The crime of whiteness in American classical music

The crime of whiteness in American classical music


norman lebrecht

August 02, 2021

The indefatigable Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute has compiled an exhaustive list of confessional apologists for the crimes of American classical music. You will have read the extreme cases in, but Heather has bulked them out into a depressing litany of spokespeople, some eminent, who are effectively saying ‘all whites are bad from birth’ and ‘pardon me for being alive’.


Classical music is under racial attack. Orchestras and opera companies are said to discriminate against black musicians and composers. The canonical repertoire—the product of a centuries-long tradition of musical expression—is allegedly a function of white supremacy.

Not one leader in the field has defended Western art music against these charges. Their silence is emblematic. Other supposed guardians of Western civilization, whether museum directors, humanities professors, or scientists, have gone AWOL in the face of similar claims, lest they themselves be denounced as racist.

The campaign against classical music is worth examining in some detail, for it reveals the logic that has been turned against nearly every aspect of Western culture over the last year…

Now read on here.



  • The anti-white woke marxists are even worse than you suspect, and they are everywhere in NYC. On Broadway, being a white musician has suddenly become a liability, and the racist woke are publicly celebrating the fact. The local musician’s union won’t even engage because it’s politically toxic.

    Here’s an example of the discriminatory racist and sexist approach the band at Hadestown is using for their hiring:

    • Larry says:

      Back in the late ’60s, early ’70s I think, a deal was reached for Broadway musicians that a certain percentage hired had to be “minority” as the term was used back then.

    • V.Lind says:

      She can’t spell “privilege.” People should not be allowed to slag things they can’t spell.

    • Paul Ma says:

      There’s now a prescient financial dynamic for opera houses, etc to consider. Black females in particular have problems at the last minute before performance time. Their instinct is separate from all other races.

      They QUIT on the spot!

      Better draw up to date “segregated” contracts for blacks only as they clearly create their own downfall costing everyone around them income. It’s not the strong timber and bootstrapping of generations past, is it?

      • Nick says:

        …..”They QUIT on the spot!”….Yes, and not only in opera houses, but also in the Olympics! ANd now they call this cowardly treasonous behavior “heroism”!!!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      There isn’t a ray of daylight between this activism and the Bolshevik project. The NYT has even morphed into Pravda and never criticizes the Dear Leader.

    • Marfisa says:

      More context: The aim is to give more subbing opportunities to BIPOC and female players. Is it really ‘anti-white’ to promote more opportunities for minorities? Is this what is meant by ‘white fragility’?

      In case others (like me) don’t know about the subbing system in Broadway theaters, this is an informative article :

      There were similar arrangements in Hamburg in the 1830s for Brahms’ father, Johann Jakob, an orchestral musician and fouding member of the Hamburger Musikverein: “If a member engaged for a certain performance happened to get a more lucrative offer for the same day and hour, he would give notice to the ‘Börse’ to furnish a substitute for the first appointment. The substitute might repeat the process in his turn, and it sometimes happened that a single engagement passed through several hands in succession before the date of its fulfilment. Under these conditions music was very much a mere business, but, on the other hand, orchestral players were expected to be fairly good all-round musicians, capable of performing passably on several instruments, and able to fill a gap at short notice.” (From Florence May’s Life of Brahms.)

      • Cracker McWhitey says:

        Discrimination based on gender and sex is stupid and wrong. There are plenty of black and other minorities on Broadway. Maybe you’re just a woke racist?

        • Marfisa says:

          I am glad you agree that discrimination based on ‘gender and sex’ (did you mean ‘gender and race’?) is stupid. That (if you bothered to enquire further) is precisely what the Hadestown Band is seeking to correct, by increasing the diversity of the substitute pool.

          • Cracker McWhitey says:

            Wrong again. Minorities are not being discriminated against in the orchestras on Broadway. Quite the opposite. Broadway is the woke capital of the world, and that’s not new. Every minority musician who can actually play and can meaningfully contribute to the demands of a show is working and subbing, and has been for a long time. The thing is, you just don’t know what you’re talking about. You read something online and you have an opinion because you’re evidently a woke warrior and so of course it makes sense to you that minorities are being discriminated against, because that’s the only possibility you can comprehend. Yet, what’s actually happening now is too many minorities who can’t really play well enough to begin with are being hired by virtue of the color of their skin or their gender; or really anything they can find that makes them not white men. That’s what Hadestown band is doing; A band made up entirely of people for whom this is their first Broadway show telling everyone else how things should be done. If these woke warriors or subs could actually play, they would already be working. But they can’t, so they wave the flag of equity and use it to grab power. It’s nauseating, and it will hurt both the industry and the musicians who have actually worked to achieve their own successes.

          • Marfisa says:

            I bow to your superior knowledge.

      • Max Raimi says:

        Yes. If Broadway shows had an audition system analogous to major orchestras, then there could be a legitimate complaint about new hiring practices. But it is an entirely informal word-of-mouth who-you-know hiring system. I don’t see any harm in spreading the work around the pigmentation spectrum. As a white male in the classical world, I must say that I have never felt even remotely persecuted. This all seems a bit hysterical. And I do not see the least resemblance between the NY Times and Pravda.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Dear Readers,

    I apologize for my love of Classical music. It is an art form that originated in Europe (predominantly White) and has continued to be appreciated by rich Caucasians who do not like listening to Rap, Hip Hop, or Heavy Metal.

    This is unfortunate. Classical music continues to appeal to educated elitists, mostly white, who think that Mozart is better than Snoop Dog, Kanye West, and Jay-Z.

    Hopefully over time, these consumers of this Eurocentric art form, will see the light and understand that they must appreciate music of the lowest common denominator regardless of race, creed, gender, or age.

    Sir David Geffen-Hall

    • Snark Shark says:

      Take note NY times, better journalism in the comment than what garbage you’ve been spewing the last 5 years!

    • John Borstlap says:

      That nails it perfectly.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Bravo. Great comments. I note the Dear Leader 1 (Obama) warmly embraced the said rappers. And people scoffed at Trump’s ‘cultural’ credentials.

      Epic hypocrisy is standard fare with the Left.

      • Max Raimi says:

        Obama actually has quite eclectic taste in music. His daughters took violin lessons, he listed classical works from time to time in the play lists he made public, and he gave quite a creditable performance narrating Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with the Chicago Symphony at Millennium Park many years ago. Which is not at all easy for a non-musician. I heard John Malkovich thoroughly botch it some years later. He clearly took the music quite seriously and applied himself.
        Sorry to intrude on your deranged fantasies, Sue. But as Colbert put it so beautifully at that Gridiron Dinner, “Facts have a liberal bias.”

        • J. Sherman says:

          It’s important to note that black America disapproves of Malia. She’s been derided by countless blacks for speaking and acting “too white”. Dating outside of her race has earned her the bed wench label as she submits to a white man who comes from money.

          Instead of poorly attempting to quash a woman’s point of view like ‘Sue Sonata Form’ as she uses cogent points, you need to realize that your White liberal construct of how to manage and channel black minds simply doesn’t work. Blacks don’t like people like you ‘Max Raimi’! White liberals only consternate division and hate. You people will suck up to them but you’d never go live in any of their neighborhoods.

          White liberals can’t control themselves intellectually, emotionally or sexually which is why you’re all forced to eat your own. Triggered are you ‘Max’??? Check out NY Governor Andrew Cuomo right now after a fellow liberal finally exposed his multiple sexual violations of both NY state and US federal law. Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, etc are eating their own including Chris of CNN!

          It’s an inevitable show we’ve all been waiting for and enjoying immensely!!!!!!!

          • Max Raimi says:

            Bravo. A fascinating, unhinged rant. Which had not the slightest relationship to the point I was making about Obama. Do go on!

    • Nick says:

      BRAVO, Sir!!!

    • Dennis C. says:

      It would be EQUALLY refreshing to see blacks in apologist mode for committing the majority of crimes and blight due to their “culture”!

    • Saxon says:

      Geffen: “who think that Mozart is better than Snoop Dog, Kanye West, and Jay-Z”.

      I don’t think Mozart is “better”, whatever “better” means (better at what? being classical music?). However, I do prefer listening to it: but this is just a matter of personal taste. I am sure that there are people who prefer “Snoop Dog, Kanye West, and Jay-Z”. Good for them.

  • drummerman says:

    Brava to her. A wonderful essay. I’ve said it a million times before – the only way to get more black musicians into orchestras is have more black musicians audition. The only way to get more blacks to audition is to get more blacks graduating from music schools. The only way to get more blacks graduating music school is to get more black youngsters interested in learning classical instruments, then giving them all of the support and encouragement they need to make it all the way. It is a “numbers” game.

    I graduated from a world-renowned conservatory in 1975. Back then, you could count the number of Asian or Asian-American students with the fingers of one hand. I mean that quite literally. Fast forward a few years and for any number of reasons — artistic, cultural, political, sociological, etc. — Asian and Asian-American young people got involved in classical music in record numbers.

    To see the results of this, all you need do is look at the personnel rosters of the “Group 1” orchestras, ie., the largest budget size. They have at MINIMUM, 35 to 40 per cent Asian and Asian-American players.

    • Alviano says:

      You are on to something here. My guess is that no one bothers to give a black child a violin because we think he or she can’t possibly be interested or able. That’s where the racism is.

      • Bone says:

        In America, schools in minority areas often receive huge amounts of money to hire support staff, shrink class sizes, add more administrative oversight…and spend next to nothing on fine arts. Really is a travesty brought about by “best intentions” leading to bureaucratic bloat with none of the money getting to students.

      • Doyle Donna says:

        Sorry. No. When I (white female) taught middle school instrumental music in Bed Stuy years ago, I put stringed instruments in the students’ hands. They said, “We don’t wanna play no white man’s instruments. Give us the trumpet.” (Not a white man’s instrument? But never mind.) That’s where the racism was. Some years later a NYT article wondered why there were no blacks in our orchestras. How many times must we play this broken record?

    • Arienne says:

      “get more blacks to”

      Stop, right there. Consider how patronising you are being.

      What makes you think you have the right to decide what young blacks should be doing when, unlike Asian-Americans, they are clearly demonstrating relatively little interest?

      You are not in a position to decide what everybody else’s priorities should be. Perhaps “any number of reasons” means that Asian-Americans were treated like adults and decided for themselves.

      • drummerman says:

        I wasn’t “deciding” anything for anyone, Ariene. I was simply illustrating what I meant by the phrase “numbers game.” With all respect, I think you’re reading something in my words which I never intended. I hope that everyone — repeat, everyone — who is interested in studying classical music will have the chance, just as I did.

      • James says:

        There was nothing malign in drummerman’s comment imo. Having done some research into the subject at one point, I believe a lot of the reason that at any rate Chinese kids got into instruments after the Cultural Revolution (during which time Western music was banned) was that it became fashionable and a status symbol in certain parts of Chinese society for your child to play piano. So there was a lot of parental pressure, and incidentally a lot of broken hearts when the children didn’t all ‘make it’ – but at the same time an upshot is that lots of Chinese musicians have emerged, as well as Chinese sponsors of music (and the question of sponsors is also always important in the real world).

        • Nick says:

          ….”it became fashionable and a status symbol in certain parts of Chinese society for your child to play piano.” Right, and WHY? “Fashion” does not appear from nowhere itself. There must be prerequisites for such a fashion!!!

      • Prof says:

        What, even, is your point? Okay, who cares if black students get involved!

        Also, no: Asian students were not treated “like adults” when they were signed up for violin lessons at the age of 4.

      • John Borstlap says:

        You did not get the point. Advising people ‘to get more black youngsters interested in learning classical instruments’ is not patronizing but commons ense. You demonstrate exactly the problem of these social justice warriors: looking for the problem at the wrong place.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Watch a podcast or two: “The Glenn Show” – Professor Glenn Loury – and see what he thinks of black affirmative action. Glenn is a Professor at Brown University. He talks to John McWhorter and they call themselves ‘the black guys’.

        • Adrienne says:


          I stand by my point, which I have made before on more than one occasion.

          White people deciding what black people should be doing, or should interested in, in order to achieve some sort of equality of outcome, is patronising.

          Black people generally are not interested in classical music, and I am in a very good position to judge.

          And for Mr B to imply that I am a SJW is laughable.

          • Nick says:

            You are right, Adrienne. We are all different and have different backgrounds, cultures, languages and upbringings, as well as family lives, traditions and other important influencers and components. Most white people’s interests are, therefore, inherently different than that of black, hispanic, asian or any other racial groups. We cannot and should not demand from others to be different from what they are and want to be. We are all free to take the life path we were born and destined for!

          • Hayne says:

            A merit based system works best.

          • Saxon says:


            You can not, on the one hand, claim that black people are not interested in classical music, and on the other hand, complain about the lack of black participation in classical music.

          • Adrienne says:

            “complain about the lack of black participation in classical music.”

            Where did I complain? I’m simply drawing attention to a situation as I see it – black people generally have little interest in the genre.

    • Scott Fruehwald says:

      This is exactly the kind of comment that got Timothy Jackson in trouble with his music school at UNT and with the Society for Music Theory. (I’m not saying it should have.)

      In my article (, I used cognitive science and social science to counter Mr. Ewell’s arguments, and I avoided anything that could be deemed racist. I haven’t been called a racist yet over the article, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I am eventually.

    • Nick says:

      Apples and oranges, my friend, apples and oranges!!
      Population sizes and family values!!!!

  • L. M. says:

    The clear answer is for the Met along with every arts organization to quickly RETURN THE MONEY donated by all of the “White supremacists” be they individual patrons or White controlled corporations.

    An equal opportunity is demanded by blacks, right? Give it to them full stop. Free them of oppressive White wealth!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Wasn’t it those oppressive, supremacist whites who invented/constructed the computer, heart transplants, trips to the moon, iphones, the piano, the Louvre – and also cracked the enigma code?

      If you don’t like them don’t use their technologies!!

  • M McAlpine says:

    No-one has defended Western art against these charges? Maybe because Western art needs no defence against nonsensical accusations.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      There isn’t a day in my life – and hasn’t been for the last 30 years or more – when I haven’t been grateful to the absolute hilt for the glories of western classical music. In fact, a major reason I dislike the idea of dying is that this will be denied me. And I couldn’t care less what colour the musicians are!!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    I like music associated with terms as authentic, canonic, civilized, classic(s), conventional, core (‘core’ requirement), European, tonal, fundamental, genius, German (also Italian, English and French), great (‘great’ works), maestro, opus (magnum ‘opus’), piano (‘piano’ proficiency, skills), seminal, sophisticated, titan(ic), towering, traditional, and western. I don’t need other kind(s) of music.

  • Moviegoer says:

    The latest news is that the elephants and Babylon arch honoring D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic movie Intolerance (oh the irony) in the middle of Hollywood are being taken down because the director had made The Birth of a Nation the year before. We are under all-out cultural attack.

    • Sue Sonata says:

      It’s sheer ignorance; they don’t understand that Griffith virtually gave the US the ‘grammar’ of cinema it uses today. Cross-cutting, cause and effect, close-ups, iris (zoom), great editing…. the list is long.

      As Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet) would say, “ignoramiai”!!

    • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

      Now, I’m not one to advocate for burying history under the rug, especially cultural history, but D.W. Griffith was very much a racist and his film Intolerance was made in response to critics, many black, who derided The Birth of a Nation for its demonization of black people and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. The title of the former film refers to said critics.

  • Plush says:

    Excellence in writing and thought.

  • Patrick says:

    Wow! That’s quite a read. Lots to digest there, but many excellent points. Too bad I’d get fired if I cited any with my employer. I can’t even recommend a colleague read this or share it in social media. That’s where we are.

  • Paul Barte says:

    The whole article is excellent!

  • Rich C. says:

    All of the sudden the Philadelphia Orchestra is programming Florence Price like she was some un-discoverd Beethoven. If she was, she would have been played continually for years regardless of race. SMH.

    • The View from America says:

      Florence Price’s music is well-crafted and goes down well. There’s nothing objectionable about it in the slightest. It makes no difficult demands on the listener, and the bluesy/jazzy syncopations in various movements of her compositions can be quite winsome. That her pieces sound much closer to the “Boston School” than they do to Copland or Piston, despite when they were composed, it doesn’t really matter, either.

      But Yannick and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing all of her symphonies and concerti is akin to programming the entire Saint-Saens canon in one concert season. Giving Saint-Saens that degree of exposure — even during his 150th death anniversary year — would be laughable. But that’s where we are with Florence Price and the Philadelphians in 2021.

      • Margaret Cartin says:

        They should consider some George Lewis, Alvin Singleton, or Carmen Moore, but they don’t, for whatever reasons I don’t know.

        • Kevin Scott says:

          . . . or Ulysses Kay, Howard Swanson, Hale Smith, Ed Bland, Julia Perry, Adolphus Hailstork, Margaret Bonds, Anthony Davis, Jeffrey Mumford, Michael Abels, Bill Banfield, Gary Powell Nash, Courtney Bryan, Julius Williams, Kevin Day, Quinn Mason, Shelley Washington and many other African-American composers that have yet to grace the programs in recent years of that fabled orchestra.

          Moreover, I do wish YN-S would do many more of his Canadian compatriots on his programs. After all, many Americans know very few, if any, of the classical music of our esteemed neighbor to the north.

      • Alviano says:

        We only know how to overreact.
        Years ago Bill Christie decided that the motets of Mondonville were great and should be better known. So he programed four. They are great, but the only thing greater than four, would have been three.

  • Jack Simons says:

    I believe the goals of greater equity, diversity, and inclusion and important and good for all. The problem I think, is that there are a lot of people who have no idea what they’re doing putting themselves forward as experts and trying to make change though approaches that have no basis in anything expert. A lot of people are putting out shingles as DEI consultants who don’t have any idea of what they’re doing and many are simply following anything recommended because they are afraid not to. There will be a lot of good to come and a lot of time wasted. Maybe it has to be this way for program, I dunno…

  • Fliszt says:

    You want to see more black & brown musicians in classical music? Then put your money where your mouth is and open community music schools in their neighborhoods, offering free lessons to their children, as well as free instruments & practice facilities. Otherwise, it ain’t happening.

  • Billy Rothman says:

    Orchestras, opera companies, and foundations, have been trying to get more students of color sustained access to quality performing arts education in their public schools since the late 1970s. It is the urban public schools in America that are predominantly populated by black and brown students and while things are a bit better in terms of access to arts education, there’s not a ton going on for classical music and jazz, sustained from K-12 at a high quality level. Few urban high schools have orchestra, etc., while today more there are more diverse offering in music and arts education such as rock, rap, hip, hop, EDM, etc. The pool of potentially diverse applicants to conservatories and consequently orchestras, chamber groups, etc., will remain relatively small until this situation turns around, which I am sorry to say is not going to happen by any order of magnitude. Sure, there will be a student here and there who finds their way to a community program or a specialized school, but we will never in our lifetimes see the pool grow significantly for more students of color due to being provided sustained access to high quality music and arts education in American urban public schools.

  • Derek H says:

    The whole situation, as described, is incredible!

    Nobody should apologise for being white. Surely, we all gain from getting along, emphasising what we have in common whilst appreciating our differences, rather than seeking division.

    I believe it is best to keep it in proportion and not overreact.
    That is – to treat everyone with respect and as you would want them to treat you. Apply procedures that insist on fairness, honesty and equal opportunity – accept nothing less, that is all that is needed.

    It is a mistake to give special treatment to any group; it is patronising, demeaning and doomed to fail because there will be resentment and disenchantment from all the others, including audiences.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Good article but a very long winded way of pointing out the ludicrous nature of the accusations of racism against classical music. The very fact that classical music was in any way linked to the killing of George Floyd is absolute fantasy. To any rational mind the two have nothing in common. The fact is Western classical music was largely written by white men for white audiences. When I visit Africa I hear African music for Africans. When in India I hear Indian music played for Indian. Part of their culture. When I was in New Orleans we heard a jazz band of black musicians. Are these guys racists? No! Just expressing their culture. I’m one of these extraordinary people who enjoys this without being woke about it.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But European white musicians playing European white music for European white audiences IS racist, because they are Europeans, while Africans playing for Africans is NOT racist because they are not Europeans. It is quite simple, in fact…

      • John Borstlap says:

        That may well be, but the Africans did not colonize Europe & forced the whites to converse to their religion & give them schools & trains & roads & telephone cables & medicine etc. The Europeans did that in Africa so they are the racist gang!


    • Alexander Graham Cracker says:

      It’s as if the Chauvin-Floyd incident wouldn’t have happened absent a classical-music culture top heavy with Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.

    • V.Lind says:

      Same here. I went to lots of music events in Latin America (I also went to the ballet at Teatro Colon, in a well-filled, unresentful house, and several times in Cuba, ditto — and many black Cubans in the audience). I loved hearing son and samba and all the other musical forms in the Caribbean and Brazil and Colombia, among other countries. I was not particularly a reggae listener till I went to Jamaica and heard it in its own environment, and became a fan.

      In Hong Kong, I went to Chinese operas, and to concerts of arias from them, which I frankly preferred. These were wonderful opportunities and memorable experiences. I never missed HK ballet, but I also went to contemporary dance and Chinese dance — HK dance fans are very well served across the board.

      There is a world elsewhere, and we should all be open to it. But that, for the love of all that is holy, should include those who for trumped up reasons have turned their unreasoning venom on the products of a predominantly white part of the world. GET OVER IT. Join if you want to, but do the bloody work needed to get you into it. It’s a good thing that organisers and administrators are determined that they will not pass you over again, but rise to meet the standards instead of whingeing about percentages and quotas.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The only possible solution to disperse ‘white supremacy obsessions’ is to send people from impoverished backgrounds in the US on cultural expeditions to Buenos Aires, Cuba, the Caribbean, Brazil, Jamaica, Colombia and other countries in South America, and to Hong Kong to round it off. Who is going to pay all of this?

  • Pauline Childs says:

    The administrators of every single orchestra, opera, and conservatory are dearly afraid that one single person in their organization will have them cancelled by saying the are the seat of white power, are “power hoarding” (as was said at Americans for the Arts, whatever “power hoarding” actually means), that they are making someone feel “unsafe,” have “harmed” someone, or are downright racists. So, many are apologizing and throwing themselves on the cross to help inoculate themselves from being fired or at least buying some time. It’s a sad state of affairs for the moment, that will hopefully become more thoughtful and less toxic soon. Yes, work needs to be done, but not like this.

    • Tom says:

      The hoped-for thoughtfulness might come from audience response or lack of it, ticket sales which have been missing from the equation during the pandemic. But then the pandemic has also thrown off marketing metrics. I hope there aren’t too many talented administrators that just walk away rather than trying to deal with diversity issues.

  • Scott Fruehwald says:

    I have written an article replying to Philip Ewell. It criticizes Ewell on two main grounds. First, his attack on music theory is grounded in social constructionism, which has been disproven by cognitive scientists. Second, cognitive scientists have shown that Schenker’s approach reflects how the mind processes music.

    See Philip Ewell’s White Racial Framework in Music Theory and Cognitive Science at

    • drummerman says:

      Is this the same Scott Fruehwald I went to the CUNY Graduate Center with in 1980?

    • Ben Jackson says:

      That is laughable about Schenker, which is useless for anything non tonal and non traditional. Cognitive scientists have proven nothing of the sort and that everyone in the theory community knows that.

      • John Borstlap says:

        When I hear a dominant seventh chord I know I have indulged in white suprematism. After listening to too many of them, I cleanse my conscious with repeatedly listening to Chopin’s etude for the black keys.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Maybe this is a problem for the east coast liberals, but where I live we don’t seem to have this problem. Up Phoenix way, there’s a terrific free music school for inner city kids, mostly Hispanic, called Rosie’s House. The conductors of our two major orchestras are Hispanic. Another semi-pro group has had a woman for a music director. Personally, I’ve played as a sub for black conductors Denis DeCoteau, Thom Wilkins, James DePriest, and numerous female conductors including Sarah Caldwell, Catherine Comet and Joanne Falletta. Yes, I’ve played the European classics, but also a large amount of music by Mexican and South American composers. And all this long before this current woke culture decided to destroy western culture. Get out of racist places like NYC and you’ll find a very welcoming, open and nonracist country. I’m Hispanic and so are many other musicians in the American southwest.

    • Ben Jackson says:

      Every city has some community music schools, often with scholarships, that serve a fraction of the urban public school kids leaving the vast majority with little. Everyone working in urban public schools knows this and it is most certainly not limited to East Coast liberals. Try all the large urban school districts.

    • Bone says:

      Well, thanks for destroying the work narrative, SIR!
      And also hope you keep gigging!

    • East Coast Liberal Who Knows Something About Arts Education says:

      “Up Phoenix way, there’s a terrific free music school for inner city kids, mostly Hispanic, called Rosie’s House.” And, how many kids does Rosie’s House support and how many kids are in the greater Phoenix area? (Try 5 million…)

  • Wimsey says:

    If these institutions decide to stop playing white male composers, I have my collection of recordings and I won’t need to spend a single euro more in live concerts.

  • Matthias says:

    I know it’s long overdue, but on behalf of all Austrians I’d like to apologize to the rest of the world. For centuries, Austrian composers repressed other musicians, leading to a vast and ridiculous overrepresentation in today’s concert halls. Finally, a new generation of courageous Americans is righting this wrong.

    (also, sorry about that Hitler guy)

    • christopher storey says:

      But , Matthias, neither Bach, nor Beethoven, nor Brahms were Austrian !

      • The View from America says:

        But Schreker, Korngold, Schmidt, Marx and Zemlinsky were. As were Webern, Schoenberg and Berg. And let’s not forget Mozart, Bruckner and the Strauss dynasty. Writ large (as in Habsburg Empire), toss in Mahler, Haydn, Liszt, Smetana, Dvorak, Bartok, Kodaly, Dohnanyi, Weiner, Suk, Novak, Martinu and many more where they came from.

        For sure, Austria’s been punching above its weight for centuries.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Bach, Beethoven and Brahms became Austrian by association. Or: by cultural appropriation. And the latter two moved to Vienna, so….

  • José Bergher says:

    Excellent article.

  • V.Lind says:

    Brilliant, well-argued essay, It badly needs wider dissemination — I appreciate that SD is a start, for which we should all be grateful, but I suspect that on the whole she is preaching to the converted here.

    This stuff makes me crazy — not so much the black attitudes as the cowering stance the institutions have taken. Yes, they need to explore their own biases to see if they have REALLY acted to keep blacks down — and many have, and may still do, and they need to open their minds and their hearts and their doors and their opportunities.

    But the maddening thing is that I would reckon the majority of black people do not agree with the extremist attitude of BLM and those who sneer at merit over race. People have to remember that there are a lot of pretty happy black people, too. Yes, I think they are all affected by things like Floyd/Chauvin and other instances that strongly imply that police are more suspicious of blacks than others, and more violent in their reaction to any response other than utter obedience. I saw this in my own office a few years ago when a young woman colleague was picked up and treated abominably for the sole offence of walking home alone late at night. (She is living well on the settlement!). Helen Kamioner gave me and others a lecture on sensitivities the other day, and I think we have to remember that black people have theirs, and with reason.

    But this is not the way. And I do not believe that the lippy individuals Heather quotes are really representative of the wider black community. I believe that black families just want their kids to have opportunities, not to be picked on because of their colour, not abused because of it by all-too-trigger-happy police — and civilians.

    I also think that she is talking principally of America, though the infection has spread like Delta, and that there are imperatives in that country that do militate to keep blacks down, not least the dumbed-down, infantilistic society it has become. There is a dearth of high culture in the education of all kids, black and white alike, and the post rock generation moved away from it, white or black, and their kids are decreasingly taking up piano, violin, other instruments, art songs. White or black. Especially males.

    Blacks have developed and produced their own vibrant and historically relevant music and art, and literature and theatre. Those who ARE raised to love classical music must be given opportunities to study it, whether they want to be artists or to run companies. But the black community has on the whole opted for another music, or musics, and has been brilliantly successful with it, from Motown to Tupac, from Duke Ellington to Winton Marsalis. THEIR bands would not choose members based on race over merit. They are not so feeble.

    And they no longer have to move to Paris to find an audience. The agitators should shut up about trying to find holes in every pursuit, and white privilege, and all the other preposterous attacks on Beethoven or any other white who has emerged successfully from a white culture and look around at the blacks who have emerged successfully from theirs.

    And the white “establishment” should stop being snowflakes and bloody well GET REAL.

    • Adrienne says:

      “But the black community has on the whole opted for another music, or musics, and has been brilliantly successful with it, from Motown to Tupac, from Duke Ellington to Winton Marsalis.”

      Agree entirely, but some people seem to have decided on behalf of black people that their priorities should be elsewhere.

      • V.Lind says:

        Precisely my point.

      • Valerie Beamer says:

        That is not quite right, I am afraid. Black and Brown people have been discriminated against for years. The music school settlements did not allow anyone but White children for many, many years. For years Black musicians were not hired for gigs or allowed to perform with White classical musicians. Black artists gravitated to forms that would allow them in, like Jazz (which they created) or rap and hip-hop (which they also created).

        • Adrienne says:

          Believe me, I don’t need a lesson on historical injustices. The fact remains, black people in 2021 are able to decide for themselves what they wish to participate in and don’t need “guidance” from white people in order to move in the “correct” direction.

    • Hannah Bauer says:

      There is never a “struggle” for white people or other races to join black organizations.

      Why is this?

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is one of those mysteries we are supposed to accept on faith.

      • Barbara Ames says:

        That is a ridiculous statement. Try to join the Black Panthers or a Black student affinity group in a university, if you’re not Black.

  • Poetic Justice says:

    Why are Peter Gelb and the Board of the Met not stepping down in accordance with the educated who are pushing this 1619 NYT narrative?

    They must each know that their white privileged days are numbered.

    Once audiences return to see only wealthy white names and faces still enslaving the opera house in chains, the revolt will commence. Peter’s gold statue must be ripped down and mutilated of course. Most of the photos on the singers hall of fame must be torn off and burned. The Chagalls must be set ablaze. The bar and dining menus must be changed as the titles are too white. All of the chandeliers must be shot down and destroyed. The orchestra’s instruments must be stolen in the name of reparations along with the gift shop items.

    And all of this leading to NO BAIL and CHARGES DROPPED under current BLM influenced laws. Can’t wait for the edited CNN and MSNBC coverage of crying blacks being celebrated as “a watershed moment” as Lincoln Center burns down. The WaPo and NYT can thoughtfully weave the racist history in with photos of blacks with fists in the air. San Juan Hill rises!!!

    • Hannah Bauer says:

      BANG ON!

      The lack of self awareness on the part of the upper eschelon of any of these white liberal groups is leading to their internal collapse.

      White liberals also don’t realize numerous other facts. A glaring one is that there are more than the 2 races they are obsessed with; white and black. It’s funny they only acknowledge only 2 races yet now believe there are more than 2 genders.

      At the rate they are contradicting their own beings, hopefully they will be jobless outcasts by the next election cycle. Malcom X was on target with how mentally unstable the lot of them are.

      The fact that the Met hired a so called chief diversity officer will be their own downfall. It’s also quite sad to realize the certitude that the talents of black people truly don’t reach the caliber of the white since they ‘need’ to hire a six figure a year person to fire and hire based on race alone.

    • Paul Brown says:

      When the Met Board steps down, the Met as we know it will cease to exist. It may happen anyway, but it will certainly happen when the board goes.

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    Thank you for reprinting this article, a compelling and important correction to the errors of our times.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It was not easy to take-in the entire article, because of the profound insanity of the racist accusations and its ‘solutions’. But it is very instructive to have it all laid-out so clearly, and the indication where a solution may be found is so obvious. Great piece of writing by MacDonald.

    But behind this quasi problem, which is serious enough, lies the heart of all this mongering: the idea that classical music as an art form is, as a cultural product from the past, not compatible with the modern world. The supposed racism in classical music, even supposedly ’embedded’ in its old repertoire, is merely an axe to get rid of an expensive and ‘elitist’ art form that should no longer have a place in a modern, enlightened and just world. Modernity and classical music are supposedly mutually exclusive.

    But if a modern world comes in the making where classical music is no longer welcome, be it because of being ‘old’ or the product of a ‘racist culture’, such world is no longer modern and enlightened but bigotted, ignorant, and barbarian.

    Classical music is like the canary in the coal mine, warning for possible lethal fumes because it will die first so that the miners can get out quickly. If classical music is discarded because of entirely irrational and ignorant reasons, we know that the bell is ringing for the fate of Western civilization.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The totalizing theory behind ALL of this is:

    If I can’t have it, neither can you.

  • Concerned Opera Buff says:

    Some singers don’t want to admit they don’t have operatic voices. Lauren Michelle is beautiful, but based on the videos she has on the internet, she has a thin reedy unsupported voice that isn’t
    going to fill a big opera house. Insisting it’s racism is incorrect. Maybe no one is willing to tell the truth. That it’s not an operatic voice. IMHO

    • Adrienne says:

      Based on videos on the internet, I tend to agree.

    • Hannah Bauer says:

      Reasonable assessment. Her repertoire is proof enough.

      Unfortunately you’ll be seeing her and other similar singers at the Met going forward. Her race is her calling card leaving merit behind.

      Check out the Met roster along with mid level house positions by next season. Color over talent is their new mantra pushing blacks first.

      As another popular comment stated, it’s time to disgorge ‘evil, oppressive white money’ as there is clearly too much of that as well!

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yesterday afternoon at 16:23 I suddenly realized that all of my money is white. I will have to give it away to people who don’t mind that, but what if nobody wants white money?

  • Ben G. says:

    If J.S. Bach were to have been born in Africa and would have had the misfortune of being brought over to North America as a slave in the US, would we still listen to his compositions and consider them an important focal point of our musical language? Even more, would he have written music in a similar vein?

    Mahler, Beethoven, and many others, originated in Western Europe which undoubtedly affected the music they wrote.

    Could it be that their surroundings influenced their lives and help produce the music we now know, in spite of their (white) racial origins? There was no “crime” in doing what they did.

    Let’s hope that the outcome of non-white North American composers in 100 years will be just as favorable to them as it was to their European counterparts.

    Only time and evolution will tell.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The irony is that if in the future black composers of genius would appear, they will have developed on the basis of all those white Euopeans. Because musical greatness as a colourless, artistic neutral standard, was a white product you cannot pass by.

  • Nick says:

    This is not only disgusting, it is downright DANGEROUS!!!! The same methods were used by Germany Nazis in the 1930-s, making lists of Jews, who were “guilty” of everything!!!

  • Michael McGrath says:

    Malarkey. Horse feathers. Elle m’accuse? J’accepte pas! Time to stand up and be counted.

  • Judy says:

    This anti-Western sentiment is such hogwash. “Western” culture is no different in status than any other: Asian culture, African culture, Native American culture, etc. We all have cultural traditions that arise from our environments. No culture is better than any other. To say that Western arts subjugate people is nonsense; arts don’t “do” anything by themselves. If you feel that individuals or groups are guilty of something, then take it up with them, but don’t give us intellectual crap about the arts being at fault. And I’ve always been supportive of and friendly to people of other backgrounds, so spare me the guilt trip.

  • MacroV says:

    Who knew there are so many snowflakes among the SD crowd. A lot of head-scratching anecdotes, I grant you, but as a middle-aged White male regular at the National and Baltimore SO concerts, I don’t feel threatened or shamed by any of this. And if these efforts lead to some more imaginative programming or engagement of performers, that’s all to the good.

  • Albert Dock says:

    You can’t win. One moment Beethoven is Black. The next he is a symbol of White oppression.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But that is the genius of Beethoven. He could combine two mutually exclusive components and wield it tinto one single outrageous entity. That is why he is a composer for all kinds of people, it is THIS which makes him truly universal.

      He also combined populism with aristocracy, behaved in a boorish populist fashion and let himself be paid by the aristocracy, he lived in a big cosmopolitan city and in the same time strolled the surrouding woordlands, he was often dirty and in the same time, took regular showers which caused serious leakage at the neighbours, he wrote in major and in minor, he composed for enormous forces and for intimate string quartets – in short: he did everything AND its opposite. So, he is the ideal target for anything.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The Manhattan Institute is a conservative think tank which promotes free market economics – exactly the type of wild capitalism that caused so much damage to the West and especially the USA, which indirectly caused the millions who voted for Trump and which also had an influence upon the rise of rightwing extremism.

    But MacDonalds article has nothing conservative about it, in contrary, it is entirely common sense. This does not mean that common sense is conservative or rightwing. But if common sense and awareness of culture is left to conservative groups, this shows the shallowness of progressive groups, and may give the impression that civilization is conservative.

    The same problem we see in Europe. When British conservative philosopher and musicologist Sir Roger Scruton explains and defends the relevance of classical music, claiming its values are entirely accessible and merely need education and information, this may give progressive lefties the idea that we better do away with civilization and everything of cultural value, because behind all of that stands the Enemy: the White Suprematist Hetero Dominating Male with his White Suprematist Classicism.

    The politization of culture is entirely destructive, as shown in MacDonald’s article.

  • marcus says:

    Pretty standard fare I suppose. The tactics are similar to the trans rights bunch in that to even posit the notion of debate around statements such as “Trans women are women” is in itself proof positive that you are, in fact, transphobic. Given the position that they regard themselves as the sole guardians and arbiters of truth and no discussion is even encompassed a stark choice presents itself-the dissenters can either fuck off and die (which, be in no doubt is the desired end game of these zealots) or they can push back at any and every opportunity.

  • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

    Not to comment on this specific article but looking up Heather Mac Donald (why the space in Mac Donald), I can see that she’s a real damn piece of work.

  • Bratsche Brat says:

    Missed the quotation marks surrounding “logic.”

  • Kojak says:

    In the USA…

    I advise that nobody should get into classical music regardless of their race. We have too many people believing that they are meant to enter this field. In opera, there are too many singers trying to break into a business that can only allow for a small percentage of new talent to grow and thrive. By the time a singer graduates a Master’s degree or Artist Diploma program till the time they are just over the age of 30, they are pushed into a cycle of financial hardship and low wage servitude in developmental programs (horribly described as “YAPs” or “Pay-to-Sing”).

    What happens to the singers who do not attract a manager or a busy schedule of engagements? Many will leave the business and too many of them will reclassify themselves into administrators, stage directors, or instructors. There are too many institutions granting performance degrees filled with many instructors (not all) who did not break into a career in music. Since they must have students to remain a program, they must recruit. That includes the few clearly talented to the many not-so-talented-but-willing participants. So, the cycle keeps repeating.

    We have far too many conservatories or conservatory-esque university programs. We should focus more on teaching and sharing the appreciation of music. Lifting community-based music groups and engaging people to participate, regardless of experience or ability, will strengthen all art forms and the appreciation of them.

    The initiatives being taken by professional companies are only serving to exclude different groups (lower and middle wage classes) while exploiting others to appease social justice trends. Look at a company’s production and performance history and ask yourself, “Was there ever an effort to diversify programming for underserved groups?” “Make it more affordable to attend a performance?”

    Don’t be fooled.

  • Alexander Davenport says:

    If BIPOC and female artists want a place in the sun, and they most certainly deserve it, they can start by not taking advantage of one single white male invention, by creating their own art form, their own musical notes, their own written language and their own musical instruments. They can also build their own theaters since all architects of all major opera houses were white males.

    Musical notes were invented by a white male. The first Western system of functional names for the musical notes was introduced by Guido of Arezzo (white male), using the beginning syllables of the first six musical lines of the Latin hymn Ut queant laxis.

    Latin was also invented by white men (Romans). So was English. English is a West Germanic language that originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxons (whites) from what is now northwest Germany, southern Denmark and the Netherlands. By the way, the oldest-known musical instrument is the flute, made from bird bone and mammoth ivory, found in a cave in southern Germany.

    Classical music was also invented by white males. Bach and Gluck are considered founders of the Classical style. The first great master of the style was Joseph Haydn. In the late 1750s he began composing symphonies, and by 1761 he had composed a triptych (Morning, Noon, and Evening) solidly in the contemporary mode.

    Opera is an art form invented by white males, it originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century (with Jacopo Peri’s Dafne, produced in Florence in 1598) especially from works by Claudio Monteverdi, notably L’Orfeo, and later spread through Europe: Heinrich Schütz in Germany, Jean-Baptiste Lully in France, and Henry Purcell in England, all white males. All masters of opera are male and white, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti, Rossini, Bellini, etc.

    BIPOC and female companies can commission works by their own BIPOC and female composers and hire their own BIPOC and female singers *ONLY*. Not leeching off masterworks, accomplishments and inventions by white males is the only way to really shine *on your own* 😉