I’ve been reading my copy of CMEA News. This issue contains bios of the conductors of the various regional honor ensembles.
There are sixteen of them (Northern region didn’t list their conductors by name), and only one is a woman: Janet Galvan.
At least we know she’s awesome. But still.
What is this telling the young musicians of Connecticut? All those girls in the ensembles are seeing men on podiums–outnumbering women fifteen to one! Come on, Connecticut!
Also, Southern and Western regions included headshots of their conductors. They are all white men between the ages of (at a guess) forty and sixty.
Eastern region doesn’t have pictures, but I know Marvin McNeill is African American. Eastern Region are the ones who hired Janet Galvan, too; so I think the rest of the state could learn something from the “quiet corner” in the East!
Is it necessary to look a little harder to make sure you show kids that conductors aren’t necessarily middle aged white men? Yes! The fact is, most people in power and hence most conductors are middle aged white men–look at Congress, business executives, news anchors… But remember the saying: “you can’t be what you can’t see?” We have an obligation to go out of our way to let the next generation of musicians see options and therefore imagine themselves being conductors.
Does this mean we give kids second rate conductors just so they see diversity? Hell, no. There are plenty of great conductors who happen to be women and members of minority races! You may have to look past half a dozen white, male faces before you find us, but we’re here! We’re awesome! Janet Galvan and Marvin McNeill are going to give their students terrific experiences with high quality artistry, valuable education, and passionate love for music. They’re first rate all the way. And they aren’t alone in the world! And yet they are alone in the lineup of regional honor ensemble conductors in Connecticut. Why??? Because it takes a few extra days to look through the line of white men and seek out someone who isn’t in the majority?
I don’t know any of the festival chairs personally–it’s been too long since I taught in the state; I’m too out-of-the-loop. But my past experience is that the individuals who volunteer for those positions are good teachers and kind people. They, like, most of us, aren’t racist or sexist. They believe in equality for everyone, take for granted that everyone else who is reasonable and mentally stable believes the same thing. Nobody’s trying to keep anyone down. There’s no “The Man.” The preponderance of middle aged white men is not a choice; it’s just what’s right there in front of them. It’s perfectly natural to choose from the choices given to you, and statistically you’re gonna end up with what is the best represented.
Probably the people who chose each ensemble’s conductor had little or even no communication with the people who chose the other ensembles’ conductors. No one looked at the big picture and said “there are fifteen men and one woman.” They just said “there were eight men on my list, and I chose one based on some very reasonable criteria.” But I think we owe it to our students to communicate better, to keep the big picture in mind.
It might be too much to ask even more of the dedicated volunteers who coordinate these things. Whose responsibility should this be?