Diverse Repertoire Makes Financial Sense
This past week I posted this photo on my Instagram story >>>
The captions read:
- Happy Thursday!
- Friendly reminder that as classical musicians it is important that we learn and perform works by underrepresented composers on an individual level.
- It is not enough to only push for larger classical music institutions to do the work. We also have an individual responsibility.
This is something that I strongly believe in along with finding ways to reach underprivileged communities in the classical music world. This particular photo was posted after a series of events led to a morning of intense frustrations and disappointment.
I am the Artistic Director of a non-profit whose mission is to get classical music out of the concert hall and integrate it in my city's rich art scene and community. One of my main responsibilities is finding musicians to play for various events that we organize or that we are invited to participate in. Multiple times a month email out a "call for performers" to a list of over 200 local classical musicians asking for individuals or ensembles to perform at whatever events are on the books. We have 1 volunteer event a month (a monthly variety show) and the rest of the events are paid performances. The majority of the time, I have no issue finding performers to play, especially if it is a paid event. Except for this particular event we were invited to participate in....
This particular event was hosted by an outside organization. The event was going to feature artwork by Black and Indigenous local artists, and we were to perform for an hour during the exhibition. I should mention that we asked this organization to provide us with a generous budget to compensate our performers and they gladly agreed to our number. So in my usual fashion, I craft up a call for performers email. For this particular event, I asked that musicians perform any work of their choosing by a BIPOC composer. Looking forward to seeing what the talented musicians in my area would come up with, I enthusiastically hit send and waited for responses.
...and then I kept waiting...and waiting.
Out of the over 200 musicians I emailed, I received 1 musician saying they would like to perform. One.
A week before the event, I decided to put out another call for performers and this time I expanded the repertoire that musicians could play to include works by composers of color, female composers, and composers who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. This led to my first feelings of frustrations as I felt like I shouldn't have to expand the type of repertoire we were looking for in order to get more musicians to participate. But, I was hopeful that more individuals would jump on the opportunity, so I hit send and waited for responses.
...and then I kept waiting...
I received one more musician who said they were interested in performing.
This was when my frustration hit the limit. As I sat at my computer trying to figure out how we were going to fill an hour of music, I couldn't help but think the reason why we were having trouble filling out the program was because we were looking for musicians to perform works by underrepresented composers. For most of our events, musicians can play whatever pieces they like by any composer and I have no issues filling up a program. So, the only conclusion I could draw was the fact that we were looking for works specifically by underrepresented composers and it seemed like out of the over 200 musicians that I emailed, only 2 players had pieces to perform that fit that stipulation.
Now, I may be grossly generalizing about the classical music world and I understand that the musicians in my area do not represent all classical musicians in the world. But, it is important for us to remember that we cannot solely rely on the larger institutions of the classical music industry like the symphony orchestras, elite chamber ensembles, conservatory's, and academia to be the only ones programming the works of underrepresented composers. We must also do this work on the individual level. (And to say "do this work" is misleading because as musicians shouldn't we always be striving to explore new repertoire and push the boundaries of our own playing??)
Now, you may be thinking to yourself "Anamarie, this has nothing to do with finance, please stay in your lane." But, on the contrary my friend, this has everything to do with personal finance.
Diversifying our repertoire on an individual level not only makes us more marketable (yes, I said the M-word), but provides instant monetary support to underrepresented composers by purchasing their works and provides new attention on their works (not to mention this is a morally and ethically important thing to do). This allows audiences to be exposed to new composers, which will lead to new opportunities and support (including monetary compensation) for these composers allowing them to compose new works for us to perform, which in turn, allows us to expand our repertoire and performing possibilities. And this is a repeatable cycle that will continue to benefit all parties. When you diversify your repertoire, you are not only supporting other classical musicians in this field (the composers), you are supporting yourself.
The financial benefits speak for themselves. Playing music by underrepresented composers opens doors and provides monetary interest for all musicians in the classical music world.