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Will This Solve The Diversity Problem In Classical Music?

Several musicians offer suggestions on solving this important issue.

This NY Times article offered some interesting insights about diversity in classical music and how to become more inclusive.

The article focuses on twelve individuals who are involved in the industry and their personal take on this critical issue.

I'd like to focus on a few important ones here.

Lina González-Granados (conductor):

"When people see a name like mine and they have a high aversion to risk, then already I am not competing on the same level as everyone else.

So getting rid of the audition screen is useless unless we take care of other steps. I believe in the power of quotas — and seeing a group of applicants that might reflect the demographics of a community."

On the other hand, Max Raimi (violist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra) believes that filling quotas may negatively impact the quality of the music. Specifically, he said:

"Is the role of an orchestra to play music at the highest level possible? Or is it to be an engine for societal change? Anthony Tommasini basically wrote, 'We can have societal change and not affect the quality.' I would argue that we might compromise our quality and also not effect any reasonable social change."

Perhaps most importantly, musicians Weston Sprott, Alex Laing, Joy Payton-Stevens and Titus Underwood believe that the blind audition is actually a myth. They go on to say:

"Here’s the truth: Most American orchestras take the screen down in the final round. Another truth: While the hiring process for most musicians includes preliminary screened rounds, we feel confident saying 95 percent of tenured orchestral musicians weren’t hired through a fully blind audition. They were hired following a trial week; by appointment; through an invite-only audition; or after an unscreened final round. Right now, in the same orchestra — even the same section — you find variation in how players auditioned, were advanced in auditions and were ultimately hired."

And further:

"The goal, as we see it, isn’t simply to make American orchestras more diverse. Rather, to use today’s language, it is to make them antiracist. An antiracist orchestra might have a hiring process that recognizes the need for corrective action... In short, an antiracist orchestra would subscribe to paradigms that make hiring Black orchestral artists a normal and necessary part of pursuing its artistic goals."

These are very insightful comments that not only give us a peak into the minds of those heavily involved in the industry, but these comments also give us some contrasting views on how to possibly proceed in the future.

While Max Raimi's comments may not be welcome by some, I don't mind them.

I only wish he would have been more willing to offer a suggestion. That would have been more helpful.

The most interesting statement in my opinion came from Weston Sprott, Alex Laing, Joy Payton-Stevens and Titus Underwood.

Their take on blind auditions and inclusion was an interesting perspective to say the least.

For complete context, you can read the entire article here.

What do you think? Are blind auditions necessary and beneficial? Should orchestras fill quotas? Do blind auditions need to be tweaked? Let me know...


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