Episode: American Orchestras Grapple With Lack of Diversity


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American Orchestras Grapple With Lack of Diversity

Ethnic diversity remains a troublesome question for American orchestras. Just over four percent of their musicians are African-American and Latino, according to the League of American Orchestras, and when it comes to orchestra boards and CEOs, the numbers are even starker: only one percent. Ethnic diversity is also a rare sight among guest soloists and conductors.

This issue was front and center during the third annual SphinxCon conference, hosted last weekend by the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization. Its founder and president, Aaron Dworkin, joins us for this week's Conducting Business, along with two active musicians: Weston Sprott, a trombonist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; and Melissa White, a violinist who performs in the Harlem Quartet.

In this segment our guests discuss:

    The advantages and shortcomings of blind auditions, in which orchestra job candidates perform behind a screen. The challenges of developing a diverse audition pool in the first place. Where Dworkin believes orchestras fall short compared with other sectors. How orchestras and ensembles can broaden repertoire and formats beyond the traditional concert hall. Where subtle (and not-so-subtle) forms of racism emerge in the hiring process for orchestra players. Where signs of change are occurring (including in Nashville and New York).

The graph below illustrates the percentages of black and Hispanic musicians enrolled in major music conservatories. Listen to the full segment at the top of this page and share your thoughts below.



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