There are many initiatives in the classical music industry to promote living, woman, and minority composers. You will see numerous festivals and special concert series devoted to supporting and promoting these composers. That is exactly what should be done.
Upon talking with many colleagues about their upcoming auditions, there is a noticeable trend that needs to stop. The music required for the orchestras’ upcoming auditions was written by composers who were long gone: long gone white male composers.
While these audition repertoire requirements have been considered “standard” for the last 25+ years, it is time to update the requirements for U.S. symphony orchestras to include more living, female, and minority composers.
I know this is a can of worms, and I can almost hear the groans from audition committees who are planning upcoming auditions. But how sincere is it to say your orchestra actively promotes outreach and diversity, new music, and gender equality when your orchestra lists only dead white male composers on the audition repertoire requirements?
Let’s look at a typical violin audition list:
- Mendelssohn Scherzo
- Brahms Symphony #4
- Schumann Symphony #2
- Mozart Symphony #39
- Shostakovich Symphony #5
- Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Overture
Obviously, there are many more, but you get the point: All. Dead. White. Males.
I’m not suggesting committees eliminate these standards, but keep a fair amount. Just adjust the required repertoire to reflect the progressiveness that is being touted. Here’s why the industry should change/adjust the repertoire requirements:
- It would be hypocritical not to.
- Committees can tell if a musician can count with music from any period. Something in the late 20th century or even 21st century would be super.
- Qualified candidates should be able showcase their tone, pitch, style, and technique with any genre or composer.
- There are now enough living, women, and minority composers’ works being regularly programmed, candidates should be expected to be proficient in that programming at the auditions.
Change doesn’t come without challenges. There will be copyrights to ask about but that’s not necessarily a new issue. But isn’t that something worth examining to stay relevant? I think so.
I’ll be curious what solutions and suggestions people in the industry have. And if your orchestra has included something besides a dead white male on the audition requirements, please share what that was in the comments.