Here at Symphony Nova Scotia, we’ve been watching the events of the past few weeks with grief, shock, and sorrow. We know this is an exceptionally difficult time for our fellow musicians and community members of African descent, and we join in mourning with Nova Scotia’s Black artists and communities. We hear your voices, and we see your pain.
However, we are acutely aware that our own industry – that of classical music and orchestral performance – has not only participated in systemic racism and injustice, but also benefited from it. For hundreds of years, our industry has accepted and promoted an extremely restrictive model that excludes Black performers, composers, and works, and also marginalizes Indigenous communities, people of colour, people with disabilities, 2SLGBTQ++ people, and women.
We know that changes must be made, and we are committed to making these changes. Over the past few years, Symphony Nova Scotia has worked harder to listen to our fellow Nova Scotians, and to recognize our own biases and complicity in an unjust system. We’ve been deeply honoured by our communities’ generous support through this work, and we have seen firsthand the true strength of increased diversity, inclusion, and accessibility.
However, we know there is much more yet to be done. Together, we have made the following commitments:
- Continue to seek out, steward, and deeply value diverse leadership at the highest levels of our organization.
- Educate ourselves, our artists, and our supporters about the important contributions of Black artists to our industry.
- Begin conversations with fellow Canadian orchestras around developing a joint commitment to commissioning and performing new works from Black composers.
Into the future:
- Continue to highlight Black artists each season, including at times other than African Heritage Month.
- Perform works by Black composers and composers of colour each full concert season.
- Seek out deeper partnerships with Black artists and organizations in our community.
- Review human resources policies and strategies to ensure truly equitable hiring practices for staff (orchestra auditions will remain anonymous).
- Deepen our understanding of the systemic barriers that prevent Black artists from participating in orchestral music, and explore means of reducing those barriers, particularly among youth in our community.
We believe that the arts have true power to change lives, communities, and our world. We urge you stand in support of Black Nova Scotians in our communities, and to join us as we seek to better listen, learn, and grow. Together, we can seek a world without racism and injustice, and support a more equal and compassionate future.
Supporting Black Nova Scotians
- How to support Black organizations in Nova Scotia (The Coast)
- Hear more Black voices (CBC Nova Scotia)
- Resources to start learning about racism in Halifax and beyond (The Coast)
Orchestral music by Black composers
- Music by Black Composers: Aims to increase diversity in the world of classical music, and inspire Black students to pursue instrumental training.
- The Institute for Composer Diversity: Committed to the celebration, education, and advocacy of music by composers from historically underrepresented groups.
- Exploring the life of Chevalier de Saint-Georges, The ‘Black Mozart‘ (WBUR)
- 9 black composers who changed the course of classical music history (Classic FM)
- Great divide at the concert hall (New York Times)
Orchestras and discrimination
- Why is American classical music so white? (NPR)
- Systemic discrimination: The burden of sameness in American orchestras (I Care if You Listen)
- Inside the battle to diversify orchestras, one costly audition at a time (Color Lines)
- Perfect Fifth of Diversity: A framework for orchestra self-assessment (Orchestras Canada, by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser)