A Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In January 2016, the Board of Directors of Chamber Music America (CMA) began discussing the issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity as they relate to the organization’s membership, grants, awards, and other programs. It quickly became clear that CMA had virtually no quantitative data about the racial composition of its membership, grant applicants, or grantees. Further, anecdotal information suggested that music professionals from ALAANA communities (African/Black, Latinx, Asian/South Asian, Arab/Middle Eastern, and Native American) were underrepresented as CMA grantees, at its conferences, and in its publications. This led to continuing discussions at subsequent Board meetings and the realization that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity was an essential next step.
The impulse to be more inclusive is already in CMA’s mission, which is to develop, support, and strengthen the chamber music field, broadly defined as comprising small ensembles between 2 and 10 musicians, with one musician per part, generally without a conductor, performing historic and contemporary music from all cultures and traditions. We believe that the inclusion of all cultures and traditions under the chamber music umbrella leads to opportunities for greater collaboration among different styles of music and different communities, and our commitment to jazz has been a powerful and tangible manifestation of that belief. As a result, the Board of Directors has made diversity, inclusion, and equity a primary focus of CMA’s work. We are committed to examining all aspects of the organization’s systems, programs, services, and communication mechanisms to fully understand and represent all chamber music traditions and the people who create, perform, and present those traditions.
While we have a commitment to improve in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity, we realize that Chamber Music America was born from the Western European classical tradition, which evolved within a society that practiced many forms of racism and exclusion, some of which continue today to impact our members and our communities.
We further recognize that the people and music of ALAANA communities must represent a greater portion of the organization in order for CMA to be a relevant part of a broad cross-section of contemporary society. It is our view that, at this particular time and because of this history, race continues to be a uniquely privileging or penalizing category for many communities. We will, therefore, conduct our diversity, inclusion, and equity work focusing on ALAANA people, and approach other issues of diversity—including LGBTQ, gender, or abilities—through a racial lens. This means that we will prioritize the involvement of these communities that are also part of the ALAANA community in order to focus directly on race, which we believe to be the clearest and most urgent issue affecting our field.
CMA believes that there is a fundamental difference between inviting ALAANA communities into a Western European-based structure and revising the structure itself to include ALAANA musicians, presenters, composers, and others in the field to fully benefit as active participants in the organization. We are committed to the latter, and know that we have a great deal of work to do in order to become a fully inclusive and equitable organization. CMA will undertake this work by seeing diversity, inclusion, and equity as a related set of approaches that build on one another and lead to the fair sharing of the benefits and services that our organization offers.
Our hope is that this work will allow Chamber Music America to fulfill its vision for the future, where people of all races, religions, genders, and abilities are able to fully participate in the performance, presentation, and enjoyment of the many styles of small ensemble music. Our Statement of Commitment will guide the work of CMA as the national organization for the field, serving as a model for chamber music practitioners throughout the country and allowing us to participate in the increasingly national conversation on diversity, inclusion, and equity issues.
This Statement was created by CMA’s Board of Directors and staff with assistance and guidance from Justin Laing of Hillombo LLC.
What Does CMA Hope to Accomplish Moving Forward?
We understand that substantive change requires understanding, discussion, experimentation, and time. We are committed to the ideals of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and in the years ahead intend to maintain a vigorous examination of additional topics that affect equity.