Conductor Leonard Slatkin on how to make orchestra auditions more equitable

Posted on: July 21, 2020

“If there is one topic that is on the lips of pretty much everyone in the orchestral world, it is the subject of diversity,” writes Leonard Slatkin in Friday’s (7/17) ArtsJournal.com. The article, a chapter from Slatkin’s forthcoming book, first appeared on the conductor’s website. “When I was appointed assistant conductor in 1968, there were just two members of the St. Louis Symphony who were black. That number has not changed by much over the years, and the same is true for most major orchestras…. The idea behind the use of the screen [at auditions] was that if no one could see the person auditioning for a position in the orchestra, then there could be no accusation of discrimination. This made perfect sense during the civil rights movement and continued into the equal-rights era…. But times have changed…. Often, when I speak to students of color, they tell me that they have been warned off by some about the prospect of entering the musical workforce with the odds stacked against them…. We can, however, alter the audition process, just a little, to help ensure the highest quality outcome while encouraging everyone of ability.”