Opinion: Diversifying orchestras’ percussion sections

Posted on: December 2, 2021

“Classical percussion students in their formative years require a unique trifecta of physical practice space, a robust instrument budget, and access to multiple teachers who specialize in different instruments—all of which demands some degree of financial privilege,” writes Donna Lee Davidson, an orchestral percussionist and jazz vibraphonist, in Tuesday’s (11/30) icareifyoulisten. “Because of the … personal wealth and resources needed to be competitive, it should be no mystery why the field of professional orchestral percussionists is mostly white…. This is where programs geared towards providing resources for students come into play,” such as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program, the Chicago Music Pathways Initiative, and Merit School of Music. “Diversifying the orchestral percussion field doesn’t begin with addressing the equity of professional auditions, but rather, the pathway of getting to the audition at all…. Attending a conservatory can be a crucial gateway for underprivileged percussionists to have access to these resources…. Interlochen Center for the Arts’ summer music camp was the only time of year I was able to consistently practice quality percussion instruments. Until tenth grade, I had to learn what I could during the summer and hang on as best as I could during the school year.”