In the six months since publishing the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, the Charlotte Symphony has made the following steps on our learning journey to advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, including:
Artistic Vitality & Growth
- Transitioning from Christopher Warren-Green's tenure as Music Director, we are welcoming guest conductors to our stage who represent a rich diversity of talent. Roderick Cox, Ian Watson, Jessica Cottis, Kensho Watanabe, Paolo Bortolameolli, Joshua Gersen, and Karen Kamensek lead the orchestra in performances on our Classical Series this season.
- In creating space for distinct soloists and guest artists, we strengthened ties with the LGBTQIA community as we welcomed Thorgy Thor (a classically trained musician and drag performer) and Sara Davis Buechner (lauded pianist and proud transgender rights activist) to the stage.
- Using our membership with the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS) through the Sphinx Organization, we brought Black and Latinx players to the stage this season in different sections of the orchestra in both yearlong appointments and in extra positions when needed.
- This season has also seen a wide variety of composers on programs, with a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Composers performed on Classical Series and community performances include Caroline Shaw, Jessica Meyer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Carol Critelli, and Jessie Montgomery.
- This season, we introduced a new branch of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras: Charlotte Symphony Youth Ensemble (CSYE). The CSYE serves musicians ages 8-16, acting as a bridge from the Project Harmony program into the Youth Orchestras. All three of our Youth Orchestras are inclusive, diverse, and accessible to all students, regardless of financial resources.
- In partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, we sponsored All-County Honors Orchestra and Band, which increased access by eliminating fees for participating students. The popular honors instrumental program includes two middle school orchestras, one high school orchestra, and one middle school band -- made up of students throughout the county.
- Through offering tickets free of charge to our Classical Series performances, we've increased ticket accessibility for students and families involved in programs like Project Harmony and CSYO.
Financial Health & Sustainability
- The CSO's Finance Committee is ensuring that income and expenses for DEI initiatives have been included in our operating budget, including, in FY22, our partnership with the Sphinx Organization in the National Alliance for Audition Support, attendance by Symphony musicians and staff at auditions, conferences and meetings associated with our DEI work, and our contract with Arts Consulting Group referenced below.
- In an effort to have a more equitable and accessible system for submitting new ideas for consideration, we've launched the Innovation Hub. Using a form on our website, internal and external stakeholders can submit ideas, either publicly or anonymously, that will go through an internal review process.
- On our third year of receiving The Catalyst Grant from the League of American Orchestras, we are working with Arts Consulting Group, a leading provider of hands-on strategic planning & community engagement, and facilities & program planning services for the arts and culture industry. ACG is leading internal sessions and conducting surveys to continue our DEI work with musicians, administrative staff, and Board Members.
- Our DEI committee, comprised of musicians, staff, and Board, has recently formed a subcommittee will promote DEI-related events taking place in and around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region and provide a connecting point for CSO employees to attend these events together.
- We have begun diversifying our recruitment practices by advertising positions through national organizations such as Sphinx, the all Black and Latinx orchestra, and local media sources such as QCity Metro.
- In striving to create new connections and partnerships, we are collaborating with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce (LACC). Our first joint initiative is to promote Kabalevsky Cello Concerto, a performance featuring a guest conductor and guest soloist with Latinx ties. We will cross-promote to our audiences with a flyer distributed in Spanish and English, and by offering LACC a presence in the lobby of our performance. Many future collaborations are planned.
- Beginning our partnership with another local organization, we will host a reception for members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce prior to the Morehouse College concert on March 4.
- A new Community Partnerships Manager position has been created, as part of a larger reorganization of the Learning and Community Engagement department, formerly named Education, to allow us to be more intentional and consistent in our approach to community engagement and partnerships.
- In order to reach a new and more diverse audience, we have intentionally placed media dollars with alternative media sources that we have previously used either sparingly or not at all, including QCity Metro, QNotes, La Noticia, Queen City Nerve, CharlotteNOW, and CharlotteFive.
- To increase access to concert experiences for Mecklenburg County residents who could not normally afford tickets, we partnered with the Department of Social Services and worked within their teams to distribute free tickets to Magic of Christmas.