This Will Drastically Improve the Diversity Problem in Classical Music

In Classical Music, Diversity is a Big Problem. What Can We Do to Correct It?



I was reading this article recently and I begin to think…


What Can We Do to Correct the Diversity Problem in Classical Music?


A few years ago, I was watching a piano student attempting to sight read and struggling in the process. This was during an audition for graduate school so this particular student should have been proficient in reading music.


To the bewilderment of faculty members, the student seemed to be having a very difficult time and as a result, one of the piano professors stopped him mid performance and excused him. Not surprisingly, the student was dejected and left the audition a little depressed.


Out of curiosity, I talked to the student afterwards to ask about the nature of his problem, and as it turned out, he actually was proficient at sight reading! It just so happened that he was near-sighted and he left his glasses at home.


This piano student neglected to include everything he needed for success.


We have a diversity problem in classical music and we will continue to have a problem as long as we neglect a large portion of the population and fail to include everyone we need for success.


Earlier, I wrote about Antonín Dvořák's vision for music in the United States. He had a multicultural perspective on the future of American classical music and had it taken root, I believe it would have reinvigorated the classical music scene in this country.


Diversity can reshape perspective. It can stimulate creativity. It can plant seeds that sprout into unlimited potential for what has become a monocultural and somewhat stagnant art form.


...we will continue to have a problem as long as we neglect a large portion of the population and fail to include everyone we need for success.

According to Fred Bronstein, dean of the Peabody Institute, the racial balance in the United States is undergoing a transformation. The majority ethnic group is on a trajectory to becoming the minority. Consequently, if classical music adheres to its European cultural roots, it will become a minority art form and will not survive.


What Can We Do???

So, the question is, what can we do to change this? I'm offering several possible solutions.


  • Bring Awareness to the Issue

  • Create Youth Programs for Minority Artists

  • Promotion of Minority Artists

  • Commissions of New Minority Works


Let's look at each of them more closely...


  • Bring Awareness to the Issue

How do we do this? One way is to start sharing the topic on social media. If you're passionate about a cause, why not share your passion on social media and make others aware of it?


If you are involved with a classical orchestra or if you are part of a chamber ensemble, you can make your colleagues aware. Change often happens through grassroots movements, so don't underestimate how much you, as an individual, can get done.


  • Create Youth Programs for Minority Artists

According to the New England Conservatory, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation donated $2.5 million in 2018 in order to increase diversity in classical music training starting as early as middle school.


Investments such as this are essential in preparing underrepresented artists for careers in classical music.


Fortunately, there are increasingly similar efforts being made in this regard; the Mellon Foundation is just one source of this kind of funding. By creating and sponsoring these programs, we can expect a significant increase in historically underrepresented artists.


  • Promotion of Minority Artists

Promotion is a great way to showcase the talent that exists in minority communities. Not only does this break down stereotypes regarding the way we view classical artists, but it also inspires young artists as they see professionals succeeding within their own racial, ethnic, and gender groups.


We've observed this in sports. Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams have inspired a new generation of minority athletes in their sport, and it has made the sport better.


The Colour of Music Festival is an example of the promotion of minority artists in classical music. This festival takes place over the course of five days and showcases the talents of some of the best minority artists in the country.


  • Commissions of New Minority Works

Finally, the commission and performance of new works is essential to adding to the classical repertory. These commissions will generate a new perspective on a traditional art form and possibly appeal to a new audience in the process.


What Do YOU Think?

I believe that these solutions could solve many of the problems we have with diversity in classical music. Perhaps by doing these things, we could also create renewed interest in American classical music.


But you might disagree with these solutions. Or maybe you have additional ways to solve this problem. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section.