Racial Favoritism and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

John Bennett, American Thinker, December 24, 2012

Earlier this year, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) decided to disinvite two predominantly white high school choral groups from performance in the ASO’s holiday concert. The ASO’s decision was reportedly motivated by the high schools’ lack of diversity, which caused a stir among people who believe in racial justice as opposed to racial favoritism.

The ASO didn’t admit that their decision was racially motived. In fact, ASO vice president of marketing Charlie Wade offered only benign reasons for their decision in public. To get to the bottom of what happened, I used the Georgia Open Records Act to find out ASO’s real reason for disinviting the non-diverse choral groups.

Previously unpublished emails reveal that the ASO’s true reason was to “diversify the chorus” and to add “a chorus featuring more African-American kids,” as ASO marketing VP Charlie Wade privately wrote. This is blatant racial favoritism, reflecting the exact opposite of the ASO’s public remarks.

Prior to obtaining the emails, I had been critical of the ASO’s astounding hypocrisy with regard to diversity. There are 100 musicians comprising the ASO, and only one is black, yet the ASO had the gall to implicitly fault local Walton and Lassiter high schools for being non-diverse. Now, after reading the emails, we should add dishonesty and racial favoritism to the ASO management’s flaws.

Since the controversy began, Mr. Wade has offered bland, bureaucratic reasons for ASO’s decision, such as wanting to “open the program to other [choral] groups” as the Marietta Daily Journal reported. “Two years ago we told the choral directors from Lassiter and Walton that, after their December 2011 concerts with us—capping a four-year run—we would invite other high school choirs to sing with the ASO beginning in 2012,” Mr. Wade publicly claimed.

Missing from those evasive remarks is the blatantly racial criteria that motivated ASO’s decision, a motivation plainly stated in emails obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act. In explaining why ASO is “making a change” of choral groups, Wade wrote to Cobb school officials in May 2011 that “we were interested last year in trying to find a way to diversify the chorus and discussed adding another school chorus, but space being limited and the inability to reduce the number of singers from your schools to make room brought us to a dead end.” In a separate email, Wade specifically mentions “adding a chorus featuring more African-American kids—and we need to continue trying to figure that one out.” Judging from the emails, “diversifying the chorus” and “adding a chorus featuring more African-American kids” appear to be the sole reason that ASO decided to drop the Walton and Lassiter choral groups.

Mr. Wade, in his public statements, didn’t mention that his decision was, in essence, affirmative action. Mr. Wade’s evasions were bad enough, but the farce reached a crescendo when 11 Alive news asked ASO what their own diversity numbers were. In response, Melissa A.E. Sanders, ASO’s senior director of communications, had this shifty justification to offer: “It is against our policy to share the race and/or ethnicity of our musicians, so I am unable to share that information.” Cue the snare drum.

It’s against ASO policy to share the race of their musicians, but it is their policy to explicitly take race into account when choosing choral groups. The hypocrisy and racial double standards on display here are astonishing.

The ASO maintains a website where interested members of the public can see exactly what type of diversity the ASO itself practices. According to my tally, which anyone may verify, just 1 out of 100 members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) is black. This count includes four conductors, fifteen first violin, three section violin, twelve second violin, ten viola, ten cello, eight bass, fourteen woodwinds, sixteen brass, five percussion, and three keyboard players.

Yet, ASO president Stanley Romanstein had the nerve to claim, “We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon (Wireless Amphitheatre), or Chastain Park to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.” The ASO is manifestly not serious about reaching such a level of diversity among their musicians or staff.

Presumably, ASO management wouldn’t lay off orchestra members for being insufficiently diverse. If they did, it would be blatant racial discrimination. It’s rather low that they would reserve that treatment for student volunteers, who are not protected by anti-discrimination laws because they aren’t considered employees.

The fact of the matter is that the ASO couldn’t achieve diversity among their musicians if they tried. Of the musicians in U.S. symphonies, 87% are white, according to a 2008 study by the League of American Orchestras. There is a very good reason for that racial disparity: interest in classical music is not proportionally distributed among racial groups. Hence the ASO president’s goal of making “the stages of the Atlanta Symphony . . .  reflect the diversity of Atlanta” is an absolute absurdity. To reach that goal, the ASO would have to alter the cultural preferences of racial groups, and reallocate musical tastes among those groups, a goal not easily achieved in a free society, not even in public schools.

Yet, the ASO wants to engineer the façade of diversity. They cannot and will not create that façade among their musicians. Understanding this reality, the ASO is now going to use student choral groups as racial props to garnish their stage with students who are more diverse than the members of the orchestra will ever be. This is cynical racial tokenism. Since the ASO doesn’t have to comply with non-discrimination laws vis-à-vis student volunteers, they are free to invite or disinvite chorus groups based solely on the basis of race, in order to cheaply and superficially achieve the racial aesthetic preferred by ASO management.

ASO gave a valuable lesson to the students of the Walton and Lassiter high schools. The students will soon apply for college, where diversity dogmas and racial preferences will rear their heads once again. Their racial identity will in many cases set these students back in college admissions. This is unfortunate, but it’s better to learn some lessons sooner rather than later.

There is ultimately a positive outcome to this chapter of the story: The ASO musicians themselves are “in dismay“ over their management’s politically correct handling of this matter. The musicians are now bypassing the ASO management to hold a school fundraiser with the Walton and Lassiter high schools. For that, the musicians deserve another ovation.

Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Sloppo

    The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians may be almost 100% white, but the supporting cast of pan-handlers, muggers, car-jackers, rapists, and murderers who work in the parking areas and in the surrounding community are almost 100% diverse (non-white) … so the diversity IS there for the benefit of ASO music patrons.

    • Joseph

      Well, that’s mighty white of the city to provide those amenities.

  • Robert Binion

    Fanatical correctness has become forensic brutality. And its oratorio is never sung dolce.

  • I personally could care less what the color of the chorus is as long as they are able to perform well.

    • 1gravity

      This bland statement of principle detracts from the issue before us: that the management of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra got its collective hand caught in the affirmative action cookie jar, all the while lying about it. Note that no heads appear to be rolling in the executive suite. When the left says, “No Justice, No Peace,” they really mean it. Cue up Finlandia.

    • shmo123

      I’m sure most people would agree with your statement. I’m also sure most people would agree that denying two high school choral groups the chance to sing merely because of the color of their skin is equally abhorrent. I doubt any white kids were forced to join the choral group; I doubt any black kids were denied the chance.

    • Brian

      I agree with you on this one. Black, White, racially mixed etc…. makes no difference to me. Can they sing? That is all that matters to me.

  • I want to do Monty Python skits at the Apollo theater. I want the government to force the colored folk to sit there and listen to me. I’m going to use allegory and metaphor. Blacks love metaphor.

    • The__Bobster

      I thought they preferred to smoke memphols.

      • Joseph

        Does weed even come in memfol?

    • Joseph

      If you use the words “metaphor” and “allegory” a few times in the ‘hood, they’ll adopt them as a new babies’ names.

      • That’s going on the quote board.

        • Joseph

          The spelling would of course, be different; Allegria, M’Ettafor, something like that.

      • ed

        Latrina is my favorite

    • Rasmus

      I doubt even 1 out of 100 of them could tell you what allegory and metaphor are.

      • Anders

        Chicks dig metaphors y’all!

      • plato102

        Maybe Snooki, JWoww, the Situation and the rest of the Jersey Shore crowd could provide tutorship to help improve their english skills. Rumor has it — Snooki and JWoww are colaborating on a research effort, searching for Einstein’s elusive unified field.

  • NYB

    As it is with the current Presidency, it often is with pop music – blacks are thrust into the spotlight, to be made the public face of a white supporting structure.

    For every Puff Daddy or black diva singing in the limelight, you have a concealed logistics tail of producers, sound engineers, marketing directors, studio musicians, writers, graphic artists, concert support staff and lastly consumers who are mainly white. Some of the best pop sensibilities in the world come from Scandinavia, and producers of ‘black’ music are keen to tap into that behind-the-scenes talent.

    Placing some token black kids on a pedestal for the ASO audience is just a microcosm of wider pop culture.

    • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

      As a former engineer, I find this a bit simplistic (blacks are not just frontmen or pawns), but the reality is too complex to go into without rambling away. It would take a book length post. It’s even uglier than you suggested though, with some of the slimiest of whites and a certain tribe deliberately pushing the envelope of filth as a “f**k you” to people like us.

  • Maybe if the ASO would diversify its’ musical portfolio, it might attract a few more diversity applicants. Maybe a little NWA or some Ice-t or maybe some Tupac would encourage more Africans to get interested in being a part of the group. I mean, really how many times can you play Beethoven or Prokofiev, or Ravel before it gets old?

    • Ron Cheaters

      My thoughts exactly.

    • edwina

      I agree with your post a bit, but the amount of work by just Beethoven and Prokofiev could never be played enough to bore me. You might be used to just the more popular writings of these men but quartets and trios and sonatas and concertos, just to name a few would take many seasons to get through the complete repertoire.

    • SLCain

      Yes, I look forward to a concert repertoire consisting of “Baby Got Back” transcribed for chamber orchestra or Variations on a Theme of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, or Le Tombeau de Snoop-Dogg.

      • Pearl

        Well, OK- here’s Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Baby Got Back”,


        • SLCain

          Thanks for the link. Perhaps he’ll try a rendition of “I am the very model of the modern negro gangster” of some such.

  • Ya know what? I’m sick and tired of EVERY musical event devolving into “soul” singing.

    A few months back, there was a racial incident regard the TV program The Voice when someone commented that acceptable style of music is so locked into “soul” that if Bob Dylan tried to audition, he wouldn’t make the first cut.

    Even white singers emulate it in their styles. I think my ONLY refuge at this point in opera (though I do attend a performance of an friend who’s an opera singer and even he can’t help but include some “soul” embellishments in private performances).

    If you want to sing or listen to “soul”, great. Just keep it out of EVERY performance.

    • SLCain

      I quite agree. The black soul sound is okay for soul songs, but I don’t like it for anything else. In some cases, I don’t even like it for soul music. Stevie Wonder is a good musician – he wrote some really good songs, but I think they actually would have been better if he had gotten somebody else to sing them.

    • Rasmus

      Agreed. I’m sick of having to pretend that there’s something especially pretty about singing “the blues.” Sure, it has it’s place, but it’s been done to death, and let’s face it, it’s emotionally pathological and childish. I want to yell about those who zombie-like and half-drunk sway to the blues music, “Shut the hell up. Grow up, and stop indulging in self-pity. Get off your drunken asses and do something about your life if it’s so bad, instead of always complaining.”

      • edwina

        most of you know we have the blues too, and plenty of reasons to sing them.

      • convairXF92

        Sorry to have to disagree. First, note that a large % of European countries have music that makes heavy use of embellishments, improvisation, “bluesy” scales and harmonies, and lyrics focusing on loss or death. I’ll name Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and Ukraine as a *subset* of the cultures with such music. (If you live near a large university with a music library, and have time to kill, take a peek into Kodaly’s huge tomes of Hungarian music and try humming to yourself the pentuplet ornaments. I’m trying to figure out how to teach a flute player how to get that timing right…)

        There’s a big, major issue hiding here:
        >emotionally pathological and childish
        This needs *big* discussion on another thread. There’s probably no bigger threat to the traditional European music I mentioned above than psychobabbling modernity and overextended “rationality” that wants to bury this kind of emotional expression, permanently. Remember that this music provided cathartic release to listeners with psychic pain; it served as a tool for emotional healing. It’s an indicator of how deeply the psychiatric community and its left-wing allies have dug their tentacles into this culture, that such traditional tools are viewed as backward or childish or otherwise bad.

        Keep in mind that the above ethnic music provided–and still provides today–source material for classical composition. And I don’t mean just the Hungarian Rhapsodies, either.

    • Ron Cheaters

      Michael Bolton comes to mind.. I wish his head would explode. No need to oversing, unless you can’t hold a note like Aaron Neville. Both need to go away.. and don’t get me started on this Psy phenomenon.. I don’t get it. Lower the standards maybe??

      • OlderWoman

        Aaron Neville….makes my skin crawl.

    • OlderWoman

      I despise the vocal gymnastics black singers use. They completely destroy the soul of a song. Take the National Anthem. They make it ‘unlistenable’. They rob it of it’s beauty. Blacks destroy everything they touch.

      • Douglas

        I have to disagree with you on this one. Whitney Houston sang the most soul stirring version of the national anthem I have ever heard. There were people requesting copies of her performnace.

        • SLCain

          God, I hated her voice. There are, or at least were, plenty of exceptionally good black singers: Nat King Cole, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Little Anthony. However I would not include Whitney Houston among them.

          • plato102

            To each his own SL Cain, but those of us who know music(i. e. – professional musicians) all agree: Whitney Houston had a stellar voice and vocal technique, rivaled by a very short list of singers.

          • Heath

            I agree. She had a five splendid voice. She was in rare company.

          • Rebecca

            I would.

  • This is ONLY the beginning of ‘forced diversity’—wait until illegals are given citizenship & in the interest of ‘fairness’ more and more Whites will be discriminated against.

    It will get worse unless people ‘wake up and stop this assault on Whites in the interest of ‘diversity’–and NOT merit.

    • edwina

      oh yes, it’s coming fast and it will not be pretty for us.

  • SLCain

    Great. So now choral works by Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven can be ruined by that warbling black singing style that now ruins every performance of the Star Bangled Banner.

    • eduard

      So true. Comparing the voice of the blacks and whites, there is a marked difference.

      Anatomically the mouth cavities are different. The blacks have a high elongated palate, where as the whites have a shallow wide palate. The voice thus resonates different in the mouth cavity. The music was not composed for that type of black voice.

    • France’s Bacon

      We go to a dog show every year that is 99.99% white. Who do they have sign the Star Spangled Banner? Of course, a black lady who butchers the song beyond belief. The worst part is the white liberals who clap for her while she is singing! This woman is horrible, yet the white libs can’t control their impulse to show they aren’t racist.

      • Rasmus

        99.99% white. Sounds like somebody needs to learn to celebrate diversity.
        I’m sick of being forced to hear music always butchered by these “artists.” Can we finally get someone to sing it normally? If they feel they always have to celebrate diversity, why not get an asian boy or girl to sing it next time?

      • StillModerated

        What percentage are alternative lifestyles?

    • Joseph

      That’s the damned trufe! “Oh say can you seeeeaahhhhohhhhhyeahahhhhhhohhhhhhhaaaaa”

      Freaking jungle mating call sounds.

  • Rasmus

    Blacks don’t even like classical music. Screw diversity.

    • Anders

      Some do, a black co-worker of mine wanted a copy of my Jean Baptiste Lully Motets CD that I was playing at work the other day………..
      No sorry I just made that up.
      They HATE Classical music! Probably hate Baroque even more.

      • Baroque is my favorite genre! It’s so balanced and ordered that it really calms me down when I’m stressed. When I was in school, I would write my history papers to the Brandenburg Concertos. There may have been something to that, because I only earned A’s on my history papers–and my professor was not a push-over.

        • robinbishop34

          I love Baroque as well. There is a measured cadence to Baroque that is very pleasant and calming.

          • StillModerated

            Georg Philipp Telemann!

          • edwina

            Romantic Era here. But I love Baroque, Renaissance, Classical and what they now call “Post Great War Years” as long as Bartok and Prokofiev are in there.

    • They think “classical music” is Ike and Tina.

      • OlderWoman

        They’re too ignorant to understand it.

        • plato102

          You need to expand your media circle, you’re spending too much time at AmerRen. There are loads of blacks who not only understand classical music, they actually enjoy listening to it. You’re too old OlderWoman to be socially hampered by your obsession to hold onto outdated stereotypes. And the constant focus on race must do wonders for your emotional being.

          • OlderWoman

            It’s AmRen. Not AmerRen.

          • Paul

            That is what I told her.

        • Paul

          You need to do your research better. There have been a number of Black opera and classical opera singers. Among them magnificent Leotyne Price and Grace Bumbry just to name two.

          • OlderWoman

            Thank you for correcting me. I forgot about them, especially Leontyne Price.

          • Paul

            No problem.

  • Sherman_McCoy

    I checked out the website for the ASO. I was curious which instrument our “person-of-color” might be playing. Of course, I checked the percussion section first, but no soap. I finally found her. The sister be an assistant librarian. I’m not sure what surprised me more.

  • bubo

    Whites should boycott those silly liberals. Don’t donate, don’t attend, badmouth them to everyone and tell them why you are doing it.

  • KenelmDigby

    Generally speaking, blacks have no love or interest in, clasical music whatsoever.

    • Ron Cheaters

      To play music at such a level you have to learn how to read/write interpret the dots and squiggles you see on paper. And understand complex theory which involves math. Knowing musical theory means that one is not stifled into any one genre.
      I think most blacks are turned off when you say you “have to learn” this is why they will rap about mozart, yet have no clue what they say.

      • Tim

        “Complex theory which involves math”…I hired a Beatnik piano teacher once. His tag line was, “The only thing that matters in jazz piano is the mathematics and the bread, ya dig?” I use it to good effect when tipping Sunday brunch musicians.

      • plato102

        One of the greatest pianists ever was the great jazz pianist, Art Tatum, blind and black. Many white classical piano virtuosos would frequent the clubs Tatum performed in to marvel at his virtuosity. Tatum not only had virtuostic technique, he was a stellar improvisor, a skill lacking in the great white virtuosos.

        • Rasmus

          Then let them improvise in da ‘hood. Why promote a musical mediocrity just because he’s black to play in the ASO over a more accomplished asian or caucasian musician?

        • StillModerated

          Please help me, I’m blind and I think I might be black. Barrup bap tushhhh.

        • edwina

          blacks do not have the corner on jazz, contrary to PC belief.

          see Buddy Rich, Phil Woods, Doc Severinsen on trumpet, Bill Watrous, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman……… + thousands more who could improvise their hind end off………

          • plato102

            Each and every one of these gentlemen owe a debt of gratitude to the great black innovators of jazz: Charlie Parker(alto sax), John Coltrane(tenor sax), etc.. These black innovators created the vocabulary subsequent jazz musicians, black and white have used to develop their craft. And if you know anything about the history of jazz piano, you should know about the great Art Tatum — he had no peers in his intrument category.

          • plato102

            Each and every one of these gentlemen owe a debt of gratitude to the black jazz innovators in jazz: Charlie Parker(alto sax), John Coltrane(tenor sax), etc.. These great innovators created the vocabulary subsequent musicians, black and white, have used to develop their craft. And if you know anything about jazz, you should know there’s no debate as to how exceptional the great Art Tatum was. He had, nor has any peers.

          • edwina

            I disagree………… if you want to take that path, you would have to thank western civ musicians, composers and their instruments……..
            White musicians and composers are infinitely better than black jazzers…….

          • convairXF92

            There’s now evidence that the basic “vocabulary” of the blues (predecessor to, and foundation of, jazz) originated with Caucasian Tuaregs in northern Mali. Look up the group “Tinariwen”. The West African blacks picked up the “language” and the slave diaspora spread it around.

          • Rain

            True. In fact, jazz originated from the White elite in the early 20th century.

          • OlderWoman

            You should investigate the origin of the word “jazz”. The term came from blacks.

  • falsedawn

    While this is bad, it’s not all bad. Another one/few White people have been pushed our way with this. Not everything is all good or all bad in life. Sure they got what they wanted when they got rid of those White Chorus’, but at a price.

  • Tim

    A while back I decided to “fix’ everything from my life. One of these was learning how to play the Coronet and thus correct a childhood shortcoming. Five years later, I called the guy who had loaned me HIS childhood Coronet. He told me to donate it rather than mail it back. So I looked up where to donate it. All I saw were charities heavy on third world pity etc. like “Hungry for Music”… I`ve decided to pawn it instead and take the money and buy a large pizza and thus complete the circle…

    • OlderWoman

      Hahaha! That was so ‘black’ of you. Hahaha!

  • bigone4u

    To promote multiculuralism and diversity, every black and Hispanic student should be required to take a semester course in classical music and Italian opera. Let them try to learn, if they are capable, the complexity of traditional white artistic endeavors. It’s only fair, since as has been noted in the comments, whites are forced to endure the “diverse” screechings and obscenities of what minorities refer to as music. As for Atlanta, I intend to stay as far away from that monster garbage city as possible.

    • Le Gaulois

      “To promote multiculuralism and diversity, every black and Hispanic
      student should be required to take a semester course in classical music
      and Italian opera.”

      Yes, and also French ballet so they can finally be exposed as the mediocre and ungraceful dancers they actually are compared to Whites.

  • heb root

    “Yet, ASO president Stanley Romanstein had the nerve to claim, “We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon (Wireless Amphitheatre), or Chastain Park to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.”

    Why is it always a “jew” leading the trouble against whites?

    • Sloppo

      Perhaps Stanley Romanstein should go to Israel and work to diversify the state controlled by his own people. There is much work to do there for a man like Stanley.

      • Rasmus

        Stanley should get some of the boys from de ‘hood to come to temple with him. They want diversity for other people but never for themselves. They are hypocrites.

  • Multi-cultural, multi-racial societies are a great excuse for the government to gain power and start interfering in everything. The government becomes the final arbiter of the what America is, what color its businesses and schools should be, and how race and color should be distributed (by setting up quotas, race laws, racial commissions, etc.)
    The government uses race to perpetuate more government, more interference, more monitoring, and more power to government. And government gets to decide who wins and loses (Whites), who is empowered and who is disempowered (Whites), and who will be the ultimate racial winners and losers (Whites).
    Diversity is just one way among many of strong-arming White people into disempowering themselves and handing their freedoms, decisions and power to big government.

  • [Guest]

    In the corrupt American mind, nothing is good and complete unless blacks, that most pathological of all demographics, is included in the mix.

  • StillModerated

    Interest in symphony music could be increased by piping it into shopping malls. Just a thought.

    • OlderWoman

      Might prevent flash mobs.

    • Dan

      That is actually a good, workable idea and is one that has been tried in several venues to good effect. Negroes simply do not like that kind of beautiful, structured, created, music. Two local shopkeepers of my acquaintance have switched to classical music and their traffic of blacks has demonstrably lessened. One or two of them actually had the cheek to complain about the music they were hearing.

      Good advice for any shopkeeper who doesn’t want to deal with any more of these folks than they have to.