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Dallas Symphony’s commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice

Plan Update as of September 2021

The commitment: The DSO pledges an organization-wide commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. This organization-wide commitment is advanced by working alongside the residents of our community to ensure that the DSO is representative of and accessible to all citizens of Dallas.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra shares its commitment to change in the area of equity, diversity, inclusion and racial justice. The DSO is focusing on specific goals in six key areas across the organization and has made progress toward each of these goals over the past year.

Governing Board

Increase diversity of the board by 20% over the next two years with a long-term goal to have the board composition reflect the city’s demographics
With the completion of the 2021 nominating cycle, the DSA will have 26 board members of color, out of a total of 103 board members. The DSO will continue to recruit new BIPOC board members.

Create a new leadership program to develop a pathway for new board members and volunteers
This program launched in May 2021, and there are 17 participants participating in the program. 65% of the participants are BIPOC individuals, and many have expressed an interest in becoming involved in arts boards in the future.

Staff

Form a staff EDI committee to provide feedback and make recommendations about recruitment, retention and staff wellness and satisfaction with a goal to have the staff team reflect the diversity of the city.
Our staff committee, which has met for a year, has taken on a number of projects such as highlighting BIPOC staff and their jobs in a video series, starting a book club of interesting books, creating an internship program which will begin with a Booker T. Washington High School student, which is a two week immersion into how an Arts organization works on the inside – which was delayed until summer of 2022 due to COVID, implementing EDI training for the committee and the staff, enhanced recruiting of BIPOC people for open positions. We initiated the EDI focus in 2019 we have  hired 13 new full-time employees of color and 4 part-time employees.           

Commit to increase diversity on the senior staff team and department directors. This is an area we are still working on since we have only had one senior position turnover. We interviewed two candidates of color for the position.
Kim Noltemy led a U.S. orchestra-wide initiative to review recruiting, mentoring, staff communication and other management practices to make a recommendation for all orchestras to adopt these principals and commit to developing and hiring more BIPOC leadership talent.     

Artistic Representation

Composers: commit to annual new commissions of BIPOC/ ALAANA (Black, Indigenous, People of Color/African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, Native American) composers each season, both in Classical and Pops genres.
The 2021-2022 Season includes the following non-white composers: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Adolphus Hailstork, Xi Wang, William Still, Unsuk Chin, Jesse Montgomery, Ulysses Kay and Florence Price. Additionally, there are two programs celebrating Mexico–Dia De los Muertos, and Presto Mambo. The Chris Botti and Count Basie programs celebrate numerous black composer icons of the Jazz genre.

Conductors and guest soloists: hire an ethnically and racially diverse group of conductors and soloists each season.
The 2021-2022 season includes the following BIPOC conductors: Thomas Wilkins, Lawrence Loh, Sarah Hicks, Enrico Lopez-Yanez, Kevin John Edusei and Carlos Kalmar. Soloists of color performing with the DSO during the upcoming season include: Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, Violinist Elena Urioste, Violinist Daishin Kashimoto, Violinist Karen Gomyo, Soprano Angel Blue, Mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven, Tenor Issachah Savage, Bass-Baritone Soloman Howard, Vocalist Aida Cuevas, Bass-Baritone Reginald Smith Jr., Vocalist Renée Elise Goldsberry, Pianist Joyce Yang, Organist Chelsea Chen, Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, and the Count Basie Orchestra. Also, we are in the process of booking a concert with Esperanza Spalding as we helped UTD secure her for the Richard Brettell Award.

Orchestra: increase the number of Black and Latinx musicians recruited and participating in the audition process and formalize orchestra members’ roles in music education and mentorship programs for non-white musicians.
Numerous musicians are teaching and mentoring the students in the Young Strings and Young Musicians programs. We have talked with the orchestra committee about more mentorship of high school and college aged musicians of color. The musicians have agreed to recruit more musicians of color for auditions through their networks. A board member has started an audition fund to help cover travel expenses to first and second rounds of auditions. Orchestra members will go through EDI training in fall 2021.

Collaborations: Partner with organizations like Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL), Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas, local churches and social service organizations to perform various types of music and new concert series. Launch a Jazz series with TBAAL in 2020, host the November 11, 2020 Unity Concert with DBDT and Project Unity, present the annual Día de Los Muertos concert at the Meyerson. Offer free concert series in parks and other venues such as The Potter’s House Church and Paul Quinn College.
All of these events and initiatives are continuing in 2021-2022 Season. In addition, Youth Concerts now have a primary focus on EDI in music.

Education

Build on the successes of the Young Strings Program by expanding the number of students by 20%.
This expansion is in progress, but we may not reach the target numbers until 2023 because of the pandemic.

Expand the Young Musicians education program to 1,000 students by 2022 – this El Sistema-inspired program provides free instruments and 6-8 hours of training and instruction per week to elementary age students in Southern Dallas.
This program growth is in progress, but we may not reach the target numbers until 2023 because of the pandemic.

Continue reaching local students through the Youth and Family Concerts and MyDSO Concerts.
The MyDSO concert will take place in June 2022 (This concert is specially designed for children and adults on the autism spectrum and with developmental disabilities, and their families, friends and caregivers). The Youth concerts are taking place with a live audience and are being captured and shown in schools and offered to students at home; therefore, more kids than ever are watching our concerts.

Audience Development

Increase the ethnic and racial diversity of the audience by 20% by the end of 2022.
Survey results comparing demographics in 2016 to 2020 show the audience has become significantly less white, from 85% white to 66%.

Revise marketing and PR plans to communicate with a wider number of potential attendees.
We are working with Univision, Hoy, El Dia, and various radio stations targeting BIPOC audiences, and we are expanding social media presence to attract broader audience.

Ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for all attendees at events.
Retraining staff and reviewing policy to ensure welcoming environment. Front of house staff is very racially diverse.

Volunteers

Increase the diversity of the DSO’s volunteer groups.
We are at the early stages of changes related to volunteer groups.

Thoughtfully modify volunteer events to be inclusive and appealing to a wide variety of attendees.
We are just starting this effort.

Actively recruit singers from diverse backgrounds for the Dallas Symphony Chorus.
No auditions have been held due to COVID, but this will be a goal for the next auditions.