I tend to ponder before making big statements, and so this post may be deemed tardy. It is deeply sad that this post is even necessary, and my long-protected policy to avoid politics in our Lister communications has left me struggling with the necessity of making the widespread protests, frustrations and real danger part of our . But any doubt of that necessity has been completely eradicated in the last week, and the time has come.
The times we are in demand action, change, and attention to those who have been underserved and mistreated for far too long. In our efforts toward diversity, we cannot ignore the basic tenets of that ideal, nor can we ignore the ongoing problems in our society, no matter how innocent we may think ourselves. That is the point: all must stand up and take action for change, or that inaction will cost more lives. That is simply unacceptable.
As an organization and as individual Listers, we have a lot on our plates, and much of that behind the scenes, whether it’s offering financial, virtual and IRL support for the Black Lives Matter movement, taking careful steps in social distancing and prevention of the spread of COVID-19, fighting for major reform and freelancer protection in the face of AB5 and its clueless and unfeeling architects, and rebuilding and refocusing classical music and all performing arts during and after what is likely to be a long shutdown of live performance options. These are times so trying and so unfathomable that they must be allowed to shake our beliefs, habits and daily practices to the core, so that we can learn from this experience and emerge not only in survival, but transformed.
That’s all very timely and “easy” to say, of course, but now is the time for action, and we’re all struggling with the parsing out of what to do next. As for the List, I don’t have all the answers yet as to what we’ll do to support these changes. Some programs are already in the works, as we are actively retooling the List’s focus and building new tools and opportunities that are more attuned to the arts’ newly likely future. But we are a potent community with a strong collective voice — both literally and figuratively. If any art form is in need of diversity reform and acknowledgment of privilege, it’s classical music, and while some call for a complete overhaul, there is still good here: we must not throw away what has been built, but target differently and embrace difference.
That’s a lot of buzzwords… so many they might make your head spin and your more skeptical self question their sincerity. But even that skepticism must be part of the conversation from this moment on, and for as long as it takes… until we truly don’t need that conversation anymore. Those of us born of privilege must allow our advantages to be discussed as much as anything else. All of us must enter into this new era with open hearts and genuineness of purpose, in the hope that we will all emerge with greater, deeper understanding of one another and why working together, truly together, is imperative, not at all optional. This growth period is likely to span the lifetimes of every person now living, and so we must perpetually embrace the change, examine our own souls, continue to renew our resolve, and do everything we can so that there will be no more deaths like George Floyd’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s and so many others, no more presidencies like the one we are now enduring, and a better, shared sense of the greater good and how precious that is.
The good news is that we, by our very vocation, are armed with a powerful weapon. Music is one of the greatest tools in existence for conveying meaning, even separated from language and visuals. By wielding that power, we have a chance to cross boundaries of race, finance, culture and whatever comes. In my coaching sessions, I have long taught the concept of “INAY”, i.e. “It’s Not About You”. Never has this been more true. Unless we make our lives, our work and our hopes about all of us, rather than just the individual, we are truly lost.
In the emotion of this week and the overwhelmingness of it all, this may not be my most cohesive argument. But take from it what you will, and please accept the challenge to join the fight for universal justice. What we do know is this: we cannot continue the way we have. Returning to what we once called “normal” is not an option.
Be safe, all. Check in. Let us know what you’re doing, and if we can help. Thank you, every one of you, for being part of this community. Together, we are beautiful.