If you’re an orchestra, you need EDI

If you’re an orchestra, you need EDI


norman lebrecht

June 04, 2020

Don’t we just love those initials? Every six months another acronym.

The latest stands for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – as in:

The League of American Orchestras has awarded grants to twenty-eight U.S. orchestras to strengthen their understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and to help transform organizational culture. Ranging from $12,000 to $25,000 each, the one-year grants comprise the second round of The Catalyst Fund, the League’s three-year, $2.1 million grant-making program…

‘Recent events have underscored the deep racial disparities existing in our country, already amplified by the pandemic’s unequal impact on communities of color,’ said Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. ‘The work orchestras are undertaking with support from the League’s Catalyst Fund highlights the urgency of addressing EDI as orchestras attempt to confront decades of inequity within our field. We must understand and address our personal and organizational roles in systems of inequity.’



  • Rich Patina says:

    P.C. B.S.

  • Skippy says:

    Like it or not, orchestras exist in the contemporary cultural space. If we want them to be supported, they’re going to have to keep up with the times, and that means they’re going to have to go some distance to reflect the makeup communities they call home. If standards are to be maintained, it will require a sincere commitment to identifying and cultivating talent among “people of color.” It can be done.

  • caranome says:

    or DIE (diversity, inclusion, equity).

  • CA says:

    Suggestions please as to how we might begin to accomplish this regarding orchestral musicians when in the USA almost all such auditions are held behind a screen. I wonder…..and hope. But, having participated administratively backstage in many auditions, I can tell you that the candidate pool in attendance has almost always been heavily Caucasian, next Asian then Latino. After that, it really drops off. I think access to music education and professional training is where we really need to start leveling the playing field. We can’t change who’s on stage until we change who comes to auditions!

  • Emil says:

    Where’s the problem? Is there any denying the reality?
    Also, EDI’s been an established acronym for a while – it’s used all the time in higher ed.

  • Eric Rand says:

    Who exactly is barring minorities from coming to concerts? Or from taking up an interest in the western canon of art music? Every musician I know would gleefully accept a minority musician into their orchestra, so long as they met the the standards of the ensemble in a fair audition. The problem? They just aren’t there in significant numbers…

    Has anyone seen an American orchestra of late? The large number of asian musicians is a salient example of the openness to diversity, or, better put, an emphasis on excellence alone.

    The march of progressive ideals will end up requiring that we tear down that audition curtain so that we can make decisions based on race, and not excellence. Bravo….

  • John Borstlap says:

    “We must understand and address our personal and organizational roles in systems of inequity.”

    Of course. That is the challenge everywhere in society. But in the West, and surely also in the USA, it is not the system of society which keeps racism in place, but the way people function within such system. Racism is located in the heads of people, not in systems – there is nowhere ‘apartheid’ in the West.

    And orchestras are not the right place to address the problem which begins elsewhere: in the educational trajectory. The orchestra is at the end of the trajcetory of musical education, not at the beginning. Therefore, any attempt to ‘solve’ racist problems in the orchestral field is sure to fail. And then, the orchestra is not the best instrument to address problems of society, since its function is to serve a musical art form, which is colourless in itself. The best an orchestra can do, is to stimulate interest in classical music in the form of school projects, at most, to make sure children get to know that there exists something like ‘classical music’ – but then, that is an audience building process.

    • Emil says:

      John, this is wrong on so many levels. This week, of all weeks, you write that “Racism is located in the heads of people, not in systems”? Seriously? I mean, come on.

    • Alvaro says:

      I’m going to play devils advocate and simply assume John is simply deeply uninformed.

      In the spirit of sharing, I recommend reading this book: It shows very interesting studies ranging from the congress and private economic institutes on the disparities many communities face, and how those shape the very fabric of our society.

      Even just out of curiosity, read it or skim it. You may be surprised.

      Or don’t. But then simply admit you’re speaking out of incomplete (or even more likely) biased information.

      Happy to chat or discuss the data, statistics and longitudinal studies presented in this book. If you don’t even want to consider them, then we know in which side of history you are.


      • John Borstlap says:

        The misunderstanding is not about information, but about what the concept of ‘system’ means. This does not affect at all the general knowledge of the many abuses, like those of other concepts, like ‘freedom’, ‘capitalism’, ‘education’, etc. – and not only in the USA, but in Europe as well. You can find racism in the most idyllic small corner of any country, however civilized it may seem.

      • Tom says:

        John is absolutely right.

        How about next time you bother commenting you offer a compelling counter-argument rather than this rather useless ‘you’re either with us or against us’ rhetoric?

    • Patrick Johnson-Whitty says:

      You are a neo-Nazi fossil slowly decomposing in the Netherlands. What the hell do you know about systemic racism?

      • John Borstlap says:

        I know, it’s all very difficult, isn’t it? keep trying…. there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Also, changing the picture may help, it’s a bit revealing.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Pity there had to be riots all over America before these idiots realised that all people are equal and should be given equal opportunities. The worst word in the English language is supremacist.

  • Iain Scott says:

    And why not? Without diversity you become dull. Without inclusion you’re just a clique. Without well I will give you that on equity. Equality means something but equity is a tad harder to grasp.

    • V.Lind says:

      I’m confused, too. I know several definitions of equity, none of which appear to be what this initiative is going for.

    • John Borstlap says:

      History of civilization shows that mixes of cultures, of communities, of ‘strangers’ and of ‘outsiders’ are sources of innovation and development. The experiments that tried to homogenize societies ended in barbaric disasters.

  • Alvaro says:

    Again – this is all about saving the institutions or the employment of these subset of the economy than about art.

    Can you imagine if the Louvre went and said “we need diversity and inclusion, so re-paint the Mona Lisa to make her look more like Beyonce or Shakira” – we’ll call it the Donna Lisa- HALLA!

    Its stupid, anachronistic and completely detached from how culture evolves.

    Minorities have absolutely no problem with culture. We have our own, and its thriving. Look at the superbowl: The ‘BIGGEST’ conductor in the world got a grand total of 1.2 seconds of airtime with Coldplay, while the ENTIRE show was about Shakira and JLO.

    We have culture. Its wonderful and much more successful than your orchestras. We dont have the problem. YOU have the problem. POC have no reason at all to feel identified or know Beethoven, Mozart or Bach any more than they need to know Malcolm X or Hamilton.

    Its a failed, patronizing effort to “make orchestras great again” by sugarcoating art to make it more commercially appealing to POC.

    Some will jump in the wagon, but don’t hold your breath. An improv group is as culturally (probably even more) relevant nowadays as an orchestra or choir.

    Your culture is European, you should ensure it flourishes there and that Europeans cherish it.

    Its no better or worse than any other Artforms.

    ….Yet seeing how many extreme alt right comments float around here, I’m not sure about that last statement.

    • John Borstlap says:

      If any art forms are all the same in terms of quality and meaning, no art form has any quality. If there is no aspiration, everything sinks to its lowest, because easiest level. In the egalitarian world view, no human achievement is allowed to have ‘better qualities’ than any other achievement, there is no ‘better’, everything has the right to be respected, celebrated, to be paid for, to vindicate identity urges. Such idea is stultifying, suffocating, stopping any development of individuals, because there is no goal, no aspiration for improvement, nothing to strive after.

      If such crazy illiterate ideas would become so dominant that any attempt at something more interesting, more rewarding, more meaningful, would be suppressed for being ‘rightwing / altright extremism’, that would signal a form of fascism.