Thinking about the in-depth conversations at Conference 2022.

By Theodore Wiprud, Composer and Consultant in the Arts and Education

I think many of us felt a bit like Rip van Winkle. We reawakened to a live League Conference and found our world changed. Longtime conversations on equity and inclusion have evolved into an intentional focus – across all constituencies. Suddenly living composers are sought after. Community engagement gets more than lip service. Smart young leaders are emerging all over. It feels like a new day, and just in time.

I joined electives on artistic planning and market research, constituency sessions for conductors and operations folks, and plenary events, and everywhere felt a unity of purpose. Of course, how to make lasting change remains a process of discovery, invention, and learning, but I perceived no disagreement on the imperative to reflect all voices in our polyglot nation, and to engage audiences in new ways.

A few striking learnings, which I will explore in future Catalyst Guides I’m researching for the League:

  • Programming of diverse composers really took off between the 2019-2020 and the 2021-2022 seasons. It’s a classic hockey-stick curve, and that’s exciting. But are we getting beyond tokenism? Engaging our audiences? How will we sustain the sense of discovery?  
  • There’s lots of audience growth potential in diverse communities. The barriers may not be so high, but can we learn how to communicate what we offer and its value?
  • Equity in the audition process may not be impossible after all. Orchestras are approaching this tough nut from many angles. Can we rise to the opportunity of an historic wave of openings? Can we be inclusive enough to welcome difference onstage?

As someone said in the conductors constituency meeting I attended, the risk of not evolving in this time, is greater than the risk of missteps in giving it a try. What an exciting time to be part of it.

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