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Deepening the Discussion

The Eastman School of Music joins with the rest of the University in its desire to create a more diverse and inclusive environment for faculty, students, and staff. Our diversity committee has begun to engage with certain issues, such as defining diversity within a music-school context, developing strategies for more inclusive faculty searches, and considering curricular initiatives, as well as examining some of the social and cultural processes involved in becoming a professional classical musician in the twenty-first century.

Some of the steps we have taken so far at Eastman have been to begin gathering data from other music schools to assess nation-wide diversity efforts in hiring, student recruitment, and curricular development; to invite musicians and scholars from underrepresented minorities to visit and talk with our committee; to sponsor performances and master-classes featuring minority players; and to send representatives to conferences and other meetings to engage with organizations focused on helping minority musicians and music scholars.

As we move along in our work, we would like to engage in a broader discussion about these issues and welcome your responses to the three questions below:

1. How can we define diversity in a School devoted to western classical music?
2. How can we get beyond notions of “white (Euro-centric) privilege” that have traditionally been associated with classical music?
3. What steps can we take to increase diversity and inclusiveness at Eastman that we are not already doing (or have not even considered)?

We thank you in advance for considering these issues and hope to hear from you.

Ellen Koskoff
Professor of Ethnomusicology
Chair, Eastman School Diversity Committee


Comment from Tim Wilson
Time: January 8, 2009, 1:17 pm

Who says that Eastman has to be only ‘devoted to western classical music’? How about hosting a Djembe drum circle for starters?

Comment from ellen koskoff
Time: January 10, 2009, 12:21 pm

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your comment. I’d love it if the School would open up to new musics!

The School, however, has built up its entire reputation over the past 100 years on the basis of its devotion to the western classical tradition and does not want to change what it (rightly) sees as a good thing.

Have any ideas about how I could help this situation?


Comment from Michael
Time: January 26, 2009, 10:02 am

I’m thinking of these questions in terms of curriculum–what we require in courses and what is offered. If ESM is to be at the forefront of musical excellence, producing talented and conscientious musical citizens, we need to recognize that the classical canon has changed and Euro-centric hierarchies have softened. The Bach-Beethoven-Brahms curriculum should consider accommodating the music of Bali, Bernart (the medieval troubadour), and Beyonce.

Comment from ellen koskoff
Time: January 26, 2009, 8:41 pm

Dear Michael,

I couldn’t agree more, but . . . taking the position of the Administration for a moment, in a time of limited resources, shouldn’t the School focus on what it is already known for and is good at? And, if we add in world and popular musics, won’t we ‘dilute’ our strengths? After all, people all over the world want to come to Eastman to study western classical music. Why fix it if it isn’t broken? (These are some of the arguments I’ve heard over the years.) Keep your ideas coming–I need all the help I can get! Thanks, EK

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