DC Strings orchestrating diversity through classical music

DC Strings is one of the most diverse classical music organizations in the District of Columbia. As artists of color, the choice to pursue education and careers in classical music is rare. 

Additionally, opportunities to thrive in the classical music genre are even fewer and far between. Research indicates that 88.41% of artists in American orchestras are white, compared with only 1.83% of African Americans, 2.42% of Latinos, and 7.34% of Asians. 

According to the study, “Making the Case for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Orchestras,” conducted by the League of American Orchestras,  “Orchestras have a long history of discrimination, and data on their recent past reveals no change in the representation of Black musicians in orchestras for 25 years, hovering at 1.8 percent,”

The lack of artists of color in classical music advances the false narrative that these communities are disinterested or unable to perform this ‘complex musical form’ at a high level. Not surprisingly, this allows orchestras and classical music to appropriate cultural art and music forms without providing a true appreciation for their origins in spiritual or indigenous folk music. 

DC Strings mission is to change this statistic through representation, education and inspiration. 

The DC Strings Concert Series and East of the River School Initiative breaks down this barrier by training a new generation of artists and other youth of color who, while musically inclined, do not have access to affordable and quality music education programs. 

By selecting a wide range of musicians from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, DC Strings provides participants an opportunity to perform alongside up-and-coming artists. This side-by-side experience builds confidence and allows students to further hone their skills and techniques in playing an instrument. 

Through education on the significant contributions and achievements of communities of color in classical music, participants learn about new genres of music and instruments they might not access otherwise. 

DC Strings is proud to have engaged women conductors, as so often women have been left out of orchestra leadership, along with opportunities to perform and lead ensembles as conductors and solo artists. 

Leveraging diverse music instructors, teaching artists and instruments provides students with an expanded view of classical music and opportunities to learn and connect with musicians who better relate to and understand the communities in which participants live. 

Music is a universal feature of the human experience. The act of making music is an expression of our humanity, which is located more in our commonalities than our differences, according to ALO. 

“ Increasing the diversity of conductors and artists on stage brings a richness of perspectives, broader repertoire choices, and new ways to program, all of which will inspire a broader audience base and increase our relevance to communities.”

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