You Can’t Spell Classical Music Without Classism

The latest entry in the realm of meaningful conversation about diversity in classical music comes from Robert Jackson Wood in the 12/10/2020 edition of The New Republic. Wood takes a different view on the topic by taking aim at those who help influence the discussion: critics (and by extension, media outlets).

This is an absolute must-read (h/t Bill Eddins) and the author does a terrific job at adding a great deal of necessary clarity to topics that are otherwise easy to find things getting lost in the weeds.

Today, the genre is grappling with what, on the surface, might seem like an entirely different aspect of its legacy: the historical lack of diversity in its orchestras and ensembles. The truth is that these legacies could hardly be more intertwined: Economic discrimination has produced diversity dramas of all sorts. Yet you’d never know this from recent attempts by critics to wrestle with the genre’s representation problems without so much as a passing reference to class. It’s a baffling omission, and one that seems even more egregious when we note just how formative class politics have been for the genre’s institutions and spaces—particularly in the United States.

Go. Read. Internalize. Share.

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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