"Intolerance" performed by the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
The author of a thought piece in the New York Times wants to get rid of blind auditions for top tier orchestras in order to create more diversity in orchestras.
A blind audition means the musicians auditioning for an open spot in an orchestra perform behind a screen. The auditors do not even have the musician’s name. This process ensures there is no discrimination based on race, gender, age, body type, weight, or visual playing style.
The musician is evaluated only on the quality of the music produced. A blind audition creates equality of opportunity. What the New York Times article is suggesting is called equality of outcome. With equality of outcome, the players that fulfill the desired outcome of the audition are given an advantage.
According to the article, blind auditions were put into practice after a 1969 court case that was brought against The New York Philharmonic by two African American musicians. Since then, the number of female orchestra players has risen dramatically. The number of African American and Latinx players has not.
Imagine, if you will, an orchestra holding an audition but only allowing African American and Latinx players to apply because the orchestra wants to add those demographics to the roster. That is what the New York Times is suggesting.
The article makes sure to emphasize that the percentage of African American and Latinx players is low. It makes no mention of the diversity of Asian players in orchestras.
The conductor Sir Simon Rattle claims that there are more people taking piano lessons in China then there are people living in Germany. The Asian culture is participating in classical music with astounding numbers and the number of Asian players in American orchestras reflects that. Other cultures are not participating at the same level.
This is not a racial issue, it is a cultural issue. The dominant culture in America right now is Hip Hop. People of all races and ethnicities love Hip Hop. However, the vast majority of Hip Hop artists are African American. African American culture produces great Hip Hop.
No one is suggesting that if there were more white Hip Hop artists then more white people would like Hip Hop. Plenty of white people love Hip Hop culture because the culture appeals to them not because the performers are of a certain racial makeup.
The culture of classical music is not very appealing. There’s not a lot of alcohol, no dancing, limited potential for sexual encounters, and everyone is sitting quietly. It’s not a party and people like to party. Getting rid of blind auditions will not change that.
For whatever reason, classical music journalists have the idea that if the demographics of orchestras reflect the demographics of the greater community it will improve community engagement.
I’m not sure what “community engagement” means. Hopefully, it is code for buying a ticket and making a donation because that is what classical music organizations need.