Boycott the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Now that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has added micromanaging the racial composition of local high school singing groups to its agenda, the company must be all squared away in the area of financial support and evidently views making world-class music as a secondary endeavor.
In a simply breathtaking move of arrogance and hubris the ASO demanded that Walton HS and Lassiter HS change the racial make up of their choral groups or be eliminated from the ASO Christmas season program. To their eternal credit the schools said no, noting that the only criteria for selection in the groups is merit.
WXIA has the details:
In a response to an 11Alive e-mail, school system communications director Jay Dillon wrote that “the schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus.”
Dillon said Walton and Lassiter were still welcome to participate but, “because of limited space, only a portion of the Lassiter and Walton choruses would therefore be able to attend.”
He added that the schools chose not to leave any chorus members behind and “would not be able to perform with the Symphony.” …
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sent us a written reply from marketing VP Charlie Wade.
“We’ve been thrilled with the quality and performance of Lassiter and Walton choruses for four straight years; they are terrific,” Wade wrote. “But we felt it was simply time to let another set of kids participate.”
He said Atlanta’s Grady High School chorus had been added.
Meanwhile, we also asked about the racial diversity of the ASO itself.
A 2008 study by the League of American Orchestras found that 87% of musicians in U.S. symphonies are white.
But Melissa A.E. Sanders, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s senior director of communications, wrote, “It is against our policy to share the race and/or ethnicity of our musicians, so I am unable to share that information.”
Shameless. The ASO is perfectly comfortable holding high schools to a standard that no merit-based entity — such as a symphony orchestra — can possibly meet. Worse, the ASO suggested that merit is not really how Walton and Lassiter select their choral groups — hint hint — and conjured up a ready-made reparation: Throw some of your kids under the bus, sacrifice them to the altar of “diversity,” admit you did wrong, and demonstrate contrition and remorse and then we will grant you the honor of playing with us again.
This is bullying of the worst sort. And my guess is it was intended to remain secret. It is very telling that confirmation of the extortion came from the Cobb County central offices, not from the schools themselves. The school choral directors and principals evidently kicked the matter upstairs — no doubt with prodding from angry parents — for a decision on how to respond publicly. But I am certain no one at either school considered for a moment the plea deal offered by the ASO.
For me the path forward is clear. The ASO must apologize to both Walton and Lassiter, identify the genesis of the complaints about the racial composition of their choral groups, and discipline any and all staff and/or board members who may have implied that race was a factor in how the schools select their chorus members.
Absent that, the ASO has ceased to exist as far as I am concerned.