How do we expect there to be greater diversity on stage if we are not focusing our attention on giving minority groups the tools to succeed in a career path that has historically marginalized them?
In order for the face of orchestras to truly change, and become more inclusive and representative of the demographic around them, we must move from the "show and tell method," and start working on programs that give students the tools to succeed. Often time orchestras see a lack of diversity in their audiences, and think "lets create a program where we play in a low-income area and expose community members to classical music." How, however does this benefit a young audience member that now wants to pursue a career in classical music, and has none of the resources to succeed? Yes they were introduced to classical music, which is a great first step, but how can they develop into a professional musician?
They can't afford a working instrument, they can't afford weekly lessons, it is difficult for them to attend an audition because they rely on public transportation...and the list keeps going--a list that many professionals would agree are all needed to be successful in this field. And in many ways this list does not end because minority groups will continue to face further adversity throughout their career. We have to think what the root of the problem is, and in many ways it's a cultural one.
We have to start making classical music an agent of change. Cultural assimilation is not the goal, but rather orchestras being representative and understanding of the communities they play in. Orchestras must create points of access that comes from an authentic understanding of their community, and more importantly it is understanding what access means to those community members. This is not the example of falsely advertised creative placemaking efforts where developers think X is what community members need, but fail to reach out to their community members to see what they actually want. This is having conversations, this is listening, this is understanding! And while doing this, orchestras must remember that