Inclusion and Diversity: A Big Tent View

This  session at the League of American Orchestras' National Conference in Dallas examined the topic of diversity from multiple perspectives. Three experts discussed how orchestras can advance their diversity work, including audience, musicians, staff and board, repertoire, and guest artists, while creating the organizational culture needed to sustain their commitment over time.

Aaron Dworkin, founder and president of the Sphinx Organization; Errika Flood-Moultrie, consultant at Clarkson Davis; Jessica Schmidt, director of education and community engagement at the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts
Promotes and advocates for full inclusion of artists of color and performers with disabilities at all levels of production in theatre, film, television, and related media.  Our work also extends to audiences, particularly those belonging to underserved and historically excluded communities.  Principal programs include the Advocacy, Consulting and Information Program; the Disability Initiative, which includes Disability in Entertainment and Arts Link (DEAL); and the National Diversity Forum.  Through these activities, the Alliance has become the primary catalyst for and facilitator of increased diversity and inclusion on a national level.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program
The mission of the Talent Development Program is to identify and develop musically gifted and motivated, African American and Latino classical music students for acceptance in top music programs in preparation for careers as professional musicians.

Americans for the Arts – Animating Democracy Project
About the project

Animating Democracy inspires, informs, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to community, civic, and social change.  Find information on a vast array of organizations that are supporting the work of arts for community, social, and civic change through services to the field—information, tools and resources, networking, advisory support, membership opportunities and more.

Baltimore Symphony’s Academy
The BSO Academy is an immersive week for adult amateur musicians playing and learning side-by-side with the BSO and Music Director Marin Alsop.

Baltimore Symphony’s Rusty Musicians Program
About the program
Video of the work

Rusty Musicians is an outreach program of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conceived by Marin Alsop in 2010 as a way “to attract new audiences through participatory opportunities for engagement as well as to enhance the BSO’s position as an educational and social community resource.  In this video, the BSO invited local rusty musicians to perform with them onstage at the Music Center at Strathmore on February 2 and 4. More than 400 answered the call. Divided into four sessions each night, BSO musicians and Rusty musicians rehearsed and performed together with Music Director Marin Alsop in Elgar's Enigma Variations (Nimrod) and Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony (Movement Four). Co-presented by The Music Center at Strathmore.

Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
Based in Philadelphia, the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra was formed in 2007 and is the only professional orchestra in the region to champion ethnic diversity in classical music.  Founded by award-winning Music Director Jeri Lynne Johnson, one of the only African-American women conductors on the scene today, the BPCO is dedicated to normalizing diversity in classical music by presenting programs of the highest artistic and educational standard performed by ethnically diverse musicians. Described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “excellent,” and having an “impressive standard of performance,” BPCO musicians were trained at leading music conservatories around the globe.

A video about BPCO’s tiConduct™  audience engagement program which brings audience member on stage to receive mini-conducting lessons with Maestra Johnson.

Here's another video about Ms. Johnson and the BPCO produced by WHYY (Philly's PBS station)

Carnegie Hall, Musical Connections Program
Musical Connections offers diverse live music experiences for people in healthcare settings, correctional facilities, senior-service organizations, and homeless shelters across New York City.

Classical Revolution

This film captured a Classical Revolution Detroit event at the Cadieux Cafe with Classical Revolution (CR) founder Charith Premawardhana on viola and Richard Robinson, Detroit Symphony Orchestra bassist, and CR founder in Detroit. CR is a grassroots movement to expose curious music lovers to this amazing art form and to take classical music performances to bars, restaurants and other public gathering places not traditionally identified with the genre.

The Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Orchestra Fellowship
About the project

Chicago Sinfonietta is our nation’s most diverse orchestra and actively pursues a number of initiatives to further this mission-driven core value.  Those initiatives include: Project Inclusion Orchestra Fellows; Project Inclusion Ensemble Fellows; Audience Matters, the SEED Program, and the annual Arts & Diversity Reception.  

The Project Inclusion Orchestra Fellowship provides two-year fellowships to perform and rehearse with the orchestra to early career, diverse musicians who wish to pursue classical music professionally.  The Project Inclusion Ensemble Fellowship provides early career, diverse musicians with a similar experience performing with a chamber-sized ensemble.  Fellows for both programs are chosen through a competitive audition process.  Applications are accepted throughout the year.

Audience Matters and the SEED program are the Sinfonietta’s educational initiatives provided to elementary and high school age students.  These programs target schools with high levels of student diversity and are provided free of charge with the goal of exposing the students to, and cultivating an interest in classical music.

The Arts & Diversity Reception is presented annually before the orchestra’s Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. concert and is attended by Chicago’s large corporate diversity community.  Each year one for-profit and one non-profit organizations are recognized for their accomplishments in promoting diversity and inclusion in their respective fields.

Community MusicWorks
Video Anthem (a civil rights movement-inspired piece) performed in DC

A nationally recognized community-based organization that uses music education and performance as a vehicle to build lasting and meaningful relationships between children, families, and professional musicians in urban neighborhoods of Providence, RI. Creates a cohesive urban community through music education and performance that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians. Students participate in after-school programming and receive instruments free of charge. Students have weekly lessons, participate in a weekly community day that includes studio class and ensemble playing, attend educational workshops led by guest artists, and perform several times a year.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings program
About the program

For over 20 years, the DSO’s Young Strings program has worked tirelessly to change young people’s lives, while transforming the face of symphonic music to reflect the diversity that defines and strengthens our community in the process.  To that end, Young Strings successfully develops the musical talents of outstanding young African-American and Latino string players, providing its students with the resources and skills necessary to pursue professional music careers. Serving only nine students in its first year, this award-winning and nationally recognized program now serves close to 200 students each year.  The program is divided into three divisions: Overture, Entr’acte, and Finale.  Students in the Finale division receive the highest level of instruction and pre-professional preparation available.  In addition to weekly private lessons, they receive a wide range of performance opportunities, college and career mentoring, concert tickets, master classes, opportunities to meet guest artists, scholarships to local youth orchestras, and support for intensive summer programs. Young Strings boasts a 100% rate for both high school graduation and college placement.  Graduates have received scholarships to leading schools of music, and many are now making an impact on the cultural landscape as professional musicians, composers, conductors, teachers, music therapists, and knowledgeable advocates.
Gateways Music Festival
The Festival’s mission is to highlight the contributions and visibility of African American classical instrumentalists.

Madison Symphony Orchestra, HeartStrings Program
HeartStrings reaches beyond traditional learning environments to bring live, interactive performances by some of the MSO's best players into healthcare and residential facilities. The sessions have demonstrated extraordinary physical, emotional, cognitive and social changes for residents of all ages, and they have reached more than 3,400 people this year.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Case Study & Strategic Plan on Diversity
To access strategic plan, click here.
To access the case study, click here.

ProjectSTEP, Inc.

Project STEP believes that children, when identified at an early age and immersed in long-term, rigorous music instruction, can develop proficiency on an instrument and, in the process, skills that change their life trajectory. Since its founding in 1982, Project STEP has provided musically-talented African-American and Latino youth with a comprehensive, long-term music education program that opens doors, creates lifelong opportunities, and transforms lives.

We recognize that certain minorities are vastly under-represented in the classical music field, and our founding objective, to diversify the field of classical music, is still relevant.  However, the goals of the program have broadened. Project STEP’s mission is built on the belief that the arts contribute to personal growth by strengthening human potential, building self-esteem, and developing skills in young people that allow them to lead productive, fulfilling lives. We engage the entire family: family members are welcomed in classes, and parents are required to sit in on the first three years of classes and private lessons.  Parents elect two representatives to the Board of Directors and work closely with staff throughout the students’ participation. Our results are a matter of record:  100% of Project STEP’s graduates have gone on to college or conservatory.  

For further information go to or contact Mary S. Jaffee, Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 617-267-5777.

The Silk Road Project
Inspired by the cultural traditions of the historical Silk Road, the Silk Road Project is a catalyst promoting innovation and learning through the arts. Our vision is to connect the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe. The Silk Road Project is an internationally minded performing arts nonprofit with cultural and educational missions to promote innovation and learning through the arts. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma founded the Project in 1998 taking inspiration from the historical Silk Road trading routes and using the Silk Road as a modern metaphor for sharing and learning across cultures, art forms and disciplines.

Under the artistic direction of Mr. Ma and the leadership of CEO & Executive Director Laura Freid, the Silk Road Project acts as an imagination platform, encouraging dialogue among artists and musicians, educators and entrepreneurs. The Project presents performances by the acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble, holds cross-cultural exchanges and residencies, leads workshops for students, and partners with prominent cultural institutions to create educational programs and materials. Our first annual report, designed for online viewing, celebrates the successes of FY11 through videos, photos, and messages from our directors.

Sphinx Organization
The Sphinx Organization is a national non-profit founded in 1996 by Aaron P. Dworkin, A violinist himself, Mr. Dworkin founded the organization to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music, and to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in the field.  Sphinx’s vision is to transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Theater Communications Group, Session on Diversity
Models for Diversity, Beyond Our Field:  This session was moderated by Teresa Eyring and featured Anthony Carter, vice president, Global Diversity & Inclusion and chief diversity officer, Johnson & Johnson; Andrea Louie, executive director, Asian American Arts Alliance; and Hannah Valantine, senior associate dean for Diversity and Leadership and professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine. These three dynamic speakers shared the depth of their experience at the forefront of diversity thinking outside the theatre field.


Opening Doors, by Andrew Druckenbrod, Symphony

Bridging the Gap, by Rebecca Winzenried, Symphony

Cities of Music, by Joseph Carman, Symphony

Collective Impact, by Jesse Rosen, Symphony

Life Lessons, by Aaron Dworkin, Symphony

Strings Attached, by Melinda Bargreen, Symphony

Renewal and Recovery, by Ian McNulty, Symphony

Rules of Engagement, by Jesse Rosen, Symphony

Serious Fun, by Michael Stugrin, Symphony

Silk Road Caravan Sets Camp, by Wynne Delacoma, Symphony

Sound Decision, by Dave Allen, Symphony

Team Players, by Chester Lane, Symphony