Ongoing diversity challenges for orchestras

Posted on: February 9, 2015

On Friday (2/6) at the Conducting Business blog of New York radio station WQXR, Brian Wise and Naomi Lewin write about the low representation of African-American and Latino musicians at American orchestras. “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.” The post includes a podcast of a discussion among Sphinx founder and president Aaron Dworkin, Weston Sprott, a trombonist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; and Melissa White, a violinist who performs in the Harlem Quartet. Issues covered in the podcast include “The advantages and shortcomings of blind auditions, in which orchestra job candidates perform behind a screen; the challenges of developing a diverse audition pool; 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; and where signs of change are occurring.” 

Posted February 9, 2015