Women, disabled and BME composers get two ticks

Women, disabled and BME composers get two ticks


norman lebrecht

April 09, 2018

Philip Sharp has discovered this unequal advertisement for young composers:

A ‘two ticks’ policy will be in place for female composers, composers who identify as BME, transgender or non-binary, or having a disability, to automatically go through to the second stage of the selection process.

It’s from the Centre for New Music at Sheffield and Sheffield University, inviting young composers to have their music workshopped and recorded by the Ligeti Quartet.

Philip has some trenchant things to say here about identity politics in classical music.

Your views, please?


  • pooroperaman says:

    I shall cut my leg off and then write a C major scale. That should do it.

  • V.Lind says:

    This is GARBAGE. I utterly agree with Philip Sharp. It would be nice to think mo self-respecting member of any of the named groups would have anything to do with this exercise,but I suppose that’s not very realistic.

    Do you get extra ticks for being more than one of the favoured categories?

  • Sharon says:

    Affirmative action was and still is very divisive in the United States. Part of the backlash to it was the election of Trump and a lot of the anti immigrant, read anti minority people, sentiment that we now have.

    People in these categories might need to work twice as hard to be as good (especially the physically challenged) and may feel they need ticks to get their foot in the door. However, it will create problems because if they are hired their coworkers and subordinates will automatically believe that they got the job solely because of their minority status. Therefore, they will not be well respected within the institution, and in some cases will not have a lot of job responsibility.

    That is, they will become the token trans, the token person with physical challenges etc. which will lead toonly having token responsibilities. In the music world this may mean to only being allowed to conduct minor concerts or be only a rehearsal conductor etc.

    • Stephen Whitaker says:

      Your comments about people only being allowed to be rehearsal conductors etc aren’t relevant , this Sheffield project is for composition , the quality control of the music produced isn’t being compromised.

  • Simon Hall says:

    Best person for the job is a thing of the past now.. lunatics are well and truly in control of the asylum.

  • Bruce says:

    (a) What does “BME” stand for? (I’m guessing Black/Minority/E____? …but I’m not English so I don’t know)

    (b) As a general policy this would be ridiculous. If it’s just a policy for this one special project, then, well, it’s just for this one special project.

    (c) Is there any indication that the people in charge of the project are planning to ignore the quality of the work submitted? I guess that’s kind of a pointless question since clearly a lot of people have already decided what the answer is.

    • John Borstlap says:

      E stands for extremists. They also form a minority and they bitterly complain about it.

    • V.Lind says:

      Ever heard of Google?

      I was not familiar with the term either, not living currently in the UK, so I had to look it up. It means Black or Minority Ethnic.

      This thing practically screams “able-bodied straight white males need not apply.” while they have had the run of the thing for centuries, I do not like the unfairness to the men of today who are as innocent as the women, BMEs, etc. The thing was to not close doors to women and others who were not white men, not to push forward in a lot of professions those of a certain group regardless of ability. I don’t fancy a quota-driven surgeon operating on heart patients who has got his qualifications on account of being pushed due to skin colour, sexual preference, physical ability or whatever. A second-rate clarinetist (or composer — after all, a member of a generally ignored crowd anyway, the living composer) is less lethal, but no more justifiable.

  • Grüffalo says:

    He’s quite right. Maybe it’s time these ideologues were ousted from their comfy positions as arts administrators since they’ve proven that they’re not up to the job. I’ll miss the Ibiza Prom, but I’ll cope.

  • Sue says:

    These people were well ahead of the curve in affirmative action and identity politics:


  • SVM says:

    I have said this before and will probably say this again, but it seems to me that the only tenable way of running a composition competition is to work on an anonymised basis, much like academic peer-review. It is a very simple matter to remove names or other identifying details from scores, parts, and/or even recordings (there may be moral-rights issues in respect of the performers on a recording, although composers do not generally acknowledge the names of their performers already when submitting recordings for a competition). Anything else is liable to give rise to cronyism/nepotism/positive discrimination (or all three: for example, a ‘two ticks’ pupil of a jury-member, or studying with a colleague/friend of a jury-member, winning the competition). Decisions should be made solely on the basis of the materials submitted.

    Personally, I would urge all composers and jury-members (NB: I exclude performers, since they tend to have no say in the selection of pieces) to boycott any composition competition that does not operate on such a basis, and focus their attention on the excellent schemes that *do* run on an anonymised basis.

  • Trofim says:

    This is absurd, but a concomitant of the obsession with identity politics. But why concentrate on a limited number of human characteristics – race, sex, sexual orientation just because they are currently high profile in our society, and are bigged up at every opportunity?
    Human beings differ on numerous parameters, most of them having some judgmental significance in terms of advantage / disadvantage. For instance, there is ample evidence that attractive people have better life chances, earn more money etc than unattractive people, as do intelligent people in comparison with the unintelligent. So if you are going to go down the route of favouring disadvantaged people, there should logically be quotas for unattractive and unintelligent people. Where do we stop?
    I personally am of Worcestershire stock with an accent to match – one associated with having a straw in one’s mouth and mucking out the pigs. In my life it has been very disadvantageous – when I open my mouth down in sophisticated London people almost fall about laughing. If it had existed, I would have availed myself of the services of a counsellor specializing in Rusticophobia. By rights there should be a country bumpkin quota, but I can’t see it happening for people of such low social prestige with so little social clout.

  • Barry says:

    Wow, these comments really do lay bare why such a scheme is necessary. The VAST majority of composers are white men (like me), anything that can promote more diversity should be embraced. In future, if these initiatives are successful, they won’t be needed.