Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are We Post-Racial Yet?

There was one interesting nugget o' news out of last night's surprisingly enjoyable San Francisco Symphony season opener: Nicole Cash, the orchestra's recently appointed associate principal horn, is African-American.

In a perfect or even marginally rational universe, of course, this fact would not be worth remarking on. But in this fallen world, Ms. Cash is a rarity. The most recent survey by the League of American Orchestras, taken in 2007, found that just under 2 percent of orchestral musicians were black.

To bring it a little closer to home, Ms. Cash is the first African-American member of the SF Symphony since Basil Vendryes departed to become the principal violist of the Colorado Symphony in 1993. That's, um, a long time. Good to see a little progress on that front.


At 9/10/2009 4:10 PM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

She played first horn during one of the Schubert-Berg concerts I attended - I meant to ask the press office her name and which spot she was auditioning for, but forgot. Was pleased to hear that she'd been hired, though!

She's also a comparative rarity in being a woman playing a brass instrument, though this gives SFS what? Two or three women in that section?

At 9/10/2009 4:21 PM, Blogger Joshua Kosman said...

Yes, an amazing 50-50 gender ratio in the six-member horn section (though Kimberly Wright is on leave). I thought they had a female trombonist (!) at one point, but I seem to have been hallucinating, or thinking of a different orchestra.

At 9/10/2009 4:30 PM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

I was wondering why I hadn't seen her in the orchestra in the spring.

At 9/10/2009 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trombonist Donna Parks was a one-year sub in the orchestra two seasons ago.
Cheers from the SFS PR Dept.

At 9/10/2009 5:12 PM, Blogger Joshua Kosman said...

Ah, thanks for clearing that up. Glad to know it wasn't just the mushrooms.

At 9/11/2009 9:20 AM, Blogger Warren Stewart said...

The issue starts at the top, as the LA Times notes in an article today about Thomas Wilkins, the new director at the Hollywood Bowl.

"There certainly are not a lot at the upper lever professionally," Wilkins said. "At my level, there's probably less than 10 in the country."

In the article Oakland EB Symphony director Michael Morgan notes, "African Americans haven't had as many nurturing opportunities," said Morgan...I see part of my job being helping the orchestra have a relationship with the community. Young kids need help, and you have to make sure they see a logical path. Then they will take it. It's harder when they don't see anyone at the far end of the path that looks like them."

At 9/11/2009 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being selected for a position in an orchestra has nothing to do with race. It's all about the mastery of the instrument and artistry. To suggest that race or gender had anything to do with choosing Nicole Cash for that important position would be taking away from that fact that she is just a fantastic horn player. She deserves the job.

At 9/11/2009 10:30 PM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

Good grief. No one is suggesting that she got the job because she is a black woman. I believe we are all in agreement that if there were equal opportunity in musical education that there would be more African Americans playing in orchestras.


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