A Study Of Background Characteristics, Preparation, And Perceptions Of Black And Non-Black Performing Musicians As It Relates To Selection And Placement Criteria Within Major And Regional Symphony Orchestras

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Edwards, George Leonard
Craig, Randall J.
The purpose of this study was twofold. The first was to investigate the extent to which major and regional symphony orchestras employed non-Black and Black musicians. The second was to investigate the background characteristics (education, musical training, culture), Professional experiences, and perceptions of non-Black and Black musicians in major and regional symphony orchestras. The population was composed of 31 major symphony orchestras (orchestras with annual operating budgets in excess of $3.4 million), and 44 regional symphony orchestras (orchestras with annual operating budgets between $950,000 and $3.4 million). From this population, the sample was composed of 75 orchestra managers and 244 performing musicians, 200 non-Black and 44 Black. Data were collected through the use of two questionnaires, one to managers of the orchestras and one to musicians in the orchestras. An analysis of the data was made using descriptive and inferential statistical techniques: frequencies, means, chi-square and MANOVA. The statistical Package from the Social Sciences (SPSS) computer program was used to process the information received in response to questionnaire items. The results revealed that very little progress has been made in hiring Black musicians in symphony orchestras since 1977. There is less than two percent Black employment of musicians in major and regional symphony orchestras. Most of these orchestras have no official training program or activity to increase the number of Black performing musicians, nor is there any significant attempt to recruit qualified Black musicians. Orchestra managers acknowledge the limited participation of Black musicians in symphony orchestras and indicated that few qualified Black musicians apply and audition. This study showed that the background experiences (musical and educational) of the two groups of player personnel (non-Black and Black) were very similar; however, because of the fierce competition for positions, few Blacks apply and audition. It is recommended that early and consistent exposure and a traditional conservatory style of training that concentrates on mastering the instrument and gaining knowledge of the symphony repertoire serve as a means for promoting symphonic music as a career.