Leading Musicians Announce Launch of Black Orchestral Network (BON) and “Dear American Orchestras” Campaign
Today, black members of over forty orchestras announced the Black Orchestral Network (BON). BON is a collective of black orchestral musicians dedicated to creating an inclusive and equitable environment for black people in the orchestral field. The group was built on the motto “if we increase our connection with each other, we can harness our creativity and develop initiatives that benefit black musicians”.
Seven black musicians founded the Black Orchestral Network – Jennifer Arnold, Alexander Laing, David A. Norville, Joy Payton-Stevens, Shea Scruggs, Weston Sprott and Titus Underwood. BON will galvanize the industry, break down barriers to inclusion, and confront longstanding inequities in treatment and process.
Dear American Orchestras
On Monday, May 2, 2022, BON is launching its first public campaign focused on promoting equity and inclusion in American orchestras. Through an open letter – “Dear American Orchestras” -BON is calling on American orchestras to take decisive action against racial injustice in the industry. The campaign provides a platform for allies who seek a culture of racial equity to commit to changing the orchestral community.
The letter asks:
Orchestras – through their boards, management, musicians and musical directors – to hire black musicians and support opportunities for emerging black artists.
Funders, both institutional and individual, are investing in the long-term viability of organizations already committed to black orchestral art and seeing great possibilities for American orchestras in our changing culture and society.
Unions, especially the American Federation of Musicians and related conferences (ICSOM, ROPA), must stand in solidarity with Black members by honoring fair workplace values and addressing barriers to fair hearing practices and fair and equitable tenure.
For more information, watch the call to action or read the open letter here.
Artists, audience members, educators, music lovers, culture carriers and enthusiasts are invited to co-sign this letter by adding your name to the list of black orchestral musicians calling on American orchestras for change. Co-sign the letter here. The official campaign hashtag is #DearAmericanOrchestras.
On Monday, May 9, 2022, BON is calling for a day of solidarity, an opportunity for allies, champions and supporters, within the music industry and beyond, to amplify the call to action of the “Dear American Orchestras”. Supporters are invited to amplify the campaign by posting a single graphic provided by BON to their Instagram, Facebook or Twitter timeline. The graphic will be a mosaic of the thousands of black orchestral musicians integral to the fabric of the American orchestral community.
The “Dear American Orchestras” campaign is championed by black musicians from some of the nation’s largest and most influential orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Boston Symphony, National Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony and the Nashville Symphony. The approximately 60 black orchestral musicians who have signed the letter so far include Lucinda Ali-Landing (violin, Chicago Sinfonietta) Dale Breidenthal (violin, Los Angeles Philharmonic), Joseph Conyers (assistant principal bass, Philadelphia Orchestra), Jauvon Gilliam (principal timpani, National Symphony Orchestra), Rodney Marsalis (principal trumpet, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia), Stephanie Matthews (co-founder and violinist, Re-Collective Orchestra), Anthony McGill (principal clarinet, New York Philharmonic), Demarre McGill ( principal flute, Seattle Symphony Orchestra), Eliesha Nelson (Viola, Cleveland Orchestra), Ann Hobson Pilot (Principal Harp, Boston Symphony Orchestra, retired) and Richard White (Principal Tuba, New Mexico Philharmonic). For a current list of all signatories, visit blackorchestralnetwork.org They have collaborated with Gateways Music Festival and Working IDEAL and have received community support from the Black Music Action Coalition. The Black Orchestral Network is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.“We are committed to exposing the structures, systems, policies and practices that have had harmful effects on the American orchestral industry,” said violist Jennifer Arnold. “Achieving equitable solutions requires challenging and dismantling existing norms and taking collective action. We are in unprecedented times when there are large numbers of vacancies in orchestras. If there is there is a time to attract, hire and promote black musicians, it is now.” “A concert hall doesn’t just amplify sound – it’s a place of cultural affirmation,” said clarinetist Alexander Laing. “Being a black orchestral musician or audience member shouldn’t require additional doses of isolation. We’ve seen in our own lives and practices what can happen when we increase and maintain our connection, and we’re going to do that. expand. We know what emerges will support black artists and improve the state of the American orchestral industry.” “I had a deep desire to do something that would create a sea change in our industry. Realizing that I was not alone with these thoughts, BON was born,” said oboist David A. Norville. “Black orchestral musicians thrive when we connect with each other, evaluate experiences, empathize, and develop a plan for intentional change. There are many amazing black orchestral organizations already out there, and BON will serve as a highway or proxy that will find points of connection between these If we can continue to unite, the resulting agency will be transformative.”“After undergoing training and working tirelessly to be competitive in the field, I found that the industry was sorely lacking in fundamentals, resulting in toxic work environments, unfair practices and organizations that failed. struggle to connect with the larger communities they are part of. Art form deserves better than what is currently on offer, as do all young musicians aspiring to turn professional,” said cellist Joy Payton-Stevens. “The Black Orchestral Network brings together a community that will strengthen and align support for people who have historically had to endure in isolation. There are so many amazing black musicians who have so much to say with music and even more to contribute to the field.” “said oboist Shea Scruggs. “I am thrilled to play a part in bringing them together to elevate and support their careers and fitness management. of art.” “We see a world where black classical artists are connected and form a rich, expressive and culturally affirming network. The Black Orchestral Network is a vehicle to secure that future,” said trombonist Weston Sprott. “Connection within the Black orchestral community is essential to our sense of belonging and well-being. Understanding and enhancing our experience is essential not only to our future in orchestral music, but also to future of orchestral music as a practice and of the music industry as a whole.”“This is the time when the industry steps up and really pushes the truth to our audience and confronts the long-standing inequities in treatment and process,” said oboist Titus Underwood. “BON’s statement centers on reforming the industry into an American orchestra because that cannot be done while sidelining black art.” The Black Orchestral Network will:
amplify the needs and perspectives of black musicians and lobby the industry to center the black experience (“raise our voices”),
host a series of virtual community conversations for various sectors of their community (“cultured community”), and
produce a podcast called “Black Music Seen” which features black orchestral musicians in their own voice (“telling our story”).