I recently wrote about how the lack of diversity in symphony orchestras, and the work that is being done by the Sphinx Organization to increase those numbers by encouraging the involvement of young African American and Latino musicians. Lucky for us – the New York Times recently reviewed a performance by Imani Winds.
The wind quintet, (Valerie Coleman, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, Monica Ellis, Mariam Adam and Jeff Scott) was founded ten years ago to expand the repertoire for wind quintets, as well as to introduce non-Western traditions. However, the founder of the ensemble, Ms. Coleman, also acknowledges that she specifically recruited members of black American and Hispanic heritage for the ensemble, precisely to counter the under-representation that is rampant. The ensemble also recently founded the Legacy Project to commission works from black, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern composers.
The ensemble is not only representative of the diversity that is largely missing from symphony stages, but is also making great strides in challenging the Canon. Their recordings include not only the standard quintet repertoire (composed by dead, white, men) but also new and interesting works, including arrangements by founder and flautist Valerie Coleman.
There is clearly a lot of work to be done before there will be fair representation in orchestras and ensembles – but there is certainly great work being done to get us there faster.