A Message of Support and an Update from President & CEO Peter T. Kjome
March 19, 2021
Across the nation, Asian-Americans & Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities are experiencing an alarming number of acts of bias, bigotry, and hate. Recent terror attacks are, tragically, only the latest in this escalation, a disturbing trend that also includes under-reported incidents of verbal harassment and other forms of intimidation and violence that can take place anywhere.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra stands with our AAPI colleagues, families, friends, and neighbors, to say there is no place for anti-AAPI discrimination here or anywhere. Furthermore, that it is not enough to expect equity for ourselves but fail to advocate on behalf of others; to support diversity without understanding the diverse communities that make up our community; to practice inclusion without confronting bias and prejudice; and to honor free speech without using it for advancing inclusive excellence. We say all this recognizing that we – as an organization and the classical music field as a whole – are late to this work, and it will take time to realize change. We pledge continued communication as we continue our own journey, informing the following further update on our recommitment to diversity, racial equity, and inclusion.
A New Social Media Policy
In recent weeks, the personal words, and sentiments of members of the BSO family have been flagged in tags, posts, and commentary on social media. We neither condone nor support these posts, and, as we actively work to address concerns raised, can share the following points of clarification and action:
- Just as the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with our musicians sets out standards for compensation and time off, it also legally holds the BSO to different terms of action when it is needed.
- While the BSO has long had a social media policy for staff, we did not have a social media policy applicable to all members of our family, including the orchestra – a necessary requirement to take such action.
- As of February 20, 2021, we now have a social media policy developed in consultation with the musicians’ and stagehands’ unions that codifies our shared values grounded in humanity, respect, and dignity – because while the BSO celebrates different points of view, such expressions must be appropriate for the forum of a world-class artistic enterprise and we will not stand for hate, racism, or intolerance.
We will not comment on individual personnel matters, but we are actively addressing real and current issues by implementing this latest policy, alongside an anti-harassment policy developed in 2018, in universal practice.
The BSO also continues to build on recent, and drive continued, progress with great energy and intention:
- Directly enabled by our new CBA, we held our first-ever, mandatory, full-orchestra training focused on creating a culture of inclusion last week, engaging a respected thought leader of color to lead this – among other – important conversations.
- Recognizing the need to increase the diversity within our own orchestra complement, we are actively reevaluating orchestral hiring procedures and the audition culture in collaboration with musician leadership and with national partners such as Sphinx. More than a dozen members of the BSO participated in the SphinxConnect conference and the Sphinx Orchestral Partner Auditions (SOPA) program in January.
- In creating a new position and hiring a VP of HR and Inclusion, the BSO took an important step forward. Our search process was inclusive and thoughtful, and engaged diverse voices on staff (across all levels), from the orchestra, and on the Board. With a dedicated thought leader now in place, we have reenergized the DEI Staff Workgroup and established the DEI Committee of our Board of Directors (comprised of Board, musician, and staff representation). The DEI Committee at OrchKids is also active.
- Knowing that music can be a tool for social justice work and conversation, particularly for young people, we released the latest free Midweek Concert: BGE Broadcast program, Percussion!, inclusive of a new work, What is Good?, by BSO Percussionist Brian Prechtl featuring poetic narration by BSO Artistic Partner Wordsmith, speaking to the truth of his experience being racially profiled – which we also covered in a dedicated Virtual Governing Members Lounge conversation. We also launched a new Cultural Connections video series in February, and are excited to showcase with authenticity more cultures, traditions, and celebrations in collaboration with our musicians.
We are also proud that a majority of the episodes in our 2021-22 digital concert series, BSO Sessions, have featured the music of BIPOC or women composers, expertly led by our diverse artistic team; and, realizing an 18+ month planning process, you can expect that paradigm shift in equity and representation to continue in our 2021-22 season and beyond as we look to return to our concert halls and community. Supporting this return will be our new Code of Conduct aligned with our values and that pertains to all members of our BSO community (musicians, patrons, and staff) and articulates what is acceptable – and unacceptable – behavior at BSO events.
In closing, for over a century, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has recognized its position as a cultural arts leader in Baltimore and the State of Maryland, across the nation, and around the world. In recognition of the privilege, power, and responsibility associated with our position and our platform, we also acknowledge that significant work remains. We are actively working to transform this institution and will continue to measure and hold ourselves accountable over time as well as to communicate progress.