NEC Alumni Pressure School’s Leadership To Improve Diversity

More than 350 New England Conservatory (NEC) alumni have signed a letter addressed to the school’s president, Andrea Kalyn calling out the university for failing to acknowledge what they define as its role in “reproducing the social conditions it claims to abhor.”

It is time for the Conservatory’s leadership to be courageous in addressing its history and sustained role in promoting the purported supremacy of Eurocentric musical traditions. This history has informed the institution’s organizational DNA, and current racialized inequalities, exclusions, and silences at the Conservatory can be traced back to this legacy. Above and beyond hiring a single consultant, we urge the New England Conservatory to substantiate its solidarity statement by developing mechanisms to address trenchant and systemic institutional issues. We call on the Conservatory’s leadership and Board of Trustees to dismantle the Conservatory’s cultural caste system by adopting six anti-racist policy actions in its diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

The letter goes on to spell out several policy measures they wish to see the school implement which include, but are not limited to:

  • …institutional support for economically and socially at-risk Black students.
  • …mental wellness resources that are tailored for the Black experience be made available at an institutional level.
  • Collect and share vital baseline data and vest NEC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion taskforce with the authority and resources needed to eliminate all racial disparities.
  • Diversify the NEC Board of Trustees.

The full list along with broader context are available at the letter’s Google Forms page it is using to collect additional signatures from NEC alumni

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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