Creating diverse concert programs can seem intimidating. We are often limited by various constraints on programming: the availability of scores and parts; requirements made by state or regional governing boards; instrumentation; and pressure from both our own organizations’ boards or members and potential audiences. However, we believe that there is room on every program for diversity.
The Institute for Composer Diversity recommends that, for any genre, a concert or concert season program a minimum of 25-35% works by living composers; 15-25% works by women composers; and 15-25% works by composers from underrepresented racial, ethnic, or cultural heritages. For ensembles that focus primarily on performing contemporary works, we recommend that a concert season program a minimum of 60-80% works by living composers; 35-55% works by women composers, and 35-55% works by composers from underrepresented heritages. There should be overlaps between these categories.
For an orchestral season with 50 works:
13-18 works by living composers
8-13 works by women composers
8-13 by composers from underrepresented heritages
For a wind band season with 24 works:
6-9 works by living composers
4-6 works by women composers
4-6 works by composers from underrepresented heritages
For a choral season with 30 works:
8-11 works by living composers
5-8 works by women composers
5-8 works by composers from underrepresented heritages
For a string quartet season with 16 works:
4-6 works by living composers
3-4 works by women composers
3-4 works by composers from underrepresented heritages
Programming diverse works can require more research than programming more well-known pieces, and we can help with that.
A Call for Better Programming Models
Avoid only programming concert-to-concert; looking at a season’s programming with an eye toward whatever your ensemble’s diversity goals are will make it much more easy to achieve those goals.
Avoid “othering” by not creating concert programs that focus on a single demographic—especially during the typical “celebration” periods of the calendar.
Program to your potential audience as well as to your usual attendees.
Don’t forget that there are often times a sizable number of composers in your extended region…always consider how they could help you connect with your community if possible.
Program in such a way that the populations of your geographic area are well-represented.
Include more substantial works by composers from underrepresented groups in the second or third positions on the program.
Play with the filters in our database and follow links to composers’ websites. Listen to pieces you never knew existed before; watch videos of performances of works that might fit your ensemble; look up scholarship on composers who interest you in our bibliography. Ask your colleagues what music they’re listening to and playing by diverse composers; look at programs from ensembles similar to yours and see what they’re playing this year or next year; ask what new recordings of music by diverse composers have come in to the local radio station. Contact us for ideas and information, and let us know what you decide to program when you program diversity.