Nice piece on Chineke in the New York Times

Chi-chi Nwanoku’s orchestra of many minorities is turning into a musical comet. Barely two years old, it has a BBC Prom coming up this summer and a reasoned piece today in the NY Times. Read here.

Last night, Chineke gave its first performance outside London – in Bristol.

photo: Miles Brett

share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
  • Is the condition of being black not also a form of discrimination?

    I wish this ensemble the best of success, but its mission seems rather suspect to me. Namely, implied is that symphony orchestras handle covert ethnic profiling at auditions, which is quite hard to assess.

    • I think it might be good not to have an immediately negative reaction to it. The intention of the orchestra, as i understand it, is to present a different face for classical music, one that isn’t almost entirely white. What’s wrong with that?

      The cultural and political climate now is vastly different to that of our youth when we were starting out in classical music, and the music world simply cannot afford to ignore the marginalisation of classical music nor the dangerous perception that it exists only for a wealthy white elite.

      If we care about music and the beauty and power of music we surely must care that it reaches as wide an audience as possible, and stimulates and inspires as many people as possible. The music world can’t let music to be pushed to the side, as so many on the political left and right would like to do.

    • No musician is out of a job because they created this new performing opportunity for themselves and yet the sad sacks show up to darkly hint that it’s reverse discrimination and a plot to hurt the precious feelings of the establishment audition committees.

      I can imagine these people 100 years ago complaining about the negro baseball leagues not providing enough employment for white players. It would make about as much sense.

      I would say their “mission” seems to be to show “here’s what we can do” when the opportunity exists, aside from their stated mission of spreading classical music and training younger musicians.

      • A predictable response, sadly. Please note that JB says “I wish this ensemble the best of success”.

        His concern, which is made perfectly clear, is the implication that other orchestras’ recruiting policies are racist.

        The test is whether minorities drawn to Chineke stay solely with Chineke or branch out and listen to other ensembles. Time will tell.

    • No more discriminatory than the Sistema in Venezuela that produced Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra.

      If Dudamel had been raised as an immigrant in Vienna, he would not be where he is today, not because of lack of talent, but lack of nurturing.

      If Johann Nikolaus Graf Count de la Fontaine und d’Harnoncourt-Unverzagt had been kidnapped at birth and taken to Caracas, he would have been an excellent street musician playing salsa.

  • Chi-chi herself is of Nigerian and Irish (presumably white) descent, so how much of a minority percentage wise does one have to be? Diversity is an issue in orchestras, but it seems to me to be best corrected further upstream at the educational/opportunity level. Is there a large group of black or minority bassoonists who are being discriminated against at the professional level, or is the lack of educational opportunity for young people in minority communities creating a disproportionate lack of representation among professionals. Perhaps a look at the large gains in women’s representation in pro orchestras over the last 40 or so years would be instructional. How did that happen? Creating special and exclusionary ensembles is not the answer IMO.

  • I didn’t find anything in the article that seemed to imply that audition committees are racist, covertly or otherwise.

    For what it’s worth, Ms. Nwanoku appears to have started the orchestra with minority players who, like herself, already had careers in classical music:

    “She soon began recruiting professional musicians from across Britain and Europe, including those with Indian, Bangladeshi, Caribbean, African, Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Iranian backgrounds.” (in other words, this may not have been a group formed by a bunch of people who couldn’t get work any other way)

    Another quote from the article that I found interesting [emphases mine]:

    “Mr. Kanneh-Mason, who last year was the first black person to win the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year award, said that when he attended concerts while he was growing up, there were very few black or minority musicians on stage.

    ” ‘It has been inspiring to see lots of other young musicians like me,’ he said. ‘I plan to be involved in Chineke until Chineke becomes unnecessary because eventually the aim will be for diversity to be the norm in classical music.’ ” (in other words, hopefully “minority orchestras” will go the way of “women’s symphonies” one day)

  • >