Minnesota Orchestra: We won’t work with police

Minnesota Orchestra: We won’t work with police


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2020


Read this statement:

The Minnesota Orchestra acknowledges that there is more for us to hear and more for us to do in advancing the change that must happen to make our community more equitable and just. The killing of George Floyd marks a turning point for our organization, and we join with other community members in calling for transformational changes in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). Specifically:

— We join with the Twin Cities Musicians Union in calling for the resignation of the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, Bob Kroll.

— We are restructuring our security staff and will no longer engage Minneapolis Police Department officers to provide security at Orchestra concerts until the MPD implements fundamental changes. Where government regulations mandate a police presence, we will continue to comply.

The Minnesota Orchestra has recently begun a process to reduce our reliance on and reproduction of white privilege and to disrupt our own role in systemic racism. The security restructuring will be one part of that process. We are committed to advancing the change that has to happen.

The last paragraph may be the most shocking part of this statement.


  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The musicians are surely feeling much safer now…

    • Stanislav says:

      Yeah, that’s right. Throw all cops under the bus. Reminds me of something else.

      F**king idiot.

  • Heikki Hämäläinen says:

    Great news. Bravo Minnesota!

    • Ramesh Nair says:

      Agreed. And when I hear comments along the lines that orchestras/classical music should not or cannot be instruments of social reform, may I point out to my learned friends that this is Beethoven 250 year : to commemorate a composer whose revolutionary idea of choral symphonic finale specifically used words around all men being brothers. As someone who has attended classical concerts for many years where only a small minority of others have similar ethnic heritage, there are many means to help social reform and reduce ‘white privilege’ :

      1. Many concerts are not sold out. Increase the allocation of unsold seats a day before the concert to poor but musical high school/middle school children, and arrange transport to and from concerts for these kids through volunteers for the orchestra– or perhaps ‘buddy them’ with other concert goers.

      2. Make it a policy to increase the number of people employed by the orchestra in administration who come from ethnic minorities. Offer these people some ongoing ‘cultural mentoring’ so they can learn to talk about at least some cultural topics that they did not have exposure to in their cultural context. [ I grew up with a family background where my parents had heard of Beethoven, Mozart, and Stravinsky nearly [ ‘Mr Fireburger’ ] but did not know the names of Schubert, Schumann, Haydn etc.]

      3. If #2 is slow work, hire some young interns of non-white backgrounds who can shadow admin employees.
      4. Continue/extend basic instrument training to kids in deprived neighbourhoods.

  • Joe says:

    There’s absolutely nothing shocking about it. They will still use security, just not from the MPD.

    As for the last paragraph: an organization that is full of white people in a city with a lot of black people in it SHOULD look at how to engage that community in any way that they can.

    • Orchestra fan says:

      Agreed, Joe.


      Transformation changes at the Minneapolis Police Department are needed, and they start with Bob Kroll’s removal. He has been a stubborn opponent of reform within the Minneapolis Police Department. Kroll characterized Floyd as a “violent criminal” and called the protests a “terrorist movement”. He needs to go.

      Orchestras along with other private institutions should use private security. It’s a no-brainer.

      As a Caucasian who has spent most of his life in a diverse American city and sees the reality of systemic racism ever day, even when some perpetrators may not believe they are racist, there is nothing shocking about the Minnesota Orchestra’s statement.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I don’t agree. That an orchestra consists mainly of non-African-Americans is not the orchestra’s fault and it is not a demonstration of ‘white privilege’. This is the usual reasoning like: my suffering is because of your success. Equal opportunities in music life begins at the beginning of the educational trajectory, and effectiveness at that stage is in turn dependent upon social opportrunity and support. To throw-in the orchestra as an instrument of anti-discrimination in a direct way is nonsensical. To downgrade an orchestra to an instrument of social reform is shocking indeed and therefore Norman is right in his assessment.

        • Bone says:

          Agreed. Talent should be the main determinant for arts membership. Certainly works out fine for pro sports.

        • James says:

          Not one word of their statement involved hiring black musicians instead of white ones. You’ve invented this. You’ve also somehow constructed the idea that if a black musician was to be hired, that they probably were hired because they were black, rather than for their skill level.

          • Nijinsky says:

            LOL Thank You. One can’t even follow some of the above logic, without suddenly realizing it’s so fabricated that one has lost what the topic was to begin with.

            When someone says: “it SHOULD look at how to engage that community in any way that they can,” nowhere does that say to hire black people who aren’t as qualified as others, it says engage with a community. And reaching out to a community in a way which reaches out the art of an institution (the Orchestra) beyond the sterile environment it’s dying in, neither is that throwing in the orchestra as an instrument of anti-discrimination in a nonsensical way or downgrading the orchestra to an instrument of social reform.”

            Neither does the statement say that the orchestra being predominantly white is what they mean by “white supremacy.”

            And it’s easy to say that education is the way to reach out, but does that form of “education” even engage with who they are teaching, or further more the true spirit of the music they represent; which if they were, classical music might be in a better state to begin with.

            And by reaching out for more diversity by reaching out to other genres, they are reaching out to people who might feel the spirit of a genre of music rather than killing it by using it as a superiority complex, this also isn’t accusing the orchestra of White Supremacy, downgrading it as a social tool nor throwing it in to reality out of context as a tool of social reform.

            One can’t even say simple things about reaching out to diversity, which would enhance the art, the community, the audience, the reason why the music is there to begin with, and suddenly one is accused of favoritism when one isn’t killing off “classical music” to be some sort of Mausoleum of artifice, while the music itself isn’t allowed to speak.

            It’s the same kind of possessive nonsense as maintaining slaves, how women are often treated, exploited minorities, the resources of destabilized countries.

            It’s not “yours” let someone else experience it!

            By the way, that quote above from the orchestra itself was from their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/minnesotaorchestra/posts/

            June 5

            I think one can do a google search to find more info on their stance that’s in context.

          • Quinn says:

            When will NAACP begin the necessary hiring of White people to integrate its organization??

            Nobody ever asks that sort question because Blacks are too racist to include Whites unless Rachael Dolezal counts.

            It’s time organizations of color get on the Affirmative Action bandwagon to demonstrate their TRUE FEELINGS!

    • david hilton says:

      “an organization that is full of white people in a city with a lot of black people in it” . . .depends on your conception of “a lot”. Minneapolis-St. Paul is not a city with a lot of black people by any comparative measure. Not by American standards. It is, in fact, of all major American cities by population, the one with the smallest black community. But, yes, agreed they should do everything possible to engage with that community, despite its small size.

      • V.Lind says:

        Absolutely agree with your main point, and also your demographic observation. If I had to characterise Minneapolis, it would be as “mighty white.” But it is basically irrelevant. This is now a national, and international, question.

        There are several things going on here, starting with a police department that needs some serious reform from the top down. The sanctifying of George Floyd might not have happened but for the absolute brutality and total callousness of the assault on him.

        Almost as shocking as the action of the accused murderer is the complicity of THREE colleagues, not one of whom saw anything wrong with what he was doing, not one of whom even had a self-serving notion that this could get him into trouble with his superiors. That’s indicative of a very toxic police culture in that city.

        Hence the explosion of international outrage that has been brewing for decades, decades in which people accepted apologies and in some cases relatively mild punishment for police offences, but nothing was ever seriously done. We are looking here at the most concerted response to racism since the height of the civil rights movement.

        The language of the Minnesota Orchestra may be a little awkward, but its intentions are definitely good, timely and prompt. They are not talking about quotas of minority musicians — they specifically instance the alteration of their security plans as a way of starting to reform their engagement with the world around them.

        The object is to deal fairly and decently with people. There will be a lot of examination of consciences going on in every institution of honour, and in every individual who cares about how we treat our fellow man. That’s what the statement says to me.

  • drummerman says:

    What, exactly, do they mean by “our own role in systemic racism? Are they confessing to some bad deeds?

    • James says:

      No, just an acknowledgement that their role in supporting equality and diversity needs closer examination – an action all arts organizations should be taking.

      • John Borstlap says:

        That is the eternally returning problem. Do you accept, at an audition, a black player who is not as good as a white one, only because of equality / diversity requirements? The simple answer is: no. And such result is not discriminatory. The real answer is to create an educational trajectory and sufficient support for Afro-Americans so that their best players have equal chances based upon achievement and ability, and without skin colour playing any role whatsoever.

        • Dennis says:

          This would make too much sense and take too long. In the new America they would indeed just demand that standards be lowed and “diversity” trump quality of playing.

          Yesterday a UCLA business college professor was put on leave because he refused demands by black students to give them less stringent grading standards than white or other students. Not only is that absurd and unfair to all on its face, but apparently the students don’t feel any shame regarding what that demand says about their own self-assessment of their abilities were they to be graded on the same scale as everyone else. Playing the victim and trying to get something for nothing is more important that self-reflection and self-improvement.

          • Elisa says:

            Question, do asians not count as being part of diversity anymore?

          • Peter Nguyen says:

            Definitely not ‘sensational’ enough to be featured much in the media, despite the admissions practices of a number of big universities. But one would think the practice of ‘marking down’ vs ‘marking up’ merits equal attention.

          • Dennis says:

            Not really for the diversi-cultists, Only Black Lives Matter. I’m sure they have some convoluted explanation for why Asians are actually also part of the “system of oppression”.

          • V.Lind says:

            I think that is not quite the whole story — he was asked to extend the period allowed for the exam due to the stresses of recent events. His decision not to grant this request should have been his to make, but the University has undercut him — a decision professional academics have questioned, siding with Professor Klein.

            It’s a heated climate out there, and a sophisticated academic ought to be able to read it. He should also probably have consulted university authorities to see what the prevailing thinking on such a question was. He had the right to decline the request, but should he, in looking outside the ivory tower for a moment, have wondered if that was the only consideration?

            I detest the whole “safe space, trigger-warning, no-platforming” woke culture that has infected universities. I am no more sympathetic to token treatment of students than I am of quota hiring for orchestras. I certainly do not believe in lenient marking, which I am not aware is what was being sought here. But a little sensitivity in time of crisis would not be too big an ask for a generous-minded person. And generosity of mind is surely what is being sought all around us these days.

          • Greg says:

            Remember when a city in Connecticut or Rhode Island (offhand I don’t recall which) lowered the standards for passing the exam to become a firefighter because not enough minorities were passing? Ridiculous. Sorry, folks, but there are many, many instances in which a meritocracy is absolutely warranted. Winning an orchestral audition is one of them. Racism is a tricky business.

        • Maria says:

          I thought an audition was done behind a screen? Mine was to get into the BBC Singers in 1977!

    • Mr. Knowitall says:


    • Dennis says:

      You’re questions implies its’ a serious, rational statement bearing any relation to reality.

      It’s just a virtue-signalling and pandering statement meant to show how woke they are as they kneel to the latest mob.

  • John Rook says:

    Maybe they should read some reliable statistics before flagellating themselves with the cat o’ nine tails of the pathetically woke.

  • PaulD says:

    All the white musicians should resign from the orchestra to make way for musicians of color. Otherwise, they are just posers.

  • Refal says:

    Make way for an all East Asian orchestra, which is what is happening already.

  • Stuart says:

    Clearly there is a lot of pressure on US organizations to say something in light of the murder of George Floyd, especially organizations in Minnesota. You can argue that they went a bit overboard (not sure what they mean about their reliance on white privilege) but on the whole I think the statement is well intentioned. Clearly the MPD needs reforming and a lot of “transformational change”. Defunding, though? Not a smart direction…

    • Byrwec Ellison says:

      It’s not obvious whether you’re writing from an American or other perspective, but the discussion we’re having in the US now over “defunding” the police is much deeper and more nuanced than you allow or acknowledge in your comment.

      For decades — generations, actually — social services provided by US cities, counties and states have been cut or eliminated entirely. At one time, there was a network of state and county psychiatric hospitals that housed the mentally ill, but their level of care was often little better than “housing,” and they began to disappear after the 1950s, replaced by community health centers and improved prescription meds.

      However, these services have been inadequate to deal America’s large population of mentally ill, many of whom live on the streets or populate our jails and prisons. For all of my adult life (I’m in my 60s), the burden of dealing with the mentally ill and street people has increasingly shifted to police departments instead of the healthcare providers who would be most qualified to render services.

      The movement to “defund” the police is about shifting those social functions — mental health, homelessness, domestic conflict and even drug abuse — back to other agencies and let the police concentrate on the work of fighting crime. It also means reconstituting police forces to weed out “badasses” like Officer Chauvin, who evidently get off on a power trip that frequently crosses the line to sadism and murder. American police officers kill over 1,000 civilians every year. We only know that figure from journalistic record-keeping; the FBI maintains a database of lethal force and severe injury in police-civilian encounters, but fewer than half of law enforcement officers submit reports because Congress has refused to make such reporting mandatory.

      Reconstituting police forces — compelling law enforcement officers to reapply for their jobs as was successfully done in Camden, New Jersey in 2013 — allows cities to break the grip of police unions that prevent the disciplining or removing of badly performing officers. The above-mentioned Bob Kroll is head of the local union and a tenacious defender of Officer Chauvin’s imperative to kneel on George Floyd’s carotid artery for 8+ minutes.

      If you have a better idea for allowing cities and law enforcement leadership reassert control and break the police version of omerta and “the blue wall of silence,” please do elucidate.

    • Karl says:

      I’m going to write something non PC here and object to you calling the death a murder. That has not been adjudicated yet. People are considered innocent until proven guilty. I remember the Rodney King case where a jury found the officers not guilty after seeing the totality of the evidence instead of just an inflammatory video. And contrary to popular opinion one of the jurors in that case was mixed race and he still ruled that the police were just doing their jobs as they were trained in subduing someone who was resisting arrest.

      • Bruce says:

        People can say what they like. Byrwec Ellison is expressing an opinion; and s/he isn’t just making it up out of thin air. (A court of law and a court of public opinion are not the same thing.) Particularly delicious is Officer Chauvin smirking on video at those recording him while he kills allegedly causes the alleged death by alleged asphyxiation of George Floyd. The other officer makes a half-hearted attempt to get people to stop, but Chauvin doesn’t seem to care. That could provide grounds for an opinion that this was a murder, or whatever word you prefer to use for intentionally doing something to kill someone and purposely not stopping once they are no longer a threat.

        • Karl says:

          I know people can say and write what they want. But that still doesn’t make it true. What happens is that people say it was a murder over and over for a year and people start to believe it’s a fact written in stone. That makes the outrage more irrational when a not guilty verdict is reached and that leads to violent riots. A total of 63 people died during the Rodney King riots. It could be much worse if these officers are found not guilty. I’m just asking people to be rational about this.

      • V.Lind says:

        You are right, of course. But murder (second degree) is the crime with which he has been charged. And his colleagues have been charged with crimes ancillary to second degree murder.

        Not sure that the Simi Valley verdict, despite the one mixed race juror, was all that detached. Simi Valley is home to a lot of cops, and is a very white area — the fact that eleven of the jurors were white is indicative. It’s interesting that the cops were tried there when the crime was committed downtown. They would never have got off downtown, and somebody knew it.

        And from the defences we are hearing about Officer Chauvin — whose name could form an adjective if it hadn’t done so already — the days of whites exonerating the actions of fellow whites against blacks are not so far behind us as we would like to imagine.

        Tell you one thing for free: if Chauvin et al get off, the LA Riots of 1992 will look like the Teddy-Bears’ Picnic.

  • Doug says:

    “Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”
    ― Theodore Dalrymple

    • John Borstlap says:

      Often Dalrymple goes over the line, like political correctness often does. I think his overreaction is due to the silly forms of political correctness. But what is the real form of PC? That is: civilized behavior, nothing more, nothing less, and it is quite a difficult requirement. To relate PC to communism, is like relating learning to write within two lines to develop a flowing handwriting – at school at an early age – with military training: to turn people into killing machines. (This latter idiotic relationship was made by French philosopher Michel Foucault.)

      • Count Pete says:

        If it were nothing more or less than civilized behavior, it wouldn’t require a new term. Political correctness imposes a test on speech which goes beyond courtesy to impose prohibitions based on content. Free debate is in danger when particular positions are ruled out of bounds.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      The above described pattern sounds like an excellent description of the dynamics between Trump and his enabling congressional Republicans.

    • V.Lind says:

      How like the Trump manifesto that sounds.

      • Simon Burstien says:

        You mean the Democrat manifesto V.Lind.

        They’re too busy eating their own and have NOTHING TO OFFER legal voters who aren’t dead.

        Trump has an easy win based both on his accomplishments and the Left’s need for anti-psychotic meds.

  • Anmarie says:

    My fellow liberals have gone completely nuts.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Interestingly, extremism on the left inevitably meets extremism on the right – both result in a totalitarian mind set.

      • Bill says:

        Dude, chill out: they’re hiring rent a cops instead of the police. They’re not sending anyone off to the gulag.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Those who have gone nuts make the most noise and are not representative of the majority. The above statement is a case in point.

  • James says:

    Please don’t think this is an isolated action of a performatively woke organization. Multiple major public organizations in Minneapolis have broken their contracts with the police, including the public school system, and the Minneapolis City Council has announced their intention to disband the police department. It’s really that bad.



    • drummerman says:

      Fair enough but how do we know that a private security company doesn’t have racists working them?

      • MacroV says:

        You don’t. But you can terminate the private security company more easily if their people misbehave.

      • Bone says:

        BLM and SPLC will certainly have an active roll in designing an appropriate vetting process, I’m sure.

      • Edward says:

        You can take the rule of presumption of innocence. If background check of the company does not show any evidence of racism, it should be regarded as free from that, until you discover one

  • MacroV says:

    Good for them. There is no need for the organization to associate itself with an institution that has proven itself abusive, racist, and stunningly resistant to reform. That institution has to be shown by others (Minnesota Orchestra a good start, hopefully followed by the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild, and United) that there is a cost to resisting reform.

  • caranome says:

    All white Americans: It’s now ordered that there shall be a national day of atonement for all the bad things you have done to blacks, other people of color, the environment, Indians, equality, climate change, junk food, obesity, and whatever else we charge, thusly:

    • Greg says:

      Rewrite the history books, tear down the statues, silence the critics, censor the news, etc. Welcome to the new USA.

      • V.Lind says:

        I was just listening to The Media Show on BBC Radio 4. Your history books SHOULD be rewritten. They quoted a grade nine geography text that referred to the slaves forcibly shipped to America as “workers” who came from Africa — the word “slave” and the contexts in which those people came and lived (or died) were not mentioned.

        And I remember when Lynne Cheney was interesting herself in education issues she lobbied — I believe with some success — to have textbooks rewritten to follow the conservative narrative of America. So aside from not being taught anything about anywhere else, American students are not taught the truth about their own history and society.

        Now Gone With the Wind is being yanked from HBO. God, yes, it’s offensive (artistically, too — I have always thought it an overrated movie) but it was a very important novel and film in the late 30s. Maybe if American students were taught a bit more about their history — properly — they would be able to judge the racism of the film (and, much more importantly, of the time, when an Academy Award-winning actress could not attend the party celebrating the winners because of her colour).

        But let’s pretend it did not happen — slavery, or such depictions of it. Let’s add to the infantilism and the dishonesty of the culture.

        • Lee says:

          Unfortunately, the state of Texas buys a lot of textbooks, so publishers cater to them. Often they have two editions. And there has been a concerted effort by the GOP and/or the wing nuts to pack state and local school boards to rewrite guidelines and standards as to what is taught.

    • Bruce says:

      As I find myself having to say periodically: there’s missing the point, and then there’s ducking out of the way to make sure the point misses you… sigh.

    • Bruce says:

      And anyway, the point is not to take personal responsibility for what others have done. The point is to take responsibility for how YOU behave, in that you decide not to actively perpetuate the unfairness of the status quo. (By that I mean “the unfair elements within the status quo,” not that the entire status quo is intrinsically unfair. (It might be, but that’s a different conversation.))

      It doesn’t mean give up your job just because being white means you had an easier time getting hired; it does mean, if you’re hiring, checking to see if you are being fair. E.g., if someone’s resume has a black-sounding name at the top, does their application end up in the trash while someone with a white-sounding name and identical qualifications goes into the “to be considered” pile? There have been tests of this: sending the same resume twice for the same job openings, with only the name at the top changed. The white “applicant” got more callbacks than the “black” one. All people want you to do is try not to be the one who throws away the “black” resumes.

  • Simon Behrman says:

    Very good and brave of them!

    Those of us who are white need to make a greater effort in listening to what Black people are telling us about their experiences. By definition, we don’t understand how day-to-day racism works in the way that they do.

    According to multiple accounts the Minnesota police department are systematically racist – members of the city council are already pushing to disband it – and so creating some distance with them is part of being effectively anti-racist and demonstrating solidarity with the Black community in the city.

  • Emrla says:

    Does the last paragraph mean no more behind the screen auditions and affirmative action considerations for orchestra appointments? Also, the orchestra can privately contract guard services but they are not statutory peace officers with arrest authorization or ability to gather evidence and present it to the district attorney for prosecution. If you’re mugged outside Orchestra Hall you’re on your own.

    • Bruce says:

      Um, so all security guards can do is say “hey, stop that”? You’re kidding, right?

      Maybe they can’t arrest and officially gather evidence, but they can interrupt crimes, detain suspects, call police, and give testimony. That’s why businesses of all kinds use security guards to deter shoplifters (or catch those who were not deterred), for example.

      And yes: by all means, keep an eye on the MO’s audition results for future orchestra openings, and be ready to publicly call into question the hiring of any black player.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    If the concertmaster’s fiddle is stolen I hope they receive the same incredible help from the Twin Cities police that the Milwaukee Symphony’s Frank Almond received from the Milwaukee Police Department (which has had some racial issues of its own to be sure) in recovering the Strad which had been lent to him.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:


      When anarchy breaks loose, who are the artists going to call? 911?

      “Sorry you let the officers go. Protect yourself by performing 12 tone music. It’s your only chance”

    • MacroV says:

      You raise one critical issue, perhaps inadvertently. The Minneapolis PD union is so militant that when City Council members were proposing reform efforts in the past, police deliberately slowed down responses to 911 calls from that member’s district as a form of retaliation and intimidation. The mafia would be proud.

  • Disgusted Minneolas Orchestra Audience Member says:

    They should start by getting rid of their nearly all white board and audience. Oh, wait! The orchestra is nearly all white!

    Defund the Minnesota Orchestra!

    I hope none of those ex police officers who work for private security companies ever steps foot into Orchestra Hall.


    • Bruce says:

      Yeah, I refuse to go to concerts where I know the security guards are not free to kill black people. How else could I be sure I was safe?


  • Fil Rich says:

    Normally, I would not chime in. However, this situation is out of control. My guess, with regard to the last paragraph, is that the orchestra will start a program similar to ones like, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. Giving, a “scholarship” to a person that is not white. Which is completely racist in itself. If the orchestra really wants to make a difference, they must start with the young potential musicians in communities that are more at a disadvantage. You never hear the Asian community complaining, mostly because they start young, then put in the work. And I can say the same for young women who continue to dominate at auditions, and are fully deserving of the positions they win. Diversity for the sake of diversity is complete insanity. Giving anything to anyone ends up helping no one! Though I have never won a job, I have spent twenty years trying. It is one of the hardest things to do. Just because I went to the best schools, and I am white does not mean I deserve the job. The Minnesota Orchestra, as an institution, seriously needs to think about their next move. I think most of us remember the financial disaster a few years back. And we know you were running a SERIOUS financial deficit right before the coronavirus.

    • Asian says:

      Re: minority fellowship/training programs, I believe they are motivated by the logic you’ve stated: “If the orchestra really wants to make a difference, they must start with the young potential musicians in communities that are more at a disadvantage.” Perhaps your disagreement is with the idea that African Americans are at a disadvantage?

      There is a huge wealth gap between black and white Americans. This is plainly related to racist policies in American history, which prevented the accumulation of wealth for black Americans (think redlining..not to mention slavery). And I think we will probably agree that there are huge financial barriers to entry in this field; elite training and instruments and auditions are expensive.

      Then there is the disadvantage from people’s expectations (implicit bias). Everyone subtly re-calibrates their expectations of what a performer might sound like upon seeing their appearance (for some reason, the example that comes to mind is Susan Boyle), and with proportionally few successful black classical musicians, these expectations are not usually favorable. And confirmation bias means that it will take just a little bit more to shake people from these expectations. A black musician must overcome these expectations in any non-anonymous setting..which is most performances, competitions, college auditions, lessons, etc.

      You might ask, where is the help for the white aspiring classical musician who grew up in poverty? There are many ways for a musician to be disadvantaged. The fellowship/training programs you mention certainly fall short of addressing every disadvantage. Rather, they focus on one particular disadvantage: being black. Is there a better way orchestras be more accessible to disadvantaged communities? Almost certainly. But is this better than nothing? I would say yes.

      Lastly, let me share my perspective as an Asian American. I am deeply self-conscious about being perceived as the trope of the robotic Asian musician, another manifestation of implicit bias. Asian Americans are regularly held up as proof that racism doesn’t exist. No. My experience tells me that it does.

      But I have enjoyed some things that many African Americans do not: financial security from a young age and relatively strong representation in the classical music world being two examples. It would be mistake to think that Asian and African Americans face the same difficulties, but that Asian Americans just have a better work ethic.

      • Fil Rich says:

        I am not saying racism does not exist, and agree with all of your points. The financial aspect is a huge part of this, as is the community and family aspects. I am not sure how to say this without sounding like I am slighting anyone, but it is a cultural thing. I have a couple of friends that teach “inner city” youth. They have asked me on separate occasions, “What am I supposed to do with these kids? They keep cutting all of the arts! They are not gonna like it when they find out that they are not gonna be a rapper, or an athlete?”

        The root of the problem is our education system, and the messages television, and the news send to not only our children, but us.

        Hard work always trumps talent. But if you have nothing to start with, it is a long road.

      • Fil Rich says:


        I’m not gonna get into this here. I have way too much information, that is not the lip service links you posted. Just because I haven’t won a job does not mean I have not spent several seasons with top tier orchestras; not only playing the hits, but playing “outreach”. I’m sorry, but it is not what you think it is.

    • Lee says:

      The Minnesota Orchestra did start a fellowship program a few years ago. This does not mean that fellows will be hired, but only that they are getting a chance to get some great training at the beginning of their careers. What they do with it is up to them.

  • Dennis says:

    If the Minneapolis city council has their way and abolishes the police, the orchestra won’t have to worry about it.

    And when they city descends into utter lawlessness and chaos, and businesses and the middle class simply leave, while street gangs take over, and the city becomes a third world banana republic, the orchestra will lose its base of patronage and disappear as well.

    I hope the city council succeeds and does abolish he police. It’ll be a great test case. Schadenfreude can be fun.

    • James says:

      Not to interrupt your MAGA fever-dream, but you might want to read about a city that disbanded their police force, put it back together again, and is now seeing extraordinary success from it.


      • Karl says:

        But that Camden model is not what they are proposing in Minneapolis. Did you see the radicals kick their mayor out of a rally? This is what one council member said:

        “We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” Jeremiah Ellison, a Minneapolis city councilman, said on Twitter last week. “And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together. We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.”

        • Bruce says:

          With due respect, “dramatically rethinking” how they approach public safety and emergency response doesn’t seem like a bad idea right now, especially since they acknowledge that incremental reforms have failed.

          First sentence of the article you linked to (emphasis mine): “On Sunday, after weeks of protests following the police killing of George Floyd, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members pledged to dissolve the city’s police department and create a new system for providing public safety.

          We’ll have to see what that means, but it does not appear that their plan is to become a city without laws.

      • Ian S. says:

        Of course YOU don’t live there Jimmy.

        I bet you lock your doors too.

  • Mary Zoeter says:

    I am amazed at how many classical music lovers are racists. Despite them, I will continue to enjoy classical music. And bravo to the courageous stand taken by the orchestra.

    • G says:

      It’s important not to conflate “classical music audience” with “the sort of right wing lunatic loners who have the time to comment daily on slippedisc”! While I wouldn’t argue that much of the classical audience is conservative, this will often depend on the type of music the specific group or individual is performing. Bartok, Schoenberg and music which requires the use of the brain for anything other than “relaxation” is generally unlikely to be favourable with conservatives/regressives. After all, it’s “Sue Sonata Form”, not “Sue Total Serialism”.

  • sam says:

    But why have ANY security at all?

    The very existence of a security force is an oppressive privilege, no matter its composition, meant to dominate, exclude, repress, in the service of capitalism.

    If y’all gonna be all holier-than-thou about it, then re-read your Foucault.

    ; )

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Stravinsky told people late in his life that he wished the Minneapolis Police Dept had been at the first performance of the Rite of Spring so they could have put out the riots.

  • Trlgebeouw says:

    Hi Norman,

    Are you willing to share with us what it is that you find shocking about this statement? I’m sure many of your readers would be interested in hearing your actual opinion on the matter.

    Thank you.

  • Connor says:

    Racism is bad.

  • Kenneth says:

    Hiring musicians based on the color of their skin is coming. Being in this field for sometime, I have come across musicians that feel this way. I wish they realized that music transcends skin color. Opportunity in education is where we must start reforming things…but to pick and choose amongst fully developed artists based on their sex or skin color cheapens and reduces the entire art form. To quote Arthur Rubenstein: “an artist must be alone, a world by himself.”

  • Ilio says:

    Wow, what I’m reading reminds me of the crowd in the coin collecting world. Old, privileged white, racists, who don’t know facts and don’t bother to learn the facts.

    System is broken in Minneapolis. It’s in need of a major overhaul.

  • Charles says:

    Liberals gone too far, sorry, but this is unfortunately exactly how Trump will get re-elected. Very sad we aren’t able to have a nuanced discussion.

  • M2N2K says:

    Any policy based on race is divisive and inherently racist. Even when well-intentioned initially such as affirmative action, it eventually exacerbates racist attitudes and results in increasing racial tensions instead of minimizing them. The human nature is such that there will probably always be individual racists, but in order to keep decreasing their influence and contribute to unity and justice for all people we should avoid any mention of race in our official discourse. What is wrong in recognizing that people have differences as well as similarities and therefore different people may excel in different fields of human endeavor? That should be embraced and celebrated, instead of creating artificial quotas that are sure to hurt the quality of results leading to lower quality of life itself.

  • MacroV says:

    Norman – the Minneapolis PD isn’t the London Metropolitan Police, though I’m sure they have issues, too.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    The US on its way to becoming a 4th world state. Soon its only function will be to provide toilet attendants for China

  • Naming the police union head was astute.

    The Mpls police who no longer get the easy extra-hours-extra-pay assignments at the Minnesota Orchestra will know it is their loudmouth union chief who cost them the job.

    They should exercise their union member right to elect a new executive.

  • Nijinsky says:

    The second to last paragraph might be the most shocking: “Where government regulations mandate a police presence, we will continue to comply.” Obviously they have no choice, and I don’t think where they have choice that there’s something wrong there when they do have choice. In contrast to what the lives of slaves, women, minorities, homeless people, disenfranchised, anyone not being able to comply to fabricated social moral or behavioral norms and the rest would have as choice or used to.

    As in when the police can mandate someone behave a certain way because they are having a heart attack, and when they can’t comply (because they are having a heart attack) that the police can not only ignore they are having a heart attack, but instead cause them to die from it.

    I don’t think that’s promoting safety. Nor do I think that saying I don’t want to work with such people until they’ve shown that things will change is preventing safety.

    And there’s another story, that wasn’t in the news here:


    And it is racist. And unfortunately the group most killed are those whose ancestors lived here before the Europian “white” men came and felt their violence and ambition gave them the right to claim it. The same way many women are still treated.


    And what’s the most sad about that article of native lives, and how many native lives are destroyed thanks to the “mental health” system aided by societal and police paranoia, is that there’s an art in the native culture – and in the black culture, jazz harmony is more scientific in relationship to the overtone series than Western “fuctional” harmony; I myself wouldn’t be able to have survived without that, in contrast to those saying they’re maintaining what music is and what they believe that offers – that transcends the superficiality “Western” art can be stoked up with (not that I’m saying all of it is): who is the most famous, who has the best technique, whose virtuosity is the best drug, whose sublime interpretation is the best drug; when something more caring about the human condition than all such ‘ability” or “ambition” restores the soul and gives freedom to the imagination, rather than disabling a person’s dissent, whether it’s with the trauma of violence or disabling treatments, “social” or “medical.

  • Guest says:

    These public oaths that institutions are making is McCarthyism. Affirm your allegiance so the mob passes by you. The new reality in the “woke” USA.

  • Grumpy says:

    Great. Hope the orchestra goes under and all those musicians are out of a job.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Some key points to remember:

    1. Yes, the Minneapolis police dept. has problems and needs a major cleanup/reform. Obviously. There is no situation that makes it acceptable to strangle somebody when trying to arrest that person.

    2. Minneapolis is NOT going to abolish its police dept. Reform it, yes. Revamp it, sure. Weed out officers that should not have been hired in the first place or are no longer psychologically fit for the job – let’s hope so.

    I’ll be the first to say that giving police forces too much power without enough limitations is a bad combination. But let’s not tar all the Minneapolis officers (and those in other cities) who try to do their jobs well, treat people fairly, and focus their efforts only on people who violate the Social Contract.

    3. The Minnesota Orchestra is just virtue signalling, mimicking that dozens of music organizations that bombarded my Twitter feed yesterday, all pretty much reading off the same vague, essentially substanceless script. If they haven’t been hiring the BEST musicians, regardless of color or ethnicity, for the last 50 years, what have they been doing? It’s been rather surreal to watch a parade of organizations who really don’t have a dog in this fight jostle to the front of the line to make irrelevant statements denouncing something that any sensible person with a brain knows is patently and obviously wrong (i.e., racism).

    NOTE that the statement says the orchestra won’t hire off-duty Minneapolis police officers for security “until the MPD implements fundamental changes.” As soon as a raft of department reforms gets announced, the orchestra goes back to hiring off-duty cops.

    4. Reach out to communities that normally don’t go to classical music events – absolutely! In that past, the barriers for people of color was (1) racial prejudice, (2) economics (they couldn’t afford tickets), and (3) classical music just wasn’t part of their cultures because of #1 and #2 above. So the MO should feel free to help “nontraditional” audiences feel welcome. Just don’t water down the musical standards and present substandard music.

    5. Reminder to All: Just two years ago, the MO went on a tour of South Africa – one of my proudest moments as a 40-year MO supporter and fan. The other was their tour to Cuba in 2015.

  • John Willan says:

    Shouldn’t that be: The real answer is to create an educational trajectory and sufficient support for EVERYONE so that the
    best players have equal chances based upon achievement and ability…….what has anything else got to do with it? It’s an orchestra.

  • David says:

    I’ve thought for several years that it is odd to go to orchestra hall and see a couple of cops in the lobby. That has got to be an easy night’s duty, the crowd is pretty tame. The biggest disturbance I’ve witnessed has been me, I asked to be re-seated at intermission due to all the talking by my neighbors. The usher was very accommodating, the cops were not needed.

  • Gustavo says:

    Start with the repertoire!

    For example:

    William Dawson – Negro Folk Symphony (1934)


    It seems the US have done better in the past.

    • The View from America says:

      Careful — you can’t perform anything with such an insensitive title as that.

      • Johan says:

        Don’t forget traditional “Negro Spirituals” which black people still perform…..

        The more ‘offended’ people act, the less likely these types of people are to be HIRED or welcomed into society with their constant negativity.

        Whiners and complainers of any sort are unwelcome in the real world. Hence the recent backlash against hiring women and minorities due to their instability and the legal expenses they create. They’re toxic personalities which do not represent entire, specific races.

        Take Kathleen Battle and what SHE ALONE did to get fired from the MET and eschewed by ALL other opera houses.

        Jessye Norman didn’t act that way, nor Shirley Verrett, or Reri Grist.

        Kathleen’s offensive behavior put the MET off so much after backing her that they had to give up on that level of support for everyone since. And where’s Kathy now?? One, solo show a few years ago since she’s both disagreeable and uninsurable with a full cast and orchestra with her negativity. She hurt not only herself but the INTENTIONAL FEW after her. Ask the white MET Board if you can afford to speak with them or Gelb.

        • Lee says:

          Whaaaa??? And men don’t contribute to this “recent backlash against hiring women and minorities due to their instability and the legal expenses they create.”? IIRC, Luciano Pavarotti was let go by the Lyric Opera for exactly this kind of instability. And we won’t even go into conductor behavior.

      • V.Lind says:

        The UNCF still uses its full-word name on a lot of documents.

        It’s contextual.

  • tyler kent says:

    To be consistent the now politicized orchestra should stop playing any music written by composers who benefited from “white privilege.”

  • Bruce says:

    I guess people are upset because the only possibilities are to use police for concert hall security, or to have no security at all. It’s really too bad that there is no such thing as private security providers.