Why Black males don’t go to white concerts

Why Black males don’t go to white concerts


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2020

A new essay by the US conductor Brandon Keith Brown sheds light on a culture of exclusion:

Stepping out into society as a Black person is going to a party where you know you’re not wanted. Whether at work, school, orchestra concerts or the opera, we’re unwelcome. To survive, we make ourselves small for white comfort leaving our true selves at home. I feel this at classical music concerts, sometimes even my own.

Besides the cookout, church Sunday is when we let our hair down. It’s an all-day event — especially in the South, where the livin’ still ain’t so easy. We fill up full of the spirit, getting ready to battle another week of racial trauma.

The concert hall should be as reparative, open for all to obtain spiritual sustenance. Instead, it’s a shored-up sonic refuge of whiteness. Concert halls are space for white classists to be seen, not hear and feel. My darkness breaches its whiteness.

Classical concerts are racially traumatic experiences. It’s why we don’t go. Why pay to sit stone-still, quiet, cooped up with white folks who don’t want us there? Does this sound like a relaxing Saturday night to you?…

Read on here.


  • christopher storey says:

    It sounds to me as though help is urgently needed by this man

    • Rory Arnese says:

      Brilliant. More please !!

    • Boris says:

      No, it sounds like help is urgently needed by you, if you can’t grasp what he and many others experience in their daily lives.

    • Emil says:

      You need to engage with experiences besides your own, instead of dismissing people’s lived experiences as nonsense. And you clearly haven’t been paying attention if you think he is isolated in feeling like this – one can hear sentiments like this one reverberate in nearly every facet of society, from MPs in Westminster, to academics at conferences, to activists and public speakers, etc.
      If you don’t understand that, you’re the one who needs help discovering that there are people with different lived experiences.

      • Ted Komanski says:

        In that vein, we are all eagerly awaiting Mr. Lebrecht’s natural follow-up article…

        “The White Experience”.

        A tapestry of interracial relationships and hardships faced by each stripe included in the ‘white’ community as scholars define ‘whiteness’.

        It is certain to be an educational banquet for each of the races who have endured oppression, suffering and hate from those within the constructs of white society unrecognized by today’s academics.

    • Bernie says:

      HE is the embodiment of racism!!!

      Democrats (as one can see) are very racist when they’re not projecting…

      By the way, when was the last time white, Jewish, Asians protested or sued to enter a black organization?

    • Bone says:

      Fascinating. His ego and hubris know no bounds.

  • Rob says:

    You either go to an event if you’re interested in it or not. I wouldn’t go to an Eminem concert because I don’t like what he does, it doesn’t interest me. Skin colour does not come into it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      This comment misses the point entirely, emphatically, drastically, hopelessly.

      A black man going to a classical music concert goes there because he is interested in what the concert is going to offer: classical music. And there, he is made aware, by all those ‘minor reactions’, that it is not his interest in the music but his skin colour which raises the interest of others.

      • minacciosa says:

        “And there, he is made aware, by all those ‘minor reactions’, that it is not his interest in the music but his skin colour which raises the interest of others.”

        Says who? That’s a boatload of inference going ’round there.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Silly comment. The person concerned notices such things very well. It is people like the author of this comment who miss them because they are not directed to him/her. So, if not noticed, it does not exist.

          • The View from America says:

            Do you happen to know the ethnicity of the author of that comment? Because if you did, your own comment would be laughable.

            Don’t ASS.U.M.E anything.

      • Larry D says:

        He who is constantly on the lookout for “minor reactions” will surely find them, in or outside reality.

        • anon says:

          *Some* of the instances cited by Brown are probably instances of racism, and assuredly instances of unacceptable behaviour. But many of the instances he cites have an element of reasonable doubt, and there may be a perfectly innocent explanation; for example:

          “Hi! So what brings you here tonight?”

          This is not necessarily hostile nor even necessarily racist — sometimes, I fall into conversation with neighbouring audience members, and a variant of the above question is posed. It can be an interesting question: some people come to hear a specific composer/work in the programme; others come to hear a specific performer; &c.

          “Why didn’t they sit next to me? They said it’s their seat. Why did they move?”

          Some people just like to have more legroom (in many halls, the seats are quite cosy and have limited legroom), and prefer to have an empty seat on one or both sides, if possible. I have encountered people doing this quite a lot. It is not necessarily anything personal.

          “Why the sudden inventory of everyone’s purse/wallet/jacket/umbrella/cane/pearls/watch/[…]”

          It is perfectly reasonable and perfectly natural for someone to do such an “inventory” just before the concert starts (very important to check that one’s mobile telephone is off), just after a person has filed past to occupy a seat further in the row, just after a person has occupied the adjacent seat, just after one has settled down in a seat oneself. This applies regardless of anybody’s ethnicity, and often has nothing to do with suspicion of theft (many of these items are easy to drop or mislay).

          “As I sat, a heavily jeweled plump white woman scrunched-up her body as if I had the coronavirus.”

          In many halls, the seats are quite cosy and have limited legroom. To be honest, I often “scrunch” up my body when a seat next to me is occupied, especially if the neighbour is a youngish woman (I am a man), for the simple reason that I am terrified that an instance of accidental contact could turn into an accusation of inappropriate touching or such like.

          “Go sit somewhere else!”

          Assuming there is a seating plan, and you are occupying your rightful seat, then a fellow audience-member has no right to request this. But there is a possibility, especially if there are lots of empty seats, that this was simply a request motivated by legroom, not ethnicity (although Brown’s description of that particular case suggests it probably was racist).

          ” “This is Deutschland!” barked a customer after hearing me clarify my coffee order in English.” [from another of Brown’s articles]

          Nothing to do with race; everything to do with language. In Germany, the official language is German, not English. Given the proliferation of English in many touristy areas (outrageously, some shops in Berlin do not even have German-speaking frontline staff), it is understandable that some people will be forceful in defending the role of German as the official language.

          • John Borstlap says:

            All of this can also be the case. Because it concerns minor reactions, their cumulative effect can suggest less innocent explanations.

          • Saxon Broken says:

            I largely agree with what you say since I have done most of the things you have.

            One point to make: audiences in somewhere like London are rather different than parts of the US.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    Must be the third outing of this guy on SD.
    He’s given us some laughs 😉

  • Rory Arnese says:

    Just look at his outburst with a Berlin waitress :


    • Doug says:

      This seriously begs the question: what on earth is he doing in the classical music industry if he hates white people and their culture so much?

      • John Borstlap says:

        You prove Brown’s point entirely. From his articles it can easily be deducted he does not ‘hate white people’, but he considers culture, in this case: the classical music culture, as entirely distinct from ethnic background, and accesible to, and absorbicable by, everybody given the perceptive qualities. And he is right, factually, morally, culturally, philosophically, physically, psychologically, empirically, historically, spiritually.

        Also, classical music is NOT an ‘industry’, it is an art form. Everywhere where it is called an ‘industry’ this merely shows the approvement of the author of the subjugation to purely commercial forces and assessments.

        • Jonas Newbauer says:

          He consciously CHOSE to enter a profession with its roots steeped in European culture where ALL of the composers (that he looks UP to) are Caucasian.

          He is worshiping white people every time he conducts, then complains about how he experiences PERSONAL inferiority.

          People like this need self reflection as to why they feel they must openly hate the race that is giving them a JOB!

          Further, the ‘higher educational system’ in the states which is stuck in “leftist-land” should be held criminally liable for their indoctrination and certification that individuals like this are deemed academically proficient and mentally fit to graduate. The product they produce is clearly not worthy of entering ANY profession. They’re loaded down with debt, too angry and self-absorbed!!!

          • Saxon Broken says:

            I find the idea that classical music is “white music” bizarre. Why shouldn’t he like classical music? It belongs as much to him as anyone else.

      • MacroV says:

        Where in the article does it say anything about him hating white people and their culture? There’s a lot of inference happening there.

    • Allen says:

      Wow! That article at medium.com is way over the top. I have had problems with waitresses before, but never have I heard of someone writing such a rant about to. German orchestras be warned: at the end of his article, he writes
      “All white people are racist, and only white people can be racist. (quoting Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility).
      Julia with the bleached blond hair, I hope you’ve learned. Tears coupled with racism don’t impress me. I hope you learned you can’t talk to African-American men like trash.
      I hope you learned that I won’t kiss your behind to buy coffee. I hope you learned that as a Nazi descendant, empathy and kindness are required towards every person of color. Respect is reparations for the racial genocide party your ancestors wrought. We’ll never trust you with our safety. You’ll never live it down. You have no legs to stand on.
      You’ll never win.”

      “All white people are racist … We’ll never trust you with our safety. … You’ll never win.” !?!?
      Does this sound like a reasonable person who will ever integrate and get along with society?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Ironically, you proved Brown’s point. You should carefully read his articles again and use your imagination.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Mr Brown’s reaction to unfair treatment in a public place is entirely justified.

      • Dennis says:

        Given his rants and obvious racial animus toward whites (and Germans especially), I think it’s unwise to assume his version of events tells the whole story truthfully.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I have seen enough sly discrimination around to assume his stories will be, in general, correct: they sound entirely typical. It is these ‘minor discriminatory reactions’ which are, most of the time, invisible, unnoticable to people who had the circumstantial luck to not have been born into a black or otherwise coloured family. But when you get aware of these things and observe carefully, you recognize the type of behavior Mr Brown describes. It also helps if you happen to have some coloured friends.

          • AngloGerman says:

            The only one who comes across as racist here is Brandon and anyone who supports him. The position he proposes is completely untenable and inane, and any child of even mild ability would be able to see this. The adults who don’t (or won’t as I feel is often the case here…) truly terrify me.

    • Robin Worth says:

      It is very sad : this man takes an unpleasant incident and turns it into a denunciation of Germans generally And his vocabulary is to be deplored.

      I’ve known Germany all my life. If you want to generalise, I would say the Germans are less, not more, racist than most Europeans……..just look at Merkel

      Does he have a chip on his shoulder?

  • Fred says:

    My experiences of discomfort when entering black-dominant worlds makes me highly empathetic to the author’s plight. I’ll always regret that I missed seeing Luther Vandross because I was afraid I would feel too uncomfortable as a white guy in a sea of blackness.

    Of course, seas of blackness are the exception to the rule in Western countries. The rule is oceans of whiteness–oceans in which I feel comfortable. I know that I’m privileged to be able to travel unhassled as a white person through an essentially white world. My experience would be very different on a daily basis–inside and outside the concert hall–if I were a 6’4″ black male rather than a 6’4″ white one.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Being ‘white’ is not a privilege, but a circumstantial bit of luck. As far as we know, we have no power over where and how we are born.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    Well, I have read some self serving bullshit in my time but this comes near the top of the list!

    • John Borstlap says:

      The number of ‘thumbs-up’ under this comment is shocking, and merely proves Brown’s point.

      • Ellingtonia says:

        It proves nothing of the sort other than your virtue signalling and ability to talk pseudo intellectual bullshit, and coming form a second rate composer of third rate works it is rather amusing. When is the “victimisation” card finally going to be challenged and racist bigots like Brown called to account. Funnily enough I was watching videos of Bobby Mcferrin conducting the Vienna Phil and the Leipzig Gewandhouse this afternoon……….perhaps Mr Brown may like to consult him on building relationships with orchestras and the public……….perhaps if he had anything like the talent of Mcferrin?

        • John Borstlap says:

          When people have run out of real arguments, they begin to shout. Often, reading a bit helps, or simply building-up some awareness of the world. Maybe there is a public library in your neighbourhood?

          • Ellingtonia says:

            Ah, the classic deflection and generalist accusations. Tell me Mr Borstlap, have you ever been one of only three white faces in the audience at a gospel concert, I have, have you ever been the only white face at an Abida Parveen Sufi music concert, I have ( and twice was asked in the foyer to show asian women to their seat as they thought I was an usher, which I found extremely amusing). So don’t lecture me on education and awareness of the world, I have forgotten more than you will ever know about music……….but then, that would not be difficult for most people!

      • HugoPreuss says:

        I detect a pattern here. Everyone who disagrees with Mr. Brown “merely proves Brown’s point”.

    • Adrienne says:

      I agree entirely. I’m sick and tired of this constant whining.

      It’s not doing anybody any good, black or white – and before anybody jumps to conclusions, I’m well and truly in the former category.

  • anon says:

    But why does he so desperately want in?

    I love black culture, and blacks will never accept me as black, but I ain’t gonna bitch about it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A nonsensical comment. If a black person is highly gifted for classical music, there is no reason why he would not want to develop in that art form. Classical music is not white, not black, not brown, not yellow, not pink, in fact: either it has no colour at all or it has all colours, like sunlight. It is only through the prism of human inadequacies that colours appear.

  • Orchestral Musician says:

    Please consider the source. Despite the exaggerations in this article, there are some truths here regarding the racism that certainly exists in the classical music world. Indeed, these truths are echoed in the wider world as well.

    With that said, I’ve spent the last few minutes ruminating on what to say about Mr. Brown, having worked with him once before. He is undoubtedly extremely talented as a conductor, but he was, hands down, the most unpleasant conductor I’ve ever worked with in my career. Before he comes rampaging into the comment section here, I’ve worked with multiple black conductors, none of whom exhibited the kind of petulant, nasty, abusive, and downright bizarre behavior that I experienced from Mr. Brown.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Maybe we’re all our own worst enemies, but some people are worse worst enemies to themselves than others. Beyond agreeing with every word you have written on BKB, I’m just going to leave it at that.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That may all well be, but that does not in the least affect his protesting racist hypocricy.

      • Orchestral Musician says:

        True, except his victimhood comes at least partly from the fact that orchestras generally really hate working with him. He interprets this as exclusively a racist reaction. While I would never deny that he, and other POC musicians and audience members face racism in ways that I cannot even imagine, Brown’s problems in the music world come much from his behavior than from his race.

        • John Borstlap says:

          If players’ reactions are caused by his behavior, how could they be disentangled from suspicions of racism? That is a tragic problem, and impossible to solve. In psychology, this is described as a mutual projection process, which circles downwards.

          I could imagine that a black American conductor of classical music is defensive beforehand, and of course it is possible that he would unintentionally invite exactly the reactions he dreads and feels he has to defend himself against. In any case, such conductors deserve some license.

  • Doug says:

    If you like the benefits of Western civilization, you need to adopt it’s guiding principles.If you abandon them, you can kiss the benefits good bye.You really like that iPhone,don’t you?

    • Calvin says:

      In 1893 Dvorak told The New York Herald: the future of American classical music “must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.” I don’t think this noted cultural nationalist was arguing for abandoning Western civilization.

    • John Borstlap says:

      You prove Brown’s point eloquently.

      The guiding principles of Western civilisation, no: the HEART of them, are about the universality of its values, as they were born from the Enlightenment. This universality simply and logically means that these values are accessible to any individual open to them and skin colour or stand of the eyes or shoe size or hairdo have nothing, really nothing, to do with them.

      • Dennis says:

        It is an intellectual and historical fallacy perpetuated by modern liberalism (and anti-Christian animus) to identify the “guiding principles of Western civilization” as “born from the Enlightenment,” thus erasing over 1500 years of Western cultural history and its true foundational principles.

        • John Borstlap says:

          The Enlightenment took many elements and values from Christianity as it developed since the earliest christian communities, but liberated them from organized religion, which had – in the Ancien Régime – a great political power in society. That was an improvement. And then, religious values continued to fertilize further developments of Englightenment thinking, and actually, it has not as yet found a ‘finished’ shape. The Enlightenment thinkers never ‘erased 1500 years of Western cultural history and its true foundational principles’, they merely criticized its abberations and perversions.

          • Mike Schachter says:

            As I am sure you know their view of Enlightenment did not extend to non-whites

          • John Borstlap says:

            The Enlightenment has been developing since the pate 18th century. Obviously, it is not finished as yet, as this thread amply shows.

  • Whoopsiedoodle says:

    Wait, so this was the guy who couldn’t hold on to a job and screamed that everybody was racist, right?

  • C Porumbescu says:

    How sad. Identity politics in the USA are such a mess.

  • Jon H says:

    Music is like food. If you feel like Chinese food, you go to a Chinese restaurant – if you feel like Italian, Italian restaurant. If you feel like rock music, go to a rock concert. Nobody is saying you don’t belong there. If you’re moved by classical music, you’re in the right place. If you’re just trying it out – don’t expect any miracles the first day.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I’ve been to events in Africa where I was the only white face among thousands of black faces. Did I feel racially traumatised? Not a bit of it. It was a great cultural experience!

    • John Borstlap says:

      It depends entirely upon how the majority in such situation behave.

      I once coincidentally sat in a bus, in a city quarter mainly populated by people of colour, most of them from very different cultural backgrounds, and I happened to be the only white person on that ride. After a while, people began to look suspiciously into my direction, expecting some unpleasantness. It was an instructive experience as to how coloured people feel in a white environment. The point is, that such – in themselves relatively harmless – experiences are dehumanizing: suddenly you feel not being seen as a person, but as a representative of a collective, and as such it is an attack upon one’s identity, since one is oneself in the first place.

      • Ira Spaulding says:

        Dank je wel (Thank you)

      • fflambeau says:

        I had a similar thing happen once but came to a different conclusion.

        I rode back to Capetown, South Africa from Simon’s Bay on their equivalent of the subway at nighttime (in the daytime things were different) and my friend and I happened to be the only white and Asian couple on the entire train. People looked at us strangely but the feeling to me was: “what are you people doing here? This could be dangerous for you two.”

        We had no problems, luckily, and people were actually nice.

      • M McAlpine says:

        Then why do black people assume white people are hostile? Last night I shook hands with a couple of black people who are my friends. Why the suspicion?

  • Corona says:

    What about the large community of Chinese (and Korean) concert-goers in the states.
    Are those classified as “white” also?

    • Ira Spaulding says:

      Why a thumbs up to this silly question? “NO” is the answer, in the U.S.A. they get their own separate area of discrimination as “Asians”

      • Bruce says:

        ^ but they have light skin, so white people aren’t scared of them. /eyeroll

        • Pandora says:

          Orientals are highly valued by Silicon Valley (built by WHITE MEN) looking for highly skilled labour.

          When you think about it, Google, LinkedIn, facebook, Twitter are extremely RACIST!

          They don’t solicit more ethnic countries.

          But, of course, let’s not be too honest. Those Liberals make Trump look like an even handed moderate. Hence his 2016 victory and easy 2020 win.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    He’s describing feelings, and accurately.

    Note how easily one can flip terms and describe why white men don’t go to black churches, cookouts, etc.

    Our deeply divided society is full of resentments, and this seems to be getting worse.

    • mathias broucek says:

      I once preached at a black church. I and a friend who came with me were the only white people there. I felt nothing but love from the people I met, but it was an informative experience in terms of understanding the minority experience. (The sermon was a dud in part because my examples weren’t that culturally relevant: it was a VERY last-minute thing and I didn’t know anything about the church or its congregation before I got there.)

  • Kman says:

    I love the “I’m white, and I don’t think black people should feel alienated because I never feel alienated” takes. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know or understand the experiences of black people (and vice versa). You’re not being personally blamed here.

    For what it’s worth, I’m as white as it gets. But I know there are aspects of the experiences of others that I just won’t ever understand. And I don’t try to pretend that I do.

  • Ain’t that some Bullshit. says:

    Does this guy take that chip off of his shoulder and conduct with it?

  • Guest says:

    Racism in the classical music world? Judging from what I saw at a recent concert: (1) Black soloists are the next coming, and (2) Black concert goers are the guests of honor.

  • Fridolf says:

    “My darkness breaches its whiteness.”

  • Not a fan says:

    Not this guy again. Get a life!

  • Ainslie says:

    What he says may or may not be true, but coming from someone with his reputation for aggrievedness and hyperbole it has no credibility at all.

  • Karl says:

    “Orchestra concerts are aural silos of white supremacy.” That’s a good one. Thanks for the laugh….

    Could this guy be one of Sacha Baron Cohen’s goofy characters?

  • Nijinsky says:

    And the thirst and hunger for humor aside, added to everything else, this poor man whose genes have withstood being railroaded by political trends, might have to dowse himself with the remains of what could have been but was instead called a Brahms symphony where every and any determination of Mr. Lullaby in trends thus have obsolutely no truth to them!

  • Dennis says:

    These days playing playing perpetual racial victim pays well and helps secure quality teaching/conducting appointments and nice gigs with European orchestras. We should all be fortunate enough to be so racially traumatized on a weekly basis.

  • SMH says:

    I don’t doubt that he has had the experiences attested to. However, the only constant is himself, so he may wanna take a look at that…….

  • minacciosa says:

    Color me skeptical. In decades of concertgoing, I’ve never felt that way or had such experiences as those he describes so copiously in detail and number. Perhaps if my perception of self resided completely in the color of my skin and I believed that others can see me in no other way, I might be hypersensitive to slights real and imagined. It is inarguable that racism exists but the extent of its influence in American culture today is certainly debatable. A better argument may be that the existence of racism magnifies and exacerbates the psychological frailty of some whose forebears suffered so much from it.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      My experience is that although only occasional (most people really are not racist), it does happen in subtle and noticeable ways.

  • Lawrie says:

    “Why pay to sit stone-still, quiet, cooped up with white folks who don’t want us there?”

    I find this sentence utterly reprehensible, repugnant and not helping the situation at all.

    To imply that all ‘white’ concert goers are racist is ridiculous. And as for your description of the concert, I have to ask have you ever attended a concert?

    Stop being divisive and just let people know that concerts are for all!

  • Ceasar says:

    two words: internalized racism.

  • White jewish dude says:

    I’ve never once had that kind of feeling towards black people (or any group of people) in ~20 years of daily orchestra playing and/or concertgoing. However, I don’t feel the need to ridicule Brandon’s point of view. After all, I don’t know what it’s like to be black. And I constantly get a similar response when I question the safety of the Jewish people once there are no living firsthand witnesses of the Holocaust. Serious issues, and noone cares these days, so long as they have theirs.

  • Fred says:

    It would be great if the late Afro-American conductor James DePreist could come back to life and provide his own insights. I don’t remember such writing from him.
    Still, maybe he felt the same way but was afraid to voice such thoughts. Who knows?

  • Dr Kathryn Jourdan says:

    Our profession is in need of radical transformation. There are encouraging signs in places but there is still much work to do. Structural bias and barriers to equitable practice often remain invisible.
    Brandon is bravely laying some of these out for us. It is not a comfortable position, to be speaking out. As many of the above comments reveal, it can provoke hostility and ridicule. However, his recent article has already allowed others to articulate their experience. A close colleague responded with details I had been hitherto completely unaware of, of a musical upbringing marred by institutional racism and cruel victimisation. Many of our colleagues of colour live and work without us noticing what they battle against on a daily, existential level.
    Let’s listen and learn!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Entirely agreed.

      A majority of the comments in this thread are shocking in their stupidity, bias, and sheer brutality. Supposedly coming from classical music lovers. Obviously, they should listen better.

    • SMH says:

      The broader issues are real, however, is it possible that by bringing all of that history, racism, trauma etc. with oneself into every situation one is already triggered and perceiving/co-creating the worst, most racist outcome? However talented this man is, being so primed for outrage does not seem healthy for either his person or career. People will continue to do and say stupid, hurtful, ignorant things until the end of time. None of us can control that.

    • Xi Pham says:

      While ‘academics’ (negative leftists) continue their invisible ‘struggle/fight’ in celebrating ONLY 1 race’s right to incessantly complain, the US educational system continues to DEVOLVE in the name of ‘diversity’.

      Trump is attempting to ameliorate the FACT that the International ranking of US Education have been TANKING since the ‘90’s below predominantly Oriental and oh my…white countries.

      The openly discriminatory US practice of Affirmative Action precipitated this decline along with Bush’s “no child left behind”.

      Further, a more discriminatory and secretive organization like MENSA has statistics on its global members which always infuriate persons of color yet NEVER CHALLENGED by Democrats. They’re usually too busy trying to appear dominant to the “pseudo-intellectual, offended Left” while clearly not truly being…up to snuff.

      Leaving people like me out of your voting base remains highly insensitive considering our contributions Dems.

  • Jack says:

    Isn’t Mr. Brown the conductor who has been fired from positions over his allegations of mistreatment because he’s black?


    I note that the picture in his blog of what I assume to be a classical music concert shows an audience that is around a third made up of people of color. They don’t look too much like they’re experiencing the kind of unwelcomeness that Mr. Brown describes in his article.

    In any event, it’ll be interesting to see how many engagements, oops, traumatic experiences, he will be engaged to conduct in the future.

    I have a number of friends who are black, who love classical music, and who attend concerts. I plan to show Brandon’s blog piece to them for their reaction.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    Unpleasant for Mr. Brown! Could be worse, though.


  • JDB says:

    I worked as an usher at Avery Fisher/David Geffen Hall for several years and frankly we had a highly diverse crowd coming to every concert I worked. As far as classical music concert etiquette goes, one can express their enjoyment of the music as they sit and watch the concert through their facial reactions and subtle movements. I do it myself and I have many–a–time observed others do the same. In addition to that, the orchestras, soloists, management, and other ushers and staff are also highly diverse groups of people. So, I’m not quite sure how one could feel unwelcome while attending a concert at David Geffen Hall unless they also feel uncomfortable with classical music concert etiquette, which I don’t consider to be associated with one’s ethnicity. Of other concert venues, I cannot say, but at least at the New York Philharmonic, all kinds of people come and openly enjoy the concerts. The only times people seem uncomfortable are during the performances of new pieces that aren’t the most pleasant to listen to, but I wouldn’t normally associate that with one’s ethnicity either…

    • John Borstlap says:

      NY may be a bit different. Anyway, a welcome signal of reality as a breath of fresh air on this thread.

      New pieces are only accepted by orchestral staff if they are unpleasant to listen to, because that will be a sign of relating to our modern times, which is more important than musical meaning.

  • fflambeau says:

    Sorry to break the news to Mr. Brown, but there are a lot of Asian faces in the audiences (and on the stage too) at classical concerts. This trend has been going on for over 20 years.

  • Kun says:

    So what? So what now? So what next? Forgive me for wanting progress and solutions, instead of this.

  • Patrick says:

    Maybe it’s just you, sir.

  • Donald Hansen says:

    I would like to hear John McLaughlin Williams’ and Michael Morgan’s comments on Mr. Brown’s comments.

  • MacroV says:

    I find so many of these comments (and the related thumbs up/downs) rather distressing.

    First, I am saddened that anyone would feel unwelcome at a classical music concert. I want everyone to enjoy and love a Wagner/Strauss opera or a Mahler symphony the way I do.

    Second, while Mr. Brown may be unusually touchy and view everything in racial terms, is there any reason to doubt that in a time/place where people are reported/arrested/harrassed for driving, shopping, sitting, standing, barbequeing and even operating a lemonade stand while black, a black man might experience some level of abuse in a concert hall? I’ve never noticed it but I have no reason to doubt that it occurs.

    I’m sorry to hear that as a conductor, Mr. Brown is apparently not a pleasant man to work with. But it doesn’t mean he’s wrong about his experiences.

  • Maria says:

    Why do the English not go to Irish concerts? Why do white males not go to black concerts? The list is endless.

  • Simon says:

    I know exactly what he feels like. As a middle-aged, white, highly educated male of European descent with significant economic means, I feel completely out of place at rap concerts. I mean, seriously, it’s like that don’t even want me there! So unfair.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    “Why pay to sit stone-still, quiet,”

    You mean you want to make a noise and stop other people listening, and move about and distract them?

    ” cooped up with white folks who don’t want us there? ”

    You can have no evidence they don’t want you there. Yo0ur racism is showing.

  • Konas Jaufmann says:

    Here we see an example that black racism is tolerated and even encouraged.

  • minacciosa says:

    The bottom line is that Brandon does not speak for black males collectively. His piece should be understood as his idiosyncratic personal reaction. To be fair, he seems to have the same reaction everywhere and then writes about it as if all who share his melanin also share his experience. We don’t.

    • The View from America says:

      Thank you for this sensible comment. The best rebuttal in just 3.5 sentences.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Nonsense. The type of experience which Brown describes is well-documented, they do happen. And not only with blacks. In the Netherlands, a book in the eighties caused quite an angry stirr: ‘Everyday racism’, focussing on the experiences of black women who often are treated threefold disrespectfully, as woman, as black, and as a member of an underclass. Many people protested in the same style as the silly protesters on this thread – it was exaggerated, it did not happen, it was whining etc. But later-on, an avelanche of similar experiences were noted in the media. The point is, that these are minor gestures of disrespect exclusively directed to people of colour. But also to all kinds of muslem immigrants. The gestures are ‘within the law’ and go mostly unnoticed by whites, but can have their effect on people who don’t cultivate an elephant skin.

    • Kevin Scott says:

      Well said! Thank you!

      My comments regarding this matter are posted separately.

  • Diane Noel says:

    I wish I could send a note directly to Brandon Keith Brown, but I’m not on Insta or Twit. When I moved to Chicago from Santa Barbara many years ago, I felt that I finally had a chance to get to know a diverse population! I tried very hard to get to know personally those Blacks whom I encountered on a daily basis in my work with a major developer and in my neighborhood Hyde Park, home, although I didn’t know it at the time, of Barack Obama. Because of the centuries of persecution, it was not possible. I only got to know the assumed persona of these lovely people. Some of us wish that the those who shun Blacks could experience the daily burden of being Black. This essay, by someone so talented, caused me great sorrow. May we live to see a color-blind world. And the world of music should be a starting place.

    • John Borstlap says:

      An uncle of mine, living in Detroit, who had begun a new study, cultural anthropo-thing or whatever, put on blackface for a week when he got shopping, visiting the library, travelling by bus etc. to find-out, for a paper he had to write, how it feels being black, but it got quite unpleasant. He was being admonished all the time by black people and by white people both of whom saw through his disguise, and also criticised his clumsy way with the stuff since there were black stains everything he touched and everywhere he went. The library kicked him out for fouling the books. So all in all, he never could experience how it feels to be black but he found-out how it feels when you simulate to be black which ended-up as the subject of his paper.


  • The Voice of Reason says:

    Although there are so many Asians in classical music, we almost never hear about the hardcore racism that exists in Asian countries as well as in their classical music scenes. It’s brutal, hardcore, in-your-face racism with absolutely no shame or guilt whatsoever. But why is it that Mighty Whitey is always singled out? It’s absolutely disgusting.

    The White/Black conflict has been going on for quite a long time and always will, as long as free thinking is allowed. The left keeps sweeping facts regarding the correlation between race and IQ under the rug. However, refusing to accept scientific fact is nothing more than self-betrayal.

    But here is the question: Does recognition of racially-based IQ gaps warrant mistreatment of any race with an inferior mean IQ? Does this allow Jews to mistreat Asians, Asians to mistreat Whites, Whites to mistreat Hispanics, Blacks, etc.? No. People should be treated with dignity. However, no one can be forced to respect anyone. Imagine if every heterosexual man protested vehemently each time they were rejected by a 9 or a 10? Imagine those women having no choice but to enter a relationship with someone that they are not attracted to simply because of public pressure. You see, it’s not that people dislike Brandon because he’s Black. It’s because he’s got a strangely shaped head [sarcasm].

    Let’s stop the insanity. Now.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “correlation between race and IQ”

      Err…where to begin. First, IQ tests only test someone’s ability at IQ test, they don’t actually measure intelligence. Second, performance in tests, exams etc will depend on such things as schooling, health, mood, upbringing, economic background, and many other things.

      Finding, for instance, black people perform more poorly might be because they had very different childhood experiences rather than anything else. To interpret it as “black people are intrinsically less intelligent” is bad science, wrong, and offensive.

  • Kevin Scott says:

    While I concur about Brandon’s conducting, I am concerned with his continued anger issues regarding race. He’s not alone, for many black men and women have encountered racism either on an overt, covert or benign level from people who have been fed stereotypes about us.

    Whenever I attend a concert to hear an orchestra or a chamber ensemble and meet a member of the audience and start chatting about music, they do inquire why I am there, and when mention I am a composer, most of the time they assume that I compose R&B, jazz or pop music. This assumption is based on a lack of education on the part of many folks , regardless of race, who think that African-Americans are not interested in classical music. If we are, and especially if you’re a composer, they feel that you’re “trying” to write concert music but you are unable to comprehend classical structure, form, harmony, orchestration et al, so you fall back on your “roots” and write “black” music, whatever that may be.

    I could go more in depth over this, but I speak from my own perspective and experiences of nearly five decades.

    Furthermore, I should note that whenever another African-American attests to racism and how to combat it on a different plane than Brandon’s, it is taken as an affront to his person and summarily dismissed, not to mention that person is subject to be castigated because….well, I’ll let you read into this one, folks.

  • Miles1949 says:

    I have been going to concerts in every city and towns in this country, Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia, the USSR and Japan. I saw Leopold Stokowski with American Symphony Orchestra at 16 and I was hooked.. Classical music was now mixed in with funk, roll, blues, world and so much more. I am a Black Man who has never been let being Black stop me from going anywhere to hear music that I like.. People go to hear what they want to hear.. I think you have a problem not the concert halls or a opera house.. I plan to hear the Mahler Sym# 8 in June with the SFO. I got a ticket and I’m flying out to San Francisco.. I have going to classical music concerts for over 55 years. Please stop this..

    • Well said. You have exactly the right attitude – which is none at all. Go see what you want, when you want.

    • Xeum11 says:

      Please allow me to say : he is a black conductor in the US, so his point of view is fuller than yours as a mere member of the audience. I am a black Frenchman and have been going to classical music events (mainly operas though) for 3 decades with it seems much much rarer racist encounters than those BKB related. However when I was studying classical singing, I encountered some nasty people by which I mean when you are actually trying to compete in the classical music world the rarity of black faces in it often makes white people posit that your presence is an anomaly. I am gutted to have read what most people in this thread wrote including sadly enough a little bit by your comment. A black person denying another black person’s experience of racism always is more painful. I understand the hasty dismissals from the classical music loving white posters, because the fact that classical music is (mainly) the music of the elite makes the people who love it harbour some of the horrible inhuman ideas that allowed that elite to become so, but though like you I feel very much at home in the opera houses I go to, don’t tell me you have never experienced awkward interactions and/or stares, I don’t believe you. BKB is the only black conductor I know of apart from Bobby McFerrin (who is the son of the first black man to sing at the Met so born part of that intelligentsia) so yes he seems to have been feeling some kind of pressure : your being black in this instance does not mean you know everything about being black in the classical music world. As I said I love going to the opera but my experience is limited to mainly France and Paris, and most of the white people in the audiences I come across are either friendly or even look pleased to see me but you do get bad vibes from nasty people who think their whiteness gives them some extra legitimacy being there. The Chevalier de Saint Georges could never become the musical director of the French Royal Opera House in the 1780s because a singer and a dancer petitioned the king against him using racist arguments. When has French opera found itself in the situation of being run by a black person since then I ask you?

  • Kylie says:

    Why is nobody including Mr Lebrecht saying anything about the lack of diversity and inclusion in the classical music world. The black players, conductors and soloists are there but orchestra’s in Europe are primarily lily white. Fought tooth and nail for women to be treated like equals but none of the same fight for people of other races. In 2020 you would think diversity and inclusion in orchestra’s would be something we have normalised but your orchestra’s and industry still keep people of colour on the outside looking in.

  • Brian viner says:

    I don’t think this would happen in the uk. As for the American police force No comment