Reader Response: Racist Nonsense

I received a number of wonderful responses from the Bunch Of Racist Nonsense article published from last Wednesday.  As with most issues that generate a good deal of responses there are always some surprises, and this was no exception.

Many messages were from orchestra managers (wishing to remain anonymous) who expressed varying degrees of disappointment and aggravation over the fact that their respective orchestra boards do a very poor job at reflecting the diversity of their community.

One former manager wrote in to say,

“I always found it frustrating to sit in executive meetings and listen to everyone lament over our ‘inability’ to attract a minority audience when every face sitting around the table was white.  Eventually, these meetings always ended with a general consensus that our minority communities must not have enough music education in school or the immigrant population just doesn’t know how to appreciate classical music.”

I wonder how many times that orchestra’s board officers ever thought about how their own nomination committee functioned and what sort of efforts those individuals make to recruit their minority peers from the community.

I do know of orchestras that “invite” minority community leaders to have a position on the board as an “advisor” but this isn’t bringing the person in as a peer, it’s pandering.  There is a multitude of successful minorities out there in every community and an orchestra’s board should naturally reflect that fact.

A long time orchestra patron from Texas wrote in with these questions:

“Are we really talking about ethnicity here?  Aren’t we talking about social and economic status?”

Good question, are we all confusing socio-economic status with ethnicity?  Is the ethnicity issue just a convenient argument? Is the percentage of any given lower or middle class white population just as disinterested in classical music as their minority counterparts in comparable economic brackets?

What do you think?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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