More on Diversity
Fostering equality and diversity efficiently at a structural level is not necessarily easy, but in most countries, you will find a range of associations and organisations that work to promote diversity in the arts. Finding the one closest to you is often just a quick web search away. These organisations are not just sources for information on the topic, they usually offer guidance and counselling to anyone seeking advice, and many of them organise web seminars and conferences as well. You may also find suggestions for easy steps you can take personally to help promote diversity on these sites.
The internet in general is a great source for information on diversity, well beyond the limited space we have at www.conductit.eu. We have gathered a collection of articles, essays, interviews and talks available online covering various issues and experiences related to diversity in the music industry.
Search through the tabs on this page to find a topic of interest to you.
Disclaimer: This collection was put together in March 2021. Some of the articles may have been removed since then.
Diversity of Colour and Ethnicity
The proportion of non-white musicians represented in the orchestra workforce is still very low. The wider orchestra field – conductors, executives, staff, and board members – also remains predominantly white (League of American Orchestras, 2016). The following list consists of articles and interviews with people of colour working in the music industry:
- It’s Time to Talk About Classical Music’s Diversity Problem by Sam Anderson and Jocelyn Bonadiode Freitas, Medium’s ‘Noteworthy’ The Journal Blog, 10 February 2020.
- Six artists of color make their mark in classical music — an industry where diversity is lacking by Kyle MacMillan for The Chicago Sun-Times, August 10 2020.
- Great Divide at the Concert Hall by William Robin, The New York Times, 8 August 2014.
- A Round Table on Black Conductors and Classical Music by Michael Zwiebach, San Francisco Classical Voice, 4 August 2020.
- Black Artists on How to Change Classical Music, interviews by Zachary Woolfe and Joshua Barone for The New York Times, 16 July 2020.
- Opera Can No Longer Ignore Its Race Problem by Joshua Barone, The New York Times, 16 July 2020
Some ensembles have achieved significantly more racial diversity than others. Here are a couple of articles explaining how they got there:
- Shuffle: Orchestrating a Diverse Classical Music World by Amanda Rabinowitz for WKSU, 12 December 2019.
- Orchestras, classical music programs working toward more diversity in the concert hall, leadership roles by Kyle MacMillan for The Chicago Sun-Times, 23 June 2020.
Screen or No Screen
Whether or not orchestras and other ensembles should use audition screens when hiring musicians has been up for debate ever since the tradition of blind auditions was normalised in orchestras from the 1970’s. The screen has evidently reduced sex-biased hiring and increased the number of female musicians. But Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times’s chief classical music critic, recently wrote an essay arguing that blind auditions were no longer tenable. The screen had been transformative for gender representation, he said, but not for racial diversity. You can find his essay, and a response from a few conductors, musicians and administrators in the music industry, here:
- To Make Orchestras More Diverse, End Blind Auditions by Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, July 16 2020
- Musicians on How to Bring Racial Equity to Auditions, interviews by Zachary Woolfe and Joshua Barone for The New York Times, 10 September 2020
Anthony Tommasini has not only made a statement regarding screens, he also has (personal and quite radical) suggestions to how orchestras may introduce more diversity in their programming. Others suggest that introducing improvisation to classical orchestras is the way to move forward in classical music:
- Notes Toward Reinventing the American Orchestra by Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, February 12, 2021
- Orchestras Looking to Broaden Horizons? Start Improvising by Seth Colter Walls, The New York Times, 25 August 2020
It does seem like many musical institutions are recognising that the industry still has a diversity problem. Some orchestras are well on their way in making a change and some are even hiring their own diversity officers to increase the number of minority people on the staff and board, broaden their programming and address the pattern of systemic discrimination:
- For Diversity Leaders in the Arts, Getting Hired Is Just the First Step by Robin Pogrebin, The New York Times, 17 January 2021
- The Metropolitan Opera Hires Its First Chief Diversity Officer by Joshua Barone, The New York Times, 25 January 2021.
The first step towards change is first of all to recognise that a problem exists, and then be willing to discuss the matter. LGBTQ+ representation in classical music is rarely talked about, but the Canadian Opera Company recently initiated this event discussing gender and opera, available here:
- Gender & Opera / LGBTQ+ representation, Canadian Opera Company on YouTube, 06 March 2021
Most of the articles and interviews on our list are American in origin. One may say that the rest of the world remains a bit behind in implementing change, but things are starting to move in Europe as well. For example, The BBC Concert Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic are among the 40 organisations who have signed up to I’M IN — the world’s first diversity and inclusion audit tool for the music industry – meaning that they have committed to a diversity audit in a bid to help more people from Black, Asian and working-class backgrounds into classical music.
Chineke! is a foundation and orchestra, created to provide support and opportunities to black and ethnically diverse classical musicians in the UK and Europe. Their work includes proposing the formation of a grant-giving alliance to fund auditions for ethnically diverse musicians.
Yet, in spite of a spoken desire for progress, we still have a long way to go before we are able to see real changes in diversity in the music industry. For women in music in general, equality still remains out of reach to a large extent in spite of the number of initiatives that have been undertaken to address underlying problems. Aiming for inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility for all should be on the agenda for everyone working in the arts. Leading by example may be a good way to start.
Bachtrack 2020, Classical Music in 2019 – The year in statistics, Bachtrack, viewed 31 March 2021. https://bachtrack.com/files/158143-EN-Classical%20music%20statistics%202019.pdf
Musicians’ Union 2021, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Musicians’ Union, viewed 31 March 2021. https://musiciansunion.org.uk/about-the-mu/equality-diversity-and-inclusion
Musicians’ Union 2021, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Musicians’ Union, viewed 31 March 2021. https://musiciansunion.org.uk/about-the-mu/equality-diversity-and-inclusion/equality-diversity-inclusion-committee
Musicians’ Union 2020, MU Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Policy, Musicians’ Union, viewed 31 March 2021.
League of American Orchestras 2016, Racial / Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Orchestra Field, League of American Orchestras, viewed 31 March 2021. http://www.ppv.issuelab.org/resources/25840/25840.pdf
Sahra Torjussen 2020, Hva er normkritiske perspektiver?, Balansekunst (The Art of Balance), viewed 31 March 2021.