Today, Black members of more than forty orchestras announced the Black Orchestral Network (BON), a collective of Black orchestral musicians dedicated to creating an inclusive and equitable environment for Black people in the orchestral field. The group was built on the motto, “if we increase our connection to one another, we can harness our creativity and develop initiatives that benefit Black musicians.”
Seven Black musicians founded the Black Orchestral Network—Jennifer Arnold, Alexander Laing, David A. Norville, Joy Payton-Stevens, Shea Scruggs, Weston Sprott, and Titus Underwood. BON will galvanize the industry, break down barriers to inclusion, and confront long-standing inequities in treatment and process.
On Monday, May 2, 2022, BON launches its first public-facing campaign focused on advancing equity and inclusion in American orchestras. Through an open letter — “Dear American Orchestras”—BON calls for American orchestras to take decisive action against racial injustice in the industry. The campaign provides a platform for allies who seek a race equity culture to commit to change in the orchestral community.
The letter calls for:
- Orchestras—through their Boards, management, musicians, and music directors—to hire Black musicians and support opportunities for emerging Black artists.
- Funders—both institutional and individual—invest in the long-term viability of organizations already committed to Black orchestral artistry and think big about the possibilities for American orchestras in our changing culture and society.
- Unions, particularly the American Federation of Musicians and related conferences (ICSOM, ROPA), to stand in solidarity with Black members by honoring the values of fair workplaces and addressing barriers to fair and equitable audition and tenure practices.
On Monday, May 9, 2022, BON calls for a Day of Solidarity, an opportunity for allies, champions, and supporters, within the music industry and beyond to amplify the call to action of “Dear American Orchestras.” Supporters are asked to amplify the campaign by posting a single graphic—provided by BON— to their social timelines. The graphic will be a mosaic of the thousands of Black orchestral musicians integral to the fabric of the American orchestral community.
For a current list of all signatories, visit blackorchestralnetwork.org
They have collaborated with Gateways Music Festival and Working IDEAL and have received community support from the Black Music Action Coalition and is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
BON started with a theory: if we increase our connection to one another, we can harness our creativity and develop initiatives that benefit Black musicians. In the tradition of organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Society of Black Engineers, BON seeks to create an inclusive and equitable environment for Black people in the orchestral field. We see a world where Black orchestral artists easily find reflections of themselves and their complexities in the history and future of orchestral music.