American conductor Kazem Abdullah and diversity at U.S. orchestras

Posted on: June 20, 2016

In Friday’s (6/17) New York Times, Phillip Lutz writes that conductor Kazem Abdullah, “who was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Washington and Dayton, Ohio, said he would like to return to the United States next year after his contract in Germany is up” as general music director of the city of Aachen. “The only problem, he said, is that he is most likely to find his opportunities limited in part because of his outsider status as an African-American, and a Muslim, in the world of classical music….  That is why he jumped at the chance when the Westchester Philharmonic contacted him more than a year ago about conducting Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony this past Sunday…. The lack of diversity in American orchestras is an issue of long standing, but it has gained fresh currency. The League of American Orchestras held a major conference on the subject this month in Baltimore.… Mr. Abdullah’s booking makes sense musically, [executive director Joshua Worby] said…. It also strikes a blow for diversity.” Click here to read Symphony magazine’s article about how composers and conductors with Middle Eastern backgrounds are enriching America’s orchestral life. 

Posted June 20, 2016

Pictured: Kazem Abdullah leads a public rehearsal of Aachen, Germany’s International Chorbiennale, 2013