Rhinegold Jesse Rosen praises the Nashville Symphony's new fellowship programme

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Orchestras urged to reflect on diversity and inclusion

2:52, 25th August 2017

The president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras (LAO) has called on orchestras to increase their engagement with issues of diversity and inclusion.

In a statement published on the LAO’s website on 24 August, Jesse Rosen questioned the role of orchestras in this ‘volatile and raw moment’, in which ‘divisiveness and intolerance […] threaten America’s founding principles of equality’, adding: ‘I don’t think our response can be a simple affirmation of the power of music to connect.’

He emphasised that ‘sustained, deep institutional and artistic engagement in the issues of our time will be necessary’, and continued to affirm the League’s conviction ‘ that the orchestral experience is most rewarding for all when there are diverse participants at every level, inclusive environments all around, and equitable conduct internally as well as across communities.’

The statement continues: ‘Our best judgment now, as we observe the trends and forces at play in America, is that orchestras’ long-term artistic and institutional health, and their capacity to deliver their full potential service to communities, will depend on their engaging fully with the opportunities inherent in an ardent and sustained commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

‘This effort must go from the inside out; in other words, organizations must do the hard work of examining their own behaviors and values, and consider that barriers to diversity and inclusion may lie within.’

Drawing attention to the League’s Diversity and Inclusion Resource Center, Rosen writes: ‘I hope that orchestras will see this moment as a crucial opportunity to double down on their authentic and meaningful engagement with the issues before the nation and its communities. This means engaging in challenging and often uncomfortable discussions within orchestras and with community stakeholders, and taking action. That is what makes orchestras living, breathing institutions and our art form have meaning in today’s context. ‘

Rosen concludes by citing a few examples of what taking action might look like, and asking readers to let the League know ‘what you are learning, what you are doing, and what you need to know.’

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