To survive and to thrive, orchestral music must continue to evolve as a vibrant and dynamic art form that is engaged with our times and meaningful to increasingly diverse audiences and communities.

Especially since the murder of George Floyd in Summer 2020 brought issues of racial equity to the forefront of national consciousness, many orchestras have highlighted the work of historically marginalized composers, including those identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), women, and non-binary. As a result, the 2021-2022 season saw more than a four-fold increase in the programming of works by historically marginalized composers over 2017 levels, across orchestras of all sizes and regions. Despite this progress, however, white, male European composers of the past continue to dominate the repertoire, still accounting for two thirds of the works programmed in the 2021-2022 season.1

For inclusive artistic planning to be effective, it needs to be part of an orchestra’s long-term plan for EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) work, aligned with changes in internal culture, resourcing, governance, retention practices, and partnership building. Orchestras taking the kinds of actions outlined in the League’s Promising Practices2 report are building strong foundations for this work. As board, staff, and musicians all align around EDI, programming innovations can be set up for success, backed up by marketing and ticketing strategies and by a welcoming and inclusive patron experience.

This Catalyst Guide examines programming philosophies, challenges, factors for success, and resources that have emerged so far in orchestras’ journeys towards programming equity. It is based on dozens of interviews with orchestras of all budget sizes, including grantees from the League’s Catalyst Fund Pilot and Incubator programs. Every orchestra faces unique factors in its community, its history, and its people, and will therefore experience a unique EDI journey. But learning from ongoing work across the field will help sustain progress for lasting change.

Promising Practices: Actions Orchestras Can Take to Make Progress Toward Equity

Read about 12 actions any orchestra can take to make progress towards equity by strengthening its own organizational practices.


  1. 2022 Orchestra Repertoire Report, Institute for Composer Diversity
  2. Promising Practices: Actions Orchestras Can Take to Make Progress Toward Equity, Catalyst Guide, League of American Orchestras

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