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Classical so white and male: Time is overdue for diversity

Fueled by the social media hashtag #Oscarssowhite, the debate threw a spotlight on the predominance, yet again, of white males in the cultural marketplace. […] it’s past time. The lack of ethnic and gender diversity among performers and even more critically among the composers whose work is represented on the programs of America’s symphony orchestras and opera companies has long been a stigma for classical music — one that neither the San Francisco Symphony nor the San Francisco Opera has remotely dodged. While organizations in other artistic fields — theater, literature, the visual arts — attempt, however haltingly and imperfectly, to broaden the scope of their activities to include a range of creative voices and life experiences, the leadership in classical music keeps on ignoring the whole subject. For an orchestra to perform music by women and people of color helps ensure that audience members — who also include women and people of color — will sense some responsiveness to their own lives. Any cultural endeavor that relies as heavily as classical music does on the output of the past is always going to find dead white males overrepresented, and there’s not really an option for introducing diversity retroactively into the 19th century orchestral scene. Brian Lauritzen, a broadcaster with the Los Angeles classical radio station KUSC, has been tracking the gender breakdown of the composers represented on the upcoming season schedules of American orchestras and opera companies. […] it seems clear that there needs to be a concerted pushback on this front, something that will instill a sense of urgency on the part of orchestral and artistic planners. Because it’s fairly late in the day, historically speaking, for this kind of heedless conformity to still be the norm. There are women all over the world writing music of great individuality, vividness and intensity that would not only excite listeners but remind young people that yes, women can be composers too.

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