Kathryn Hougham in Washington Examiner: When DEI Threatens the Arts, Embracing Merit is the Way Forward

In an op-ed recently published in Washington Examiner, “When DEI Threatens the Arts, Embracing Merit is the Way Forward,” Philanthropy Roundtable Program Manager Kathryn Hougham explains how diversity quotas have shifted the focus of some orchestras from creating beautiful music to making hiring decisions based on demographics. She stresses the need for charitable donors to help promote merit-based hiring practices and preserve the original intent of cultural institutions.  

Below are excerpts from the article “When DEI Threatens the Arts, Embracing Merit is the Way Forward”:    

“Three years after Anthony Tommasini, longtime classical music critic for TheNew York Times, published a controversial piece calling for the end of the blind audition for orchestras, many music institutions around the country have moved to embrace his idea that race should be considered in hiring decisions rather than merit alone.  

While Tommasini admitted that historically blind auditions ‘proved transformative,’ especially in boosting female representation among orchestras, he said blind auditions no longer work because they are not addressing what he described as the ‘appalling racial imbalance’ among orchestral ensembles. It’s notable that when making this argument, he failed to note the success Asian artists have experienced in securing U.S. orchestral jobs, especially with elite groups such as the New York Philharmonic, which continues today, according to new data released earlier this year.” 


“Unfortunately, today social justice activism is putting additional barriers in place for some artists by creating a system that makes hiring and programming decisions based on musicians’ gender and skin color. As a conservatory-trained musician, I object to this degradation of the orchestra. Since the introduction of screened auditions, the past 50 years have provided the American dream to musicians from around the world. Changing the audition process to consider factors other than merit decreases the freedom and flourishing of the arts.”  


“The American orchestra should continue its role as a living art history museum. The primary concern of the institution should be presenting the finest execution of beauty through the musical works that have been handed down through generations of cultural heritage. As concert audience numbers dwindle, our top priority should be preserving the works of the great composers such as Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky.” 

Please continue reading “When DEI Threatens the Arts, Embracing Merit is the Way Forward,” at Washington Examiner. 

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