A “delirious drift”: an orchestra accused of racism after a scholarship offer advocating diversity

An advertisement posted on the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) website recently caught the attention of the US conservative media National Review. This is an advertisement for the position of “Conductor Diversity Fellow”, ie an offer to become assistant to the conductor. But there is a subtlety: this is not a job, but a “scholarship” for diversity.

In the job description , the orchestra specifies in fact accepting applications from those who ” identify as members of groups historically under-represented in American orchestras, including, but not limited to, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaskan Native Americans, Hawaiian Native Americans or Islanders. Peaceful The stock market effectively excludes Asians and whites – who are already widely represented in orchestras – even if the BPO does not write it down in black and white.

A hidden job?

If wanting to increase the diversity and representation of minorities within one’s orchestra is a laudable goal, the scholarship offered by BPO poses a problem for some observers who see it more as a hidden job offer. On reading the job description, one realizes that the responsibilities linked to the position are practically identical to those of an assistant conductor in the counterpart orchestras. Likewise, his remuneration, which amounts to $ 35,000 per year, includes a “housing allowance”, a “living allowance” and health benefits. According to the National Review, this would correspond to a competitive salary in the market for a similar position in an orchestra of the same size. And that’s exactly where it gets stuck.

While stock exchanges are indeed able to circumvent anti-discrimination laws, this is not the case with traditional jobs. Regulations in the United States state that no job offer can deter a candidate from applying because of their race. Some suspect, including the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, of being dishonest in order to be able to demonstrate positive discrimination in hiring.

But BPO is not the only one to offer such a scholarship. The practice is common and is also found in other American orchestras, such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra or the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

“Pure, simple and uninhibited racism”

In wanting to fight against racism, is the orchestra itself demonstrating racism? In a message posted on Twitter, Chinese-Canadian violinist Zhang Zhang denounces the employment discrimination of the BPO. ” At least they make it clear from the start “she wrote, sharing an article on the subject.

The information, shared via several Twitter accounts linked to the extreme right, made many Internet users react and once again revived the debate on anti-racism. Many Internet users denounce a “delusional drift” and one “pure, simple and uninhibited racism“.

Education and awareness

The BPO initiative is not new. The world of classical music has been trying for decades to create new avenues for young artists from minorities in order to remedy racial imbalances. Musical programs have been developed in public schools and awareness campaigns have been carried out to introduce classical music to young people who were previously rarely exposed to it.

And the strategy is paying off: many young artists are getting coveted positions in American orchestras, even if there is still a long way to go. In classical music as elsewhere, it will take time for things to change.

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