Dallas Symphony’s commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and racial justice

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.

Dallas, Texas (September 9, 2020) – The Dallas Symphony Orchestra shares its commitment to change in the area of equity, diversity, inclusion and racial justice. As the organization examines the roles of prejudice, bias and inequity endemic in society, our city and our industry, the DSO knows that it must do better; the organization has an obligation to make meaningful change that acknowledges flaws and inadequacies and shines a light on the path to move forward.

“To create a better world, we need to work hand in hand,” said Sanjiv Yajnik, Chairman of the Dallas Symphony Association Board of Governors. “We must contribute to an inclusive atmosphere that cherishes differences between people while celebrating our similarities. A place where every voice is heard and matters. This is our responsibility – and it is essential to building a stronger organization that represents the beloved community we call home.”

“Though the DSO has worked to implement programs in equity, diversity and inclusion in the past, there is so much more work to do,” said Kim Noltemy, Ross Perot President & CEO of the Dallas Symphony. “We are an organization of action, and the DSO is committed to partnering alongside community leaders in this important work in our city.

“In developing this plan and commitment, I reflected on a key question: ‘How can we expand the DSO’s inclusivity on every level, and what can we do to build consensus to move forward, utilizing music to unite people of different backgrounds, races and ethnicities?’ We hold the organization accountable to the public and will communicate our progress on an ongoing basis.”

The DSO will focus on specific goals in six key areas across the organization:

Governing Board

  1. 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
  2. Create a new leadership program to develop a pathway for new board members and volunteers


  1. 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              
  2. Commit to increase diversity on the senior staff team and department directors           

Artistic Representation

  1. 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
  2. Conductors: hire an ethnically and racially diverse group of conductors each season
  3. 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
  4. 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.


  1. Build on the successes of the Young Strings Program by expanding the number of students by 20%
  2. 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
  3. Continue reaching local students through the Youth and Family Concerts and My DSO concerts

Audience Development

  1. Increase the ethnic and racial diversity of the audience by 20% by the end of 2022
  2. Revise marketing and PR plans to communicate with a wider number of potential attendees
  3. Ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for all attendees at events


  1. Increase the diversity of the DSO’s volunteer groups
  2. Thoughtfully modify volunteer events to be inclusive and appealing to a wide variety of attendees
  3. Actively recruit singers from diverse backgrounds for the Dallas Symphony Chorus

Each area represents a unique facet of the organization and will require a tailored approach and authentic change to reach our organizational goals. Music connects us in a truly unique and meaningful way and now, more than ever, the joy and inspiration it provides can serve our collective humanity and bridge our differences.



The makeup of the DSA’s Board of Governors should be reflective of the community it serves with a diversity of opinions, viewpoints and experiences. It is not enough to invite members to join to create diversity; board members should be familiar with the organization, willing to commit to governance and be integrated into the culture of the volunteer leadership. 

Sharon Washington, PhD, Cultural Anthropologist, will help the DSO create a new Leadership Development Program and aid in efforts to achieve equity on the Board of Governors. The Leadership Development Program will engage diverse young professionals from local corporations in an annual program to build philanthropic and leadership skills necessary for successful board involvement. With this program, the DSO will cultivate the next generation of creative, philanthropic leaders who will continue the important work of using arts and culture to dismantle societal divisions, systemic racism and inequality. Program content will address issues of trust and relevance in historically underrepresented communities. The leadership program will begin in February 2021.

The DSO is also introducing inclusive policies for board members – including an ambassador program to welcome new members, a more comprehensive orientation training and refined expectations and requirements – to positively impact the experience that new board members have on the Dallas Symphony Board of Governors. Alongside this work, the DSO will invite members of each of the organizational partners in its racial justice work to join the board to make certain that their voices and expertise are shared and heard throughout the planning, implementation and governance processes.


The DSO recently created a staff task force empowered to provide insight to the unique perspectives of working in orchestra administration and the office environment. This group includes members of the DSO staff from across departments and from a diverse group of backgrounds, ethnicities and musical experiences. They have varied tenures at the DSO and bring a range of perspectives to help review everything that impacts the employee experience and suggest changes to make the organization more welcoming and inclusive. This committee will communicate with the senior management team to make recommendations related to staff recruitment, retention, policies and work culture. The committee will also share observations about other areas of the DSO’s activities.

The DSO commits to increasing diversity on the senior management team and in management leadership positions throughout the organization.


The core of the DSO’s mission is music, and therefore, it is imperative that the artistic product also reflect the community and respond to its specific needs.

In June, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Project Unity announced a public concert to honor those who have lost their lives to racial violence and injustice. The November 11 concert is a fundraiser for Project Unity, an organization founded by Pastor Richie Butler. Project Unity works to unify Dallas by implementing community-building programs to help heal race relationships between law enforcement and Dallas citizens, as well as other community programs. The DSO and Project Unity partnered in 2019 for the inspiring Gospel Goes Classical concert. This concert will use music to unite and heal and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives and deserved to be honored on a national level. Tickets for the concert are on sale now.

The DSO’s robust commissioning program will include new music by BIPOC and ALAANA composers and provide the orchestra’s stage as a platform to share their unique perspectives and voices. In the upcoming season, in addition to a commission for the November 11 Unity Concert by Dallas composer Quinn Mason, the DSO has commissioned works by composer-in-residence Angélica Negrón and Kareem Roustom as well as a Dallas premiere of a work by Jessie Montgomery.  Furthermore, this fall after revising programs for a smaller orchestra, DSO programs will feature Black composers Adolphus Hailstork, Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton and George Walker. The DSO will increase the presence of Black and Latinx artists, conductors and musicians on the stage over the next five seasons. There are still huge strides to be made to create a truly diverse season, but the DSO is committed to diversity in the music it performs.

With the orchestra on the stage, the DSO will increase the number of Black and Latinx musicians recruited for the audition process and formalize orchestra members’ roles in music education and mentorship programs for non-white musicians. Additionally, the DSO has been a member of the Sphinx Orchestra Partners Audition process as it works to diversify orchestras and looks forward to building upon this partnership. 

“This is the time to listen openly and with our hearts,” said Noltemy. “True change comes from long-term commitment and through some very difficult conversations. We are dealing with decades of racism and inequities. It is our true mission to work toward becoming change agents and turning good intentions into actions.”


Equitable education access is an important step to achieving equitable societies. One of the integral components of the DSO’s plan is the growth, expansion and continued support of two key education programs within the Dallas Symphony: Young Strings and Young Musicians. The DSO has partnered with the Dallas Independent School District on the delivery and execution of education programs for decades. The DISD program content and delivery has been created to ensure that the programming aligns with student and family needs and provides pathways for students to excel and develop their individual remarkable talents.

Young Strings develops the talents of exceptional and underrepresented string players from Dallas by providing each student with an instrument, weekly individual instruction, master classes taught by DSO musicians and performance opportunities. When the program was founded almost 30 years ago, it was designed with the goal of raising up an incredibly talented, diverse group of students who would eventually sit on the stages and make up sections of major orchestras. We are proud that 100% of Young Strings graduates over the past five years have pursued an advanced degree, and the program has a 100% high school graduation rate since its founding. Over 5,000 students have graduated from the Young Strings program and many are now involved in the classical music industry as performers, teachers, patrons, board members or volunteers. We have committed to expand the number of children in the program and our financial investment in their success.

The second and newest education program is Young Musicians, which is part of the DSO’s larger Southern Dallas Residency. Working alongside the advocacy and leadership of community leaders, teachers, parents and administrators, Young Musicians provides free instruments, music instruction and life skills development for students in first through fifth grade at Southern Dallas elementary schools.

Launched in June 2019, during the inaugural year of the program, the DSO served over 500 students, 67% of whom were Hispanic, 27% were Black and 5% were White. The majority of students in the program live at or below the poverty line. As part of the Young Musicians program, each student receives an instrument, one-on-one music or small group instrument lessons, ensemble playing opportunities, including drum circle and choir, and music theory training with a DSO-contracted Teaching Artist or DSO musician. Students who excel in the program are identified to work with DSO chamber groups for concert preparation, soloing opportunities and performances at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

In order to ensure that the Young Musicians program is well-aligned with the specific community needs and helps to advance the particular assets and talents of the community, the DSO hired Roberto Zambrano as the Artistic Director of the program. Zambrano is one of the founders of Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra (an El Sistema program), and he has been instrumental in the development of Young Musicians. The program also partners musicians from the community with DSO musicians for the creation of free, local concerts that showcase the creativity and talent of the community musicians. In addition, parents, teachers and administrators volunteer and help lead the program, sharing their perspectives, understanding and student support. The goal of the Southern Dallas Residency is to address the growing opportunity gap for Southern Dallas children and open the doors to communication and conversation between the various neighborhoods in Dallas.


Just as a board should represent its community, an audience must reflect the diverse neighborhoods and experiences of the city. Currently, audience diversity for DSO concerts is not representative of Dallas, and the organization commits to programming artists and music to connect with people from various races, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. To achieve that, the DSO will partner with organizations and people of diverse backgrounds and in a variety of disciplines who believe that music and arts are a cultural bridge. The DSO pledges to treat each person who attends an event at the Meyerson as a truly valued, unique individual who adds something important to the DSO experience and the Dallas community.

For decades, the DSO has provided free music to neighborhoods around Dallas through the annual Park Concerts. These events are regularly rotated throughout the area to reach new neighbors each year, with the exception of standing, well-received events at Flag Pole Hill, Kidd Springs and Paul Quinn College. Hundreds of Dallasites enjoy classical music in a welcoming and open atmosphere. It is often an audience member’s first experience with an orchestra and an event regularly referenced by those who come to see the DSO at the Meyerson.

Recently, the DSO has established partnerships and strengthened relationships with groups throughout Dallas. In October 2019, the DSO performed a free concert for an audience of thousands at Dallas’s The Potter’s House. That relationship has grown to include educational opportunities, an additional concert and an evening of The Potter’s House at the DSO being scheduled.

The Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas has worked with the DSO on an annual Día de los Muertos event for the past several years. With the partnership of the Consul General, the DSO performed a Magic of Mexico concert celebrating the consulate’s 100th anniversary in North Texas, expanded the Día de los Muertos event to include a family concert and remembered the anniversary of former DSO Music Director Eduardo Mata.

“The days of being siloed in a concert hall are over,” said Noltemy. “Each city has a rich heritage and organizations that have served their neighbors for decades. It is our true intention to make the DSO a part of their regular activities as well as make them part of ours.”


The volunteer groups of the DSO play an active and important role in supporting all aspects of the organization. With more than 700 volunteers, members of the DSO League, DSO Guild and DSO Young Professional groups are involved in fundraising, education programs, audience development and engagement and a wide array of other organizational functions. Increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of these groups is a vital step toward achieving the DSO’s equity, diversity and inclusions goals. DSO Board, staff and volunteers leaders are working together to remove barriers that limit the diversity of these groups. Key components of this effort will include engaging individuals from diverse backgrounds to serve in leadership roles and as board members of the DSO’s volunteer groups, evaluating and restructuring events and activities to ensure accessibility and relevance for broader audiences and establishing new partnerships with other groups and organizations to foster deeper connections throughout all parts of the community.