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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Were these new musicians demonstrably better than the musicians they replaced? That's a question to which I would be interested in hearing the answer.
One hopes they are good musicians, but that's not the point. The director of the ETO has explained that competence was not the reason why the the musicians were replaced, it was because of their non-musical personal characteristics.

As I said in post #37 ...

"It might be acceptable, albeit a bit brutal, to have terminated the musicians for the reason of competency or 'artistic fit', and replaced them with 'better' musicians, but to have done so due to the musicians' race, religion/belief, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment &cetera is abominable."

Even if the ETO maintain music standards, as I have previously said, a crack-outfit like the Sinfonia of London won't, if this approach is widened out to other orchestras.
 

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One hopes they are good musicians, but that's not the point. The director of the ETO has explained that competence was not the reason why the the musicians were replaced, it was because of their non-musical personal characteristics.
Call me a cynic, but if the ETO did indeed have a 100% (or close to it) white orchestra, it's hard for me to believe "non-musical personal characteristics" haven't played a role in their hiring practices for years.
 

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The assumption is always that hiring is meritocratic. Anyone with familiar with hiring knows this is virtually never the case - personal connections, the tastes (well-intentioned or otherwise) of hiring managers, social skills, interviewing skills, and many other factors come into play. It's very rare that pure meritocracies actually exist (indeed, the lack of diversity is generally taken as evidence that hiring was not meritocratic).

Whether the attempt to "force" diversity into the hiring process is well-intentioned or a good idea is another matter - but one should never take it as tacit truth that things were purely meritocratic before the diversity people got their hands on it.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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The assumption is always that hiring is meritocratic. Anyone with familiar with hiring knows this is virtually never the case - personal connections, the tastes (well-intentioned or otherwise) of hiring managers, social skills, interviewing skills, and many other factors come into play. It's very rare that pure meritocracies actually exist (indeed, the lack of diversity is generally taken as evidence that hiring was not meritocratic).

Whether the attempt to "force" diversity into the hiring process is well-intentioned or a good idea is another matter - but one should never take it as tacit truth that things were purely meritocratic before the diversity people got their hands on it.
I've also found recruitment practices have been somewhat hit and miss in terms of a successful outcome. What is it like more generally in the orchestra business?
 

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My friend who plays in ETO has auditioned lots of times and it's blind auditions. No field of human endeavour is without string-pulling and 'who you know', but while hiring may not be 'purely meritocratic', I believe it's been 'largely' meritocratic.

It shouldn't be who you know, but it shouldn't be what you look like, or your gender, or your social background either. Surely anyone who loves music looks for excellence in players. We'll be away when ETO comes to York, and I'm glad of it, since I feel sad about the way the musicians have been dismissed and the reasons given. I've enjoyed their productions in the past but may not bother with them again, unless my friend would like us to go.
 

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The hell of it is that "who you know" isn't even always badly intentioned. A company need someone and one of their employees "knows a guy", for instance. "personal connections" sound bad, but if an orchestra needs an oboe player, and one of the clarinets knows a great one looking for work, well, that's part of it, even when no ill intentions exist.

And frequently the diversity problem runs up the chain. A company which mostly wants to hire Ivy League graduates is already running afoul, because these days elite universities are all about family connections. I don't think many hiring processes are explicitly made with racial animus in mind (though it does happen) but when a problem has so many independent factors causing it, it does raise the question of how best to solve it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
Call me a cynic, but if the ETO did indeed have a 100% (or close to it) white orchestra, it's hard for me to believe "non-musical personal characteristics" haven't played a role in their hiring practices for years.
I wouldn't call you a cynic, but you are dangerously close to implying that 'two wrongs make a right'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
The assumption is always that hiring is meritocratic.
Bit of a sweeping statement! I for one never make such an assumption.

Whether the attempt to "force" diversity into the hiring process is well-intentioned or a good idea is another matter
Actually, it's the matter in hand.

but one should never take it as tacit truth that things were purely meritocratic before the diversity people got their hands on it.
Happily no-one is suggesting that
 

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The dichotomy in articles like the one posted, especially from people like Lebrecht, is always that you can choose "diversity hiring" or "meritocratic hiring". Multiple responses to the article have said things like "the only thing that should matter is excellence in playing" which implies that was the case when the orchestra was all-white.

I don't think I'm being unfair in saying that. If I found out that a lot of people in an orchestra auditioned because they knew other members in the orchestra and were told over a beer - "hey, we're actually looking for a cellist", would that cause a massive controversy in the way that "wokeness" does?
 

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I don’t think anyone believes that every hiring is on merit but I never felt when I was working that I, or indeed any of my colleagues, were in danger of being dismissed simply because there were too many of us who didn’t fit a profile. And let’s not beat about the bush, we are talking about being either the wrong race or the wrong gender. Fair enough to be more diverse as vacancies become available but to actively remove people who don’t fit a particular profile seems to me to be inherently abhorrent.
 

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That's called a meritocracy - a hopelessly outdated concept compared to inclusivity where the one who gets the job may be as thick as mince but more importantly ticks the right neoliberal boxes.

The concept of 'white privilege' is total gash - a mantra chanted by middle class students and middle class people who still wish they were students.
Meritocracy in theory is hiring based on ability. Meritocracy in practice is hiring based on qualifications which include things like degrees from elite universities, prior positions at "glamour" companies, and professional reputations based on respected peers.

It's impossible to "hire the best person for the role" because that's something that can only be known in retrospect. You never know how someone actually will perform in a position until they have done so. But this is different from how "meritocracy" actually functions in practice (indeed, meritocracy has more been accused of neoliberal ideology due to its basis on elite higher education above all else, which has led to wealthy families who can get into Harvard and Yale being selected).
 

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I can see that from the point of view of an individual freelance member of the orchestra, to fail to be engaged for a season when previously in more or less continuous employment with the ETO might seem grossly unfair. But it appears that the basis on which members are hired is on a seasonal basis, and that this is known to those who are engaged. Why else would they be repeatedly auditioned as ingelou described (if I understood her right)?

The two articles I've read about the matter do not seem to me to be wholly unbiased in their reporting. There is more to this than the apparent "sacking" of one set of freelance musicians in favour of another set merely on non-musical capability grounds.

It certainly sounds like a case of a "new broom sweeping clean". That always ruffles feathers.
 

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This is my point of view too. I am shocked by ETO's new policy - we have a friend who plays with them and, yes, he's white, but so what? ETO could reasonably make people re-audition and then, other things being equal, accept people who'll boost their diversity quotient, but musical ability should remain the prime consideration, in my opinion.

How can we have trust in any organisation, musical or not, if they don't prioritise skill and ability in the chosen field?
The letter from the CEO is not brilliantly worded, IMO, and I wonder if it has been "overinterpreted"

there have been recent auditions to inform that work. English Touring Opera is committed to increasing all kinds of diversity in its team, and while there have been appreciable, steady advances on stage in this area, we have prioritised increased diversity in the orchestra
I do not interpret "prioritised" here as meaning that musical skill has been dropped as a priority, especially given the fact that there were auditions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
I can see that from the point of view of an individual freelance member of the orchestra, to fail to be engaged for a season when previously in more or less continuous employment with the ETO might seem grossly unfair. But it appears that the basis on which members are hired is on a seasonal basis, and that this is known to those who are engaged. Why else would they be repeatedly auditioned as ingelou described (if I understood her right)?

The two articles I've read about the matter do not seem to me to be wholly unbiased in their reporting. There is more to this than the apparent "sacking" of one set of freelance musicians in favour of another set merely on non-musical capability grounds.

It certainly sounds like a case of a "new broom sweeping clean". That always ruffles feathers.
Read the ETO Director's letter. It's crystal clear. The musicians have been sacked because they do not fit the racial/gender/sex/religious etc profile. There is nothing 'apparent' about it. The one virtue of his letter is that it is unambiguous - one can be in doubt as to why one has been sacked.
 

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Discussion Starter · #55 · (Edited)
I don't think anyone believes that every hiring is on merit but I never felt when I was working that I, or indeed any of my colleagues, were in danger of being dismissed simply because there were too many of us who didn't fit a profile. And let's not beat about the bush, we are talking about being either the wrong race or the wrong gender. Fair enough to be more diverse as vacancies become available but to actively remove people who don't fit a particular profile seems to me to be inherently abhorrent.
The issue here isn't the hiring, it's why and how the musicians were sacked!
 

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Discussion Starter · #57 ·
Two wrongs don't make a right. But there is such a thing as righting a wrong.

How that may or may not apply in this situation is another question. I don't claim to have a definitive answer.
There's something about rightning (sic) a wrong with another wrong that troubles me!
 

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It’s not clear to me how the annual membership of the ETO is determined. It doesn’t appear that a lot of the members have binding multi-year contracts. Or do some of them? In any event, if a number of them have up to a 20 year history with the ETO, then, if not a long-term contract, there must have been an understanding that these members would return annually. I’m wondering why, instead of such a radical change, they couldn’t have increased diversity through attrition over time.

I’m all for diversity, but to all those who jumped on that as if it is the only important issue: Given that positions in orchestras are not exactly abundant, how would you like to have lost a position you had had for as long as 20 years? I’m sure your first thought would have been, ‘No problem. Anything for diversity.’
 

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It seems that this policy is part of a program called I'M IN, run by a company called London Music Masters, which major UK orchestras signed up to last year:

https://www.standard.co.uk/culture/...musicians-im-in-diversity-audit-a4511261.html

Its called diversity now, but in the past there where other labels attached to policies to redress inequalities (e.g., equal opportunity, affirmative action). If we go way back into the past, women getting the vote was a huge milestone. Changes in policy of that nature have impacts everywhere, even in classical music. I'd guess that the rise in the number of women playing in orchestras has been steady in the past hundred years. The Vienna Phil held out until the 1990's, but by then they where not the norm.

In principle its hard to disagree with the idea that orchestras need to reflect changes in society. As I commented earlier, whatever the good intentions of this diversity policy, the manner in which its being implemented doesn't sound right.

Obviously the jobs of permanent employees of orchestras are secure. Unfortunately, it looks like that those who are freelance, casual or temps are at the receiving end of the negative side of this policy.

There's always a downside to change. I guess in terms of how the economy is run, the brutal reality is that the most vulnerable will be most exposed to change. This class is growing, and it includes many educated people, the term for them is precariat. Management is about delivering on targets, monetary or otherwise, so the needs of these workers are easily overlooked. At the same time, without them, the economy would collapse.

To put a lighter spin on this, I guess the ultimate question is about the rate of change. In this clip from Yes Minister, the minister and his advisor are arguing about quotas for women in government. Sir Humphrey, as usual, wants gradual change and the minister wants it to be immediate:

 

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There's a lot of nuance to be had here, but this story is yet another example of neoliberals trying to "fix" diversity without addressing the underlying problems of economic inequality. Don't blame the orchestra's director - he's only a cog in a much larger wheel.
 
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