How Would You Define Diverse Programming?

Pop quiz! Which of the following items is not an example of diverse artistic programming:

  • Operas written by women.
  • Operas written by minorities.
  • Operas written by living composers.
  • Operas written by dead white guys.

Over the weekend, a friend’s Facebook post caught my attention when it pointed out some 2018/19 season announcement marketing copy from the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s website (emphasis is found in the original copy):

We pride ourselves on bringing you diverse programming, and the 2018/19 Season is no exception. Verdi and Puccini in all their passion, elegant Handel and Mozart, romantic Massenet, mighty Strauss and Wagner—there’s no end to the riches that will make this season one to remember.

Adaptistration People 139Even with a healthy benefit of the doubt, it’s still a bit of a stretch in to assert Verdi, Puccini, Handel, Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner constitute diverse programming. At least, in today’s environment where something diverse usually has more to do with multiculturalism than not.

Having said that, there’s an equally interesting article from the 2/12/2018 edition of that compiles a list of opera companies programming new works. Within that list is The Lyric, which is performing a world premier by living composer Gregory Spears as part of the current 2017/18 season.

There’s another new work from Spears in the 2018/19 lineup but both works are part of the Lyric’s Unlimited series, a division of the organization’s overall education and community engagement efforts.

When it comes to mainstage productions, diverse programming still seems to have a narrower definition.

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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