Hartford Symphony Orchestra to host online panel discussion, Confronting the Audition Process in American Orchestras:  A Challenge for Greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, on December 8

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will host an online panel discussion, Confronting the Audition Process in American Orchestras:  A Challenge for Greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 from 3-4:30pm. Click here to register for this free event: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_96wAoyLoSYWBtr-bq_71UA

The panel discussion will explore questions such as whether – and how – musician hiring practices should be changed to increase racial and ethnic diversity in American orchestras, the evolving role of orchestral musicians in today’s society, and how students are being trained for a successful career in a professional orchestra.

Panelists include Jeri Lynne Johnson, Founder and Artistic Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra; Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization and recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Human Spirit Award; Abra Bush, Senior Associate Dean of Institute Studies, The Peabody Institute; Kai Rocke, Rosemary and David Good Bassoon Fellow, The Minnesota Orchestra; and Jaroslaw Lis, Personnel Manager and Assistant Principal Second Violin, Hartford Symphony Orchestra. The conversation will be moderated by HSO Education and Community Engagement Manager Timothy Brown.

According to the League of American Orchestras, fewer than 3% of orchestral musicians are Black or Latinx. Last summer, Anthony Tommasini, classical music critic at the New York Times, called for an end to so-called “blind” auditions—the process by which musicians compete behind a screen for a position in an orchestra—in order to increase racial diversity on stage. While the blind audition has been hailed as the fairest process for hiring musicians, and widely credited for increasing gender diversity in American orchestras, it has failed to increase racial and ethnic diversity on stage. Moreover, these days, orchestral musicians are often expected to engage in education and community work, development projects, and digital programming, none of which is considered in most orchestral hiring practices. In order to better reflect the communities they serve, Dr. Tommasini suggested that orchestras “drop the screen” and consider a musician’s background and experiences, in addition to their artistry, in hiring decisions.

About the Panelists

Abra K. Bush, DMA, currently serves as Senior Associate Dean of Institute Studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. In her role, she oversees all elements of the curriculum and personnel for the academic and applied study areas of the Peabody Institute, including faculty affairs, Academic Affairs, Ensemble Operations, and the Arthur Friedheim Music Library. Since joining Peabody in 2016, Bush has implemented new faculty orientation and structured faculty evaluation programs; led the development of the Breakthrough Curriculum, which fully integrates music leadership and community engagement learning into the core training of student musicians; launched a “Lunch and Learn” series to facilitate faculty discussion of best practices in the scholarship of teaching and learning; and begun a systematic departmental and program review for all Conservatory departments. Her role also encompasses policy development, faculty and staff leadership, student retention initiatives, and accreditation compliance. Prior to joining Peabody, Bush was director of the Music Division at The Boston Conservatory, where she developed a strategic vision for the division. Previous academic appointments have included roles at the Eastman School of Music, Concordia College, and Kenyon College. A soprano, Bush holds her BM in Voice Performance and MM in Opera Theater from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and her DMA in Voice from The Ohio State University.

Named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Influencers and Detroit Crain’s 40 Under 40, Afa S. Dworkin is a musical thought leader and cross-sector strategist driving national programming that promotes diversity in classical music. She currently serves as President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization, the nation’s leading organization transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Ms. Dworkin serves the field as a multi-year orchestra grant review panelist for the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, 3Arts Awards, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and The League of American Orchestras. She serves as a trustee for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Creative Many Michigan and CultureSource. Ms. Dworkin has also delivered ongoing thought leadership through an extensive roster of speaking engagements, including International Arts & Ideas Festival, Independent Sector, Grantmakers in the Arts, Chamber Music America, ICSOM, and beyond.

Jeri Lynne Johnson is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. She founded Black Pearl in 2008 in Philadelphia, PA as a model for the 21st-century American orchestra by combining artistic excellence with cultural diversity and meaningful community engagement.  Black Pearl has been recognized as a leading innovator in social justice in classical music and in its brief time, Black Pearl has earned numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and is the only organization in the US ever to win three prestigious Knight Arts Challenge grants. Ms. Johnson holds two degrees from Wellesley College in Music and Religion and a Master’s in Music History and Theory from the University of Chicago.  In 1998 she won the Jorge Mester Conducting Scholarship to attend the Aspen Music Festival and her conducting teachers and mentors have included Sir Simon Rattle, Marin Alsop and Daniel Barenboim.   In 2005 she made history as the first Black woman to win an international conducting prize when she was awarded the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship.  Since then, Ms. Johnson has broken barriers in Europe and the US as the first African American woman on the podium for many orchestras and has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, the Bournemouth Symphony (UK), the Weimar Staatskapelle (Germany) among others.

Jaroslaw Lis received his M.A. summa cum laude from the Frederic Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, Poland and was a recipient of the prestigious Polish Ministry of Culture scholarship. As a youngest member of the Sinfonia Varsovia he has worked with Yehudi Menuhin, Krzysztof Penderecki and Emannuel Krivine as well as recorded for Denon and Aperto labels. He received an Artist Diploma and Master of Music degrees from the Yale School of Music.  He has studied with Jan Jakuc, Wojciech Malinski, Zofia Kuberska, Julia Jakimowicz, Krzysztof Jakowicz, Syoko Aki and the Tokyo String Quartet, and was a scholarship student of Nathan Milstein (Zurich, Switzerland). He has been a member of the Assai and Essex Quartets, receiving Second Prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition with the Assai Quartet. He recorded on Roesch Records with Assai Quartet and Ahmad Jamal.  He has been on the faculty of the Madeline Island Music Camp, the Palisade Arts Festival, Friends of Music Camp in South Korea and is a former director of the Music Adventure Camp at Tenuta di Spannocchia in Tuscany. He is currently acting Principal second violin of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.  He is a chamber music director as well as conductor of the chamber orchestra of Music Academy International in Trentino, Italy. He is on faculty of Connecticut College, Trinity College, and Hartt School Community Division.

Originally from Virginia, Kai Rocke is currently a Rosemary and David Good bassoon fellow with the Minnesota Orchestra. As a part of the fellowship, he performs with the Minnesota orchestra, takes private lessons and sits on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Mr. Rocke received his bachelor’s degree at the New England Conservatory and a master’s degree at Rice University both in Bassoon Performance. While a student at NEC he performed as 2nd bassoon with the New Bedford Symphony and since then has performed with various orchestras such as: the Atlantic Symphony, Haffner Sinfonietta, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Shreveport Symphony.

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