Toronto’s music dean is another diversity queen

Toronto’s music dean is another diversity queen


norman lebrecht

January 07, 2021

The University of Toronto has named Dr. Ellie Hisama as Dean of the Faculty of Music. We learn from the Ludwig-van site that ‘her research focus centres on interdisciplinary studies, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and the social and political dimensions of music’. Nothing to do with improving and deepening the study of music.

‘As dean, I look forward to opening and leading conversations about how students, staff, faculty, alumni and administrators can work together towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Faculty of Music,’ she said.  Yeah, right.



  • V. Lind says:

    Well, she’s not my cup of tea but her credentials seem to be what’s on the menu these days in musicology and music theory. A fuller appreciation of her background:

    U of T has been consistently at the top of the league table of universities in Canada for decades, and scores well up in international lists. But it has certainly become very woke. I’m afraid this does not surprise me.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Ellie is wonderful! Congratulations to my Brooklyn College colleague! She will be a wonderful addition to the University of Toronto School of Music.

  • Woke up says:

    Bloody disgusting.
    Music has deteriorated into the next thing that needs to be forced to be in line with hypermoral “everything-is-the-same” agenda.

    “Does your orchestra have enough blacks? Asians? Handicapped?
    It better, or else we’ll smear you with shame”

    • Morgan says:

      So does ‘music’ exist in a multi-verse apart from the one we all know? Naive statement, IMHO.

    • Guv says:

      So much hate in this message. Very sad

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Yes, the truth hurts doesn’t it.

      • E Rand says:

        Guv is one of those who might have a “Hate Has NO Home Here” signs in his front yard. I always laugh when I see those because I like to imagine what would happen when I ask those who post such childish nonsense what they think of Conservatives, or Trump. They would nearly choke on their venom in responding.

    • Chuckling JS says:

      Your white supremacist views are on the decline, you fucking goblin. The world needs less white men in these positions of power, and more diversity. Enjoy fading into obscurity, and being a shameful footnote for your grandchildren – though for all our sakes, I hope you didn’t procreate.

      • Keep good says:

        Thanks for just confirming that “the great replacement” is not just a right-wing conspiracy theory, but actually seen as a great thing by people as yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      No. They just need smearing with shame for their record on sexual violence. Woke has nothing to do with it so stop distorting serious problems in the world of classical music with your pathetic anti-woke agenda and take your tired old ‘politics’ elsewhere. Many in the world of classical music are sick of this misogynistic approach. Toronto has a serious problem with sexual violence and the faculty of music has been utterly complicit in this problem. This problem is destroying lives. This is why they have a new Dean and this problem comes before your bigoted agenda. Perhaps she will actually be able to get a grip on this disgusting and shameful culture at Toronto. Has nothing been learned from places like Chetham’s and Purcell? Shame on you.

  • caranome says:

    Tiresome, banal, idiotic, grifting, swindle ad infinitum.

  • LuAnn says:

    This is a highly offensive question but MUST be broached…

    Does she know anything about music?

    • V. Lind says:

      The link I provided gives some idea. I’m afraid it is not my idea if what the emphases of a music college head should be, though mercifully she is not on the performance side. Jeffrey Biegel’s endorsement is encouraging; my fear rests with U of T, whose priorities seem to be misplaced. It is a pity — when I was there (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) it was neither sexist nor racist — it was very diverse.

      There is a difference between diverse and woke. I fear this appointment is symptomatic of that.

    • Morgan says:

      Begs the question: Know you anything about her?

    • Alexander T says:

      Good question.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    The headline seemed excessively judgmental, but I thought the comments would be of interest.

    In fact, at this stage, no comments have yet been published, but I think NL has probably got the headline right.

    Her stated objective seems worthy enough, but surely should be secondary to her primary objective of producing quality musicians.

    I never went to music college, but I chose my teachers solely on the basis of how well they were likely to make me a better harpsichordist.

    I certainly would have shunned anyone who came across as sexist or racist, but I would never have chosen X over a more promising Y simply because X was more overtly commited to diversity.

  • Fred Funk says:

    Look at her degrees. She’s NEVER had to pass a proficiency jury on voice, or any instrument. Flake. And absolutely no degree, or work in administration.

  • Herbie G says:

    Yes, indeed Paul. Nothing about making them world-class musicians. All that ranting about diversity seems rather hollow coming from someone ‘ethnic’ who herself got the plum job!

    All her listed skills are politicised hogwash. It’s just as bad as the BBC choosing a bloated pin-striped civil servant whose knowledge of music seems negligible to run Radio 3. I bet she’s at work on her next screed – ‘Marxism as revealed in Mozart’s piano concertos’.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      We desperately need a new generation of Gilbert & Sullivan. This woke rubbish is ripe for satire and humour; most everything about it is totally risible.

      But, of course, the Left understands well the power of humour to damage their earnest social engineering courses and have spent years shutting down humour, cartooning and other “undesirable” commentary. Now, where have I heard that before?

      • V. Lind says:

        From some screamingly funny rightwing comedian? If you know one, please name him/her. I’m always game for a laugh.

        And the left is about to lose the best source of material of this century, not least because he has stopped being remotely funny. (Ian Hislop observed, in the first HIGNFY after he was elected, that the Trumps would provide “years of comedy gold”).

    • John Borstlap says:

      Or, ‘The Equal Temperament als Paradigm of Social Justice’.

      • Odell M. says:

        With Biden-Harris to take office soon, a Democrat Senate and House you will be overjoyed to see this “all-inclusive” degradation and devolvement based on your and Lebrecht’s regular rant posters.

        The rest of us overseas are happy to have escaped the trappings of the impending socialism/Marxism people like you want. You certainly don’t want people to get jobs and work freely regardless of all the locked down businesses never to re-open. You wouldn’t be able to manipulate and control them otherwise.

        Glad I’m a retired expatriate from the Obama-Biden years of devolution!

  • Hobbes says:

    I’m pretty sure that Norman has pushed for a fair number of composers who were (almost) written out of musical history for their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or their social and political leanings, for which he is rightly applauded. However, I’m not sure that he can really object to someone else doing the same.

    I’m yet to be convinced that Norman has an interest in or ability to contribute to improving or deepening the study of music either, so maybe less stone throwing and more patience and generosity towards someone who is trying to better other people’s lives might be in order. Unfashionable though that approach is these days.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Why the snarky negativity, Norman?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    What the hell is wrong with diversity?

    • Nick says:

      “What the hell is wrong with diversity?” Today? EVERYTHING!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      When it’s diversity of opinion it is truly undesirable.

    • E Rand says:

      Nothing, so long as it is the accidental byproduct of having chosen the most qualified candidate for a position. The problem is when it IS the only qualifying factor. You knew that, right? Or no?

    • Whitney Ng says:

      Diversity = DILUTION so far…

      Can’t wait for Biden to truly enforce this diversity narrative so “black, Jewish and women’s” businesses and groups will have to exercise diversity themselves hiring whites, christians and men accordingly.

      Let’s see how fast these “minority groups” RESIST and litigate.

      All diversity is about is taking something you want that’s better than what you can do on your own. How often are white men “fighting” to get into black and women’s groups or Christians into Jewish groups. Rarely if ever. Why? They know they aren’t WELCOME and don’t bother to engage in non-productive wastes of energy. However, the inverse garners former minorities some sort of win for damaging and diluting another’s territory ultimately nobody wants when they’re inside.

      PS Our best to our Biden voting friends who just elected the ANTHESIS of what Democrats “supposedly stand for”.

      Biden is a:
      (bunch of fucking morons)

      Oh, there goes all the good JOBS and the ECONOMY with his regurgitated Obama cabinet!!!!!!

  • JussiB says:

    Is this article filed under “faux musicology” category.

  • MacroV says:

    What makes you think she’s not qualified for the job? If she were a world-class piano virtuoso, would that necessarily make her any more suitable? It’s an administrative position.

    • Bone says:

      According to info on the site shared by NL, she has been a vice chair in a music department. Otherwise, her work doesn’t seem to indicate much admin experience – certainly not leading a school as a dean. But obviously that had nothing to do with why she got the job.

  • Adista says:

    Well, since Asians are entirely overrepresented in classical music, she should show her devotion to the cause and resign immediately in favor of a black dean.

    • JussiB says:

      Very true, I even spotted an Asian in the 2021 New Year’s Concert from Vienna!!

      Rarely do I see an Indian, Persian or black player.

  • Anon. says:

    This is an exciting hire for U of T. Dr. Hisama is highly respected as a music theorist and as a cultural studies scholar, a fine teacher, and a competent administrator. Her work addresses a broad range, but to question her expertise in music or to imply that her hire anything but meritorious is comically ignorant.

  • Alexander T says:


  • Alexander T says:

    What was it Sir Thomas Beecham is supposed to have said about musicologists? “They know the notes but can’t hear them” (or words to that effect).

  • debuschubertussy says:

    Honestly though, it’s usually not the job of the dean of a School of Music to do any actual music teaching (certainly not applied music or performance-related activity). Based on my experiences as a student, grad student, and now as a professor, a Dean usually does no teaching at all. So her appointment sounds pretty legit to me, however “woke” others may deem it.

  • AnnaT says:

    She’s an exceptional music theorist and has been a great mentor to countless theorists, musicologists, and composers at Columbia.

  • Leonard Ratzlaff says:

    Once again, a tendency to cherry-pick to prove some kind of misguided point, Norman. Had you actually read the full article, you might have also noted that she has had a stellar career as both a teacher of music at Columbia, as well as a mentor for younger colleagues. Yeah, right.

  • JussiB says:

    Wokeness afflicted the Vienna Philharmonic 20 years ago and it never sounded the same since…at least to my ears. The PC crappola has got to stop.

    • E Rand says:

      Precisely. VPO caved, and lost their sound. And they’ll never get it back. They fought the good fight, at least! I am in favor of any group defining its membership as it sees proper. All women group? Fine! All Black? Go ahead! All male? Sure! Problem is, Leftism creates nothing, it only destroys institutions.

      • MacroV says:

        Not if they want to be supported by public taxes; the VPO may be a private club but their day job is the very public (and thus subject to EU employment law) Vienna Staatsoper.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is not so simple as that. Social justice to correct obvious injustice is a sign of civilised progress. Where it affects something that has nothing to do with injustice, it works as its opposite. Often the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Yossel says:

    Whenever I read about someone committed to the woke/diversity agenda, I always wonder if they choose physicians for themselves and their loved ones on the same basis…..particularly if they find themselves, G-d forbid, in a life-or-death ER situation.

    • E Rand says:

      Soon, thanks to leftism, they won’t have a choice.

    • Bill says:

      It’s been my experience that the superior physicians have not been right of center, much the opposite.

      And in a life-or-death ER situation, you don’t get much of a choice. But full marks for the nice straw-man argument…

      I find that whenever I see someone using the word “woke” it is safe to disregard anything they say. Works for both ends of the spectrum!

  • Nick says:

    Yet another BS appointment!

  • M McAlpine says:

    Interesting. Doesn’t even say what instrument she plays. She appears to specialise in promoting composers no-one wants to hear. Glad I’m not one of her students. She’d probably be glad too!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Pass me the bucket.

  • PHF says:

    UofT tends to be an “arid” environment of research. If she is able to expand their horizons, they got it right, if she only stamps “diversity” discourse around, this will push some of their talents away to other universities.

  • Pianofortissimo says:


  • A shocked Torontonian-British expat says:

    What incredibly nasty and pompous comments people have chosen to leave here. Thinking about music in the ways that Dr Hisama has made the focus of her scholarship may be of no interest to you. For that matter, various approaches to thinking about music (e.g. Schenkerian analysis) might also leave you cold. You may, indeed, prefer not to “study” music at all, and that’s your decision. But the idea that her research interests have “nothing to do with improving or deepening the study of music”, as one of a number of angles a student might encounter in a music degree, is extraordinarily close-minded. Someone casually, and very snidely, wondered whether she knows anything about music at all. I mean…of course she does! I dare say she knows more about music than any commentator on this page, and she’s earned her appointment on merit. Imagine if you were her, or a member of her family, seeing her success casually trashed by people who, I assume rather put out in general that the world refuses to stay the same for ever, are prepared to pronounce on her professional competence and usefulness having never met her or been taught by her. Some of these remarks are on the borderline of defamatory. I very much enjoyed my own academic musical studies, and the various different ways in which they encouraged me to think. If Thomas Beecham would thereby assume that I don’t know how to hear notes – or some other such clever-sounding but meaningless nonsense that a generation of cantankerous patrician British musicians of a certain era made their speciality – then I can live with it.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      Having known Dr. Hisama, I was happy to share congratulations. It is not as easy as many think to be hired to be a Dean. She has worked her way up the ladder. It is unnerving to read otherwise.

  • Peter says:

    LOL! I see good things for the school…

  • D** says:

    I looked at the degrees Dr. Ellie Hisama earned–an AB in English language and literature from the University of Chicago, and an MA and PhD in music theory from the City University of New York. Perhaps someone knows the answer to this question: How does one get accepted into a graduate program in music theory without an undergraduate degree in music? I have never heard of such a thing.

    My degrees are in music education (BM and MM), but was required to take an extensive assortment of music theory, literature, and history courses. In addition, those of us without keyboard backgrounds were expected to acquire some proficiency in this area. My classmates and I had to perform in an ensemble every semester and do two juries every academic year. I never would have been accepted into a graduate program in music without this background. In fact, I was required to pass exams in music theory, harmonic dictation, and music history before being permitted to take any graduate courses.

    Imagine a medical school appointing a non-physician with a degree in the history of science as its dean. Students wouldn’t be happy. If I were a University of Toronto music student or graduate, I’d be furious.

    • Qualifications Police says:

      Why don’t you ask her? Write to her and ask about her proficiency in music. Challenge her to a tenor clef ledger line competition. See if she can transpose a part for Clarinet in A. Does she know the key signature of F# minor? Only then will we know for sure whether the University of Toronto made a wise decision in their appointment of a Dean.

      • D** says:

        I’ve stated my opinion and I’m sticking with it, but I’ll leave it for others to decide if it was a wise decision or not.

        One of Dr. Hisama’s areas of research is feminist music analysis.
        I knew nothing about the subject, so I decided to investigate further.
        A description:

        For anyone interested in hearing Dr. Hisama, her portion begins about 30 minutes in:

        • John Borstlap says:

          The article invokes, of all people, French quasi-philosopher Derrida whose central claim is that there is nothing beyond the text, that there is no reality to which ane given text refers. This is obviously very true of the article concerned.

          Feminist music theory cannot exist because it is a mere political instrument to liberate women from their suppressed state:

          “Feminist theories of music can acknowledge the importance of performance and ritual in our mutual empowerment.”

          Thus, music theory then stops to be music theory. Such efforts do belong to the social territory, not music theory.

    • Beckmesser says:

      There are two parallel universes in academic music, exemplified by the School of Music and the Department of Music at Yale. The former trains musicians and composers; the latter focuses on scholarly writing about music. Dr. Hisama would appear well-qualified for this, as the U of Toronto focuses on scholarship. Those interested in performance go to the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School.

    • AnnaT says:

      Your analogy is inapt–a better one would be someone who goes to medical school with an English degree, which as I’m sure you know, is not uncommon.

    • Bill says:

      A friend recently applied to a number of graduate programs in musicology. He has an electrical engineering degree. No issues whatsoever, and he was accepted by several. You simply have to make a convincing case for why your background will not be an undue handicap. What was your musical background that persuaded CUNY that they should bother with you, or your background in English that did the same for U of Chicago?

      Did Heifetz have a degree in violin performance? Beethoven in composition or piano performance? Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had no degrees, but seem to have been moderately successful as well. Maybe a degree is not all that it is cracked up to be.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It comes as a great shock to any serious musicologist to discover that almost NONE of the greatest composers of the classical repertoire had a conservatory diploma or music faculty degree. So, they were entirely ignorant of what musicology has, meanwhle, collected in terms of understanding of how music works. How come?

        • AnnaT says:

          Lol, we serious musicologists know perfectly well that many 18th and 19th-century composers didn’t have conservatory degrees, don’t be absurd.

  • Ashu says:

    It’s Toronto. It couldn’t have been any other way.

  • Wellesley's Janitor says:

    I hope while she is focusing on the mentioned subjects also would consider basic needs of a music school!

    Such as purchase of music stands and chairs/benches for practice rooms and studios!!! (I know, kids & faculty steal them!! CIM has a good and cheap solution for you!)

    Good luck!

  • Lulu bird says:

    As a member of the Toronto faculty, I am telling you the diversity hires are pervasive. In our department (a science discipline), we are going for a black diversity hire, where the procedure involves first identifying a potential diversity candidate to get the position from the University, then writing a job ad where all are invited to apply. We then go through all the files and waha …. ended up with a one person short list with you know whom. I have nothing against the candidate and I should be happy because it is in my field. But this process just makes me sad. I would normally champion to diversify the faculty body, but this kind of agenda-setting way makes one lose faith completely on the end goal.

  • Herbie G says:

    She seems more flat then sharp. Certainly not natural. Was her appointment accidental? The key of A major has three black notes, so does F# minor. She would prefer transposition to C flat major or A# major – each of which has seven black notes. That’s know as affirmative transposition.

  • Paul says:

    The Left, for all its errors, at least tries to repudiate the worst of the Right for which E Rand, Sue Sonata Form and too many other PROUD BOYS AND GIRLS on this site are unapologetic mouthpieces. Why the hostility to “woke”? Is it better to be “asleep”?

  • André Weiss says:

    Hisama is well-known and well-regarded in the field. Congratulations to Toronto for their wise choice.

  • Fo says:

    According to her Columbia biography, she has also served “ twice as a respondent at the Center for Jewish History’s Jewish Music Forum”. Just think this might be of interest.