Ongoing debate about orchestras, racial equity, and blind auditions

Posted on: September 10, 2020

“Composers, players and administrators don’t necessarily want to abandon blind auditions. But they say the lack of diversity in American orchestras is more complicated than that,” write Zachary Woolfe and Joshua Barone in Thursday’s (9/10) New York Times. “Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times’s chief classical music critic, recently wrote an essay arguing that blind auditions—long seen as an equalizer in American orchestras—were no longer tenable. The screen had been transformative for gender representation, he said, but not for racial diversity. The classical music industry’s reaction to the essay was spirited—and mixed, a sign of how unsettled the debate remains. A sampling of artists and administrators [shared] their thoughts on blind auditions and offering ideas to make orchestral hiring more equitable.” Included are edited excerpts from comments by conductors Leonard Slatkin, Lina González-Granados, and Thomas Wilkins; Max Raimi, a violist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Weston Sprott, Alex Laing, Joy Payton-Stevens, and Titus Underwood, musicians in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Phoenix, Seattle, and Nashville symphonies; arts administrator Aubrey Bergauer; Afa Dworkin, president and artistic director, Sphinx Organization; Anthony McGill, principal clarinet, New York Philharmonic, and Board member, League of American Orchestras; and Edward Yim, president, American Composers Orchestra, and Board member, League of American Orchestras.