Ensembles and organizations dedicated to addressing racial inequities in classical music

Posted on: January 27, 2021

Music Director Mei-Ann Chen leads the Chicago Sinfonietta in a performance with bassist Victor Wooten. Photo by Chris Ocken

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police last year “and weeks of widespread demonstrations … large [arts] institutions across the country announced and enacted sweeping changes,” writes Joshua Barone in Wednesday’s (1/27) New York Times. “Orchestras that remade their fall seasons under pandemic restrictions consciously programmed composers of color; and in the same breath, they announced commissions for the coming years. At the same time, some organizations—predominantly smaller, often not run by white leaders—simply continued the work they had always been doing: seeking to correct inequities in the field by supporting young and emerging artists of color; disseminating the music of underrepresented composers through new recordings; developing initiatives tailored to the specific needs of their communities.” Seven of these organizations are profiled: Chicago Sinfonietta, Imani Winds, the choral ensemble Tonality, Sphinx Organization, Boston’s Castle of Our Skins ensemble, the New York City-based Dream Unfinished ensemble, and Philadelphia-based Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. “Which is not to say that larger classical music institutions have been entirely negligent. Take the city of Detroit, whose Black-majority population is admirably served by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Michigan Opera Theater, two organizations known for long-term, local investments and programs.”