Diversifying Orchestral Music in New York State: Convening #2

Last week, NYSCA reconvened with leaders in the orchestral and music education fields from all over the state for the second iteration of our discussion, Diversifying Orchestral Music in New York State: New Approaches and Strategies. The meeting was intended to address and rectify the underrepresentation of groups such as African-Americans and Latinos in the field, through education, mentoring, career development and professional opportunities. Also in attendance was Anna Brown, Special Attorney/Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion at the law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, who shared with us insights about the inclusion of historically underrepresented groups into long established fields. Below are some of the key points we discussed – and stayed tuned for more information about measures NYSCA will be taking to ensure diversity in New York State arts organizations.

Practices and ideas from the corporate law world that we can incorporate:

  • Where to start: Approach different levels at the same time – representation at the board and executive staff level matters, so does what and whom we see onstage. Engagement with audiences, including young people, is essential.
  • It’s the right thing to do and it’s good business. Increasing diversity not only brings a greater wealth of perspectives to the workplace. It can also ensure that your work and your brand reflect your audiences, and that people will identify with your work and want to be involved with you, whether as clients, partners or audience members.
  • Examine where minority groups are dropping out of the profession. Use exit interviews, ideally conducted by an outside party, as a tool.
  • Begin cultivating future employees early – mentorship opportunities in law begin in middle school.
  • The largest impediment, and the most difficult to address, is unconscious bias. As much as possible, we should be examining how and why we form the work relationships that we do – and do not.
  • People want: respect, opportunities to progress, feedback, sponsorship and reinforcement.
  • Look outside of your organizations and industries for new ideas and perspectives.

The following additional points were brought up:

  • The American League of Orchestras provides demographic information that can give all of us in the field an understanding of where we stand collectively and measure up individually.
  • For funders evaluating grant applicants actively working towards inclusion, it may be useful to look closely at the commitment expressed within applications: Why pursue this? Why now? How long have you been having these conversations?
  • Fellowships can be an effective way to nurture talent – but only if they’re created and administered effectively. Make sure fellows are truly integrated into a work culture, that everyone knows who they are and why they are there, that they have someone to talk to, that they are socially and intellectually engaged.

Questions for continued discussion:

  • Resistance to classical music particular to certain communities and universally provides a challenge: what do we do about class associations and unfamiliarity of repertoire and ritual?
  • How can we work collaboratively to: provide progressive opportunities for promising students to become professionally involved and make community concerts meaningful for engagement? One proposal: large organizations conducting outreach may want to look to local organizations who have already built relationships in a community as partners.

Thanks to all who joined us!



Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the designation of Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel as Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts, where she currently serves as Vice Chair.

“Barbaralee has dedicated her career to preserving and enriching cultural life across the state and across the nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “She is a leader whose knowledge, wide experience and energy will help shape our vision for cultural development and advance the future of the arts in New York.”

“It is a privilege and an honor to serve as Chair of NYSCA,” said Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. “The arts are integral to enhancing New York’s environment and values. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to move forward as we build on our past, and continue to develop all of the arts statewide.”

Throughout her career, Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel has served as a leading voice on civic and cultural engagement, having demonstrated a strong commitment to the arts, architecture, design, and public policy across New York City, New York State, and the country.

A former White House staff assistant, in 1966, she became the first Director of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. She later served as the longest-term Commissioner of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission from 1972 until 1987, and from 1987 to 1995, served as Chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Foundation. She has served as a member of the New York City Art Commission (now the Public Design Commission) and the New York City Commission of Cultural Affairs for more than a decade.

In 1987, she was appointed by President Reagan to the Board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and in 1996 was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, where she later became the first woman to be elected as Vice Chair. In 2009, President Obama appointed her to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel has served on the boards of a variety of educational, visual, literary, and performing arts institutions, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Visiting Committee for Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Collection Committee of the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum; the PEN American Center; the New York State Historic Archives Partnership Trust; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She is the founder and chair of the New York City Landmarks50 Alliance, and a founding member of the Highline, New York City, the Trust for the National Mall and the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the author of 23 books and the curator of eight international museum exhibitions. She earned her doctorate with high honors from New York University, and received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Longwood University, and the Pratt Institute.

The New York State Council on the Arts is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New York’s citizens. The Council believes in supporting artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure, the rights of all New Yorkers to access and experience the power of the arts and culture, and the vital contribution the arts make to the quality of life in New York communities. NYSCA, serving all 62 counties, strives to achieve its mission through its core grant-making activity and by convening field leaders, providing information and advisory support, and working with partners on special initiatives to achieve mutual goals.