Bryan’s multi-faceted ethnic origins were a result of reductionist racist practices, he still held on to those indigenous roots and connected with other Natives.

“When I was in high school, I connected with a kindred spirit named Delores who was then street homeless and under duress as a young Native woman. She never revealed to me until 2012 (some 15 years after HS graduation) that she was homeless at the time and how much spending time with her as a friend made her feel protected and cared for in the streets. As her focus was in Drama – and mine, Band and Sports – we rarely had extracurricular classes together, as she was always academically underestimated and refused to believe the fabricated narrative of our country’s founding, knowing how it harmed her, her family, and her people throughout the centuries. I did not realize fate would have her paying me back for the positive impact I had on her life some 15 years later when I too would end up street homeless. 

“However, when it comes to merit, I am distinguished and distinctly accomplished in ways that have ironically led to an existential plight: almost every form of discrimination that can be named, I have experienced. There is a revolving door of failure I suffer on account of homophobia in Black and Brown communities in the North vs the racism and white supremacy in the South.”

“I find myself a target of exclusion by so many communities and organizations that I have been adopted (so to speak) into an Akwesasne Mohawk family (more specifically, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe), ‘claimed’ as it were by Black-Indigenous communities, and set on a more reliable path of success that otherwise might be less treacherous for me having experienced and overcome so much adversity.”

Bryan performs Carl Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57, in Seville, Spain
with the Royal Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia
Photo Credit: Dos Hermanas International Clarinet Competition, 2006 Finals

Finding a Home Through Music

“I found that by wiggling my fingers in certain patterns, I could trigger sound in the mind as a form of silent, mental practice to stay adroit at the Clarinet. When I received an opportunity to join the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia, that skill allowed me to prepare some of the most difficult chambers works for Clarinet (particularly the Golijov Clarinet Quintet)  in just a few days upon borrowing instruments I had not played in over 2 years. I later expanded this technique to produce composition works away from the piano or computer equipment and found that there must be electrical signals firing in certain ways for this muscle memory to trigger exact pitches.

Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist of the New Yorker and author of Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), mentioned in a conference that, “When you’re at a disadvantage [...] you compensate and learn self-reliance. And that self-reliance trait, in the end, is just as important as getting [feedback]”. And despite not having the feedback he could have benefited from, Bryan persevered beyond the dreams of not just Black LGBT men, but most people who try to pursue music as a vocation.

“I needed [those close to me] to understand the purpose of music in my life; when I needed them to realize that music was not just some kind of hobby or game – it was something I was extraordinarily accomplished in; it was my job; it became my life, and people in the world were willing to compensate me generously for that; unlike in many alternative career paths, I formally studied.

Over the course of time, research, reading, and TED talks on Brain-Computer Interfaces revealed to be a pathway to studying the mind, unraveling the brain, and reading brain waves so as to control input into hardware devices. I then came upon the idea to develop music neurotechnologies to not only study this phenomenon specifically for music applications but also to build such applications to convert brain waves directly into music scores. I believe this will close a wide gap in music diversity but also encourage music literacy, much the way rap, poetry, and songwriting encourages vocabulary development and general literacy.”

Photo courtesy of Bryan Crumpler.

Where Bryan is Now

“Music has been my saving grace, and I resultingly now own an arts enterprise in a high-tech facility in Brooklyn called “New Lab”. I am currently the Founder & CEO of Ahmadeus Beaux-Arts, Inc. a music enterprise that leverages the intellectual capital of arts organizations, and the businesses that support them, to effect social change at the intersection of music, film, language, science, and technology. Our core work for the future is to develop music neurotechnologies and next-generation music AI that bridges the gap in music, art, and technological literacy.”

Tips from Bryan!

  1. Develop a steady routine to manage your physical and mental health.
  2. Give yourself credit for your work and not only demand but also give credit where credit is due.
  3. Humble bragging is self-care: the higher you go on the ladder of success, the more challenges you will face in terms of people wanting to knock you back down.
  4. Stay in touch with family and friends or people you trust as such: they will be the ones to ride or die for you, not in every circumstance, but in many that can help you towards whatever uphill battles you fight and goals you strive to achieve.
  5. Use your art to stay grounded, track your life progress, document your emotional state of mind, purge pain, and give you motivation when you devolve into a state of struggle or are led astray. Let your art be a track record of resiliency or a guide to lead you back to happiness when you have nothing left, and be proud of what you have created. Art need not be liked or understood by everyone.

Bryan's website:

Resources Recommended by Bryan

These are the non-profit organizations (and the people I interfaced with) that have seen me through the turmoil of homelessness from the time I left Atlanta to present-day NYC. Thank you’s go to:

Suit Up Charlotte

Ms. Cerita Lindo, CEO
“For providing much needed (cost-free) concert attire and business attire for interviews & employment”

Neighborhood Association of Intercultural Affairs

Ms. Felicia Morales, Case Manager
“For providing the best possible homelessness prevention services in NYC”

Grant Associates, Inc.

Mr. Dion Tulloch & Ms. Michelle Hopkins, Career Advisors
“For resume & career guidance and connecting me to New Lab”

Goodwill Industries

“For business development training and financial health coaching to prepare me for work success and launching my own business”


1. "Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don't - YouTube". Microsoft Conference.
2. "TEDxPeachtree | TED".
4. "LGBT Homelessness". National Coalition for the Homeless
5. "Serving Our Youth". Williams Institute.