Beyond blind auditions: Should orchestras take new approaches to help orchestras better reflect their communities?

Posted on: July 16, 2020

“Blind auditions,” writes Anthony Tommasini in Thursday’s (7/16) New York Times, “proved transformative. The percentage of women in orchestras, which hovered under 6 percent in 1970, grew. Today, women make up a third of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and they are half the New York Philharmonic. Blind auditions changed the face of American orchestras. But not enough. American orchestras remain among the nation’s least racially diverse institutions, especially in regard to Black and Latino artists. In a 2014 study [by the League of American Orchestras], only 1.8 percent of the players in top ensembles were Black; just 2.5 percent were Latino…. If things are to change, ensembles must be able to take proactive steps to address the appalling racial imbalance that remains in their ranks…. The audition process has to be altered to take into fuller account artists’ backgrounds and experiences…. Might the gains female players have made be reversed if the screen comes down? Might old habits of favoring the students of veteran players return? Orchestras will need to be transparent about their goals and procedures if they are to move forward with a new approach to auditions—one that takes race and gender into account, along with the full spectrum of a musician’s experience.”