Establishing an EDI [equity, diversity, and inclusion] committee or council where plans are developed collectively among department representatives, often including musicians, was one of the most frequently cited audience diversification strategies among the colleagues consulted for this Guide. “Music director, executive, education, community engagement — we tag-team EDI work across the organization,” says New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Carroll.

“It’s easy in a big organization not to work together,” admits Karisa Antonio, Senior Director of Social Innovation and Learning at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. “We’re all just trying to get the job done. But trying to tie together our various neighborhood series requires the collaboration of all departments.” Her colleague in Artistic Planning, Jessica Ruiz, explains that “I always ask Karisa and Charles [Buchanan in Marketing] questions about specific works and artists, so we can tailor the works to a community.”

At the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, CEO Joe Loehnis ensures that the marketing and community engagement staff work closely together. He cites a recent article by Simon Woods advocating such a link. “Think about it,” says Loehnis. “You want to develop audience, and you’re not talking to your community engagement manager whose job is to go into communities to form relationships?”

Getting on the same page around diversification also requires a joint understanding of the imperative; this is why orchestras showing EDI results engage in ongoing EDI training. “The work comes from within the organization and then can engage the community,” says leading arts marketer Donna Walker-Kuhne. “All our EDIB [equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging] work has been presented to our staff during briefings and it has had an impact on how we understand our audience at large,” asserts Roberto Castro, Director of Guest Experience at the San Diego Symphony.

A unified, collaborative approach also depends on a clear directive from the top. Many interviewees value the impact their boards and executives have, keeping everyone’s eye on the prize over the long haul.

Read about the 12 actions any orchestra can take to make progress towards equity by strengthening its organizational practices in Promising Practices: Actions Orchestras Can Take to Make Progress Toward Equity.  


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