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Brandon Keith Brown, Deyan Baric Photographer

Implicit Bias in Classical Music

Black conductors face constant implicit racial bias.

We see the world that we come prepared to see, even though those preparations are taking place unconsciously.¹

Implicit bias should be the next #MeToo movement.

Every seven minutes a Black person dies prematurely because of implicit bias in healthcare alone. — David R. Williams

Implicit bias leaves an aftermath of job discrimination, termination, stunted and ruined careers, and a host of stress-induced physical and psychological illnesses. It’s a terminus racial epidemic in all industries.

Implicit Bias towards Black conductors

Implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) anti-Black bias in classical music thrives.

When someone seems foreign or unfamiliar or unpredictable, your gut reactions prepare you to be wary. That is when out-group bias can surface instinctively.⁴

A White Philadelphia Starbucks manager’s fear caused her to have two innocent Black men arrested for sitting. After public outcry, Starbucks closed its stores for one day of implicit bias training.

Black Excellence is no match for bias

Black excellence isn’t enough to shield Black conductors from bias.

Bias determines who gets to shine, who’s allowed to stand out, who is alluded for being a “disrupter,” and who is sidelined for being disruptive.⁷

Excellent Black conductors are also called arrogant, and condescending.

Bias from Orchestra Musicians

Despite being over 12% of the US population, only 1.8% of American orchestras are African-American.

Musicians may work their whole lives without experiencing Black conductors, and never realize a sense of loss. Musicians learn we lack competence, and our musicianship has no value.

  1. Cursing
  2. Not playing when cued or at all
  3. Talking back/arguing
  4. Refusing correction
  5. Overly disgruntle/uncooperative behavior
  6. Lack of attention and focus
  7. Vocal hostility (i.e. yelling)
  8. Disseriousness
  9. Changing parts at the concert to cause confusion
  10. Not showing up to rehearsals on time or at all.

Orchestra Administrator Bias

We cannot see what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we haven’t seen.

Orchestra administrators buy relatable non-Black artists from White agencies. That’s all they mostly see.

Artist Management Racial Bias

Implicit bias often begins with White artist managements. Knowledge of racial inequality is unnecessary for them. Most premiere agencies have never signed a Black conductor. They prefer to stock their rosters with relatable non-Black conductors who look the part.

  1. You’re told, “We don’t know how to market you” by an orchestra
  2. You’re offered lower fees/compensation (travel/hotel) than non-Black artists
  3. You’re mistreated by musicians, presenters, and orchestra managements

Tokenism protects White supremacy

Orchestras and artist managements tokenize Black conductors. It allows them to ignore their own implicit bias and racism. Tokenism allows the industry to disassociate from being racist.

If you were really somebody, he’d know about you already.

There’re no powerful international Black conductor advocates. We rely on august White mentors who don’t share our cultural narrative.

Implicit bias needs Awareness

Implicit bias and institutionalized racism, in-access to music education, lack of opportunities and role models impede Black conductor development, not potential.

  1. Administrators rarely hire us for subscription concerts
  2. Implicit bias and racism creates a preference for non-Black artists
  3. We’re perceived as inferior
  4. Managements either don’t sign or tokenize Black conductors
  5. Black managers would benefit the industry
  6. We lack Black mentors
  7. Not experiencing Black conductors is a cultural loss
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Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Haydn Symphony №82, 4th mvt.

All the Black Dots

Social justice perspectives from a Black orchestral…

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By All the Black Dots

The Carpet must match the Drapes, Notes on Racism and White Supremacy in Classical Music, Diary of a Racist Cellist: Mathew Chen Take a look.

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Brandon Keith Brown

Written by

Prize-Winning Stick Waver/Slinger of Sounds| Speaker | Educator | ARTivist. Engineering Society from the Podium |

All the Black Dots

Social justice perspectives from a Black orchestral conductor

Brandon Keith Brown

Written by

Prize-Winning Stick Waver/Slinger of Sounds| Speaker | Educator | ARTivist. Engineering Society from the Podium |

All the Black Dots

Social justice perspectives from a Black orchestral conductor

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