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Leading UK Orchestras & Choirs Commit To Plan Boosting Diverse Recruitment

Leading UK Orchestras & Choirs Commit To Plan

Boosting Diverse Recruitment

10 Point Plan for Inclusive Recruitment

By Black Lives In Music, Musicians’ Union and Association of British Orchestras
Industry wide Commitment, including:
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Ballet, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales
To enhance opportunities for all orchestral musicians in UK
Less than 2% of orchestra musicians in the UK are from an ethnic minority


The effort to diversify major orchestras in the UK has been stepped up with a landmark agreement for a 10 Point Orchestral Plan, introduced by Black Lives in Music (BLiM), Musicians’ Union (MU) and Association of British Orchestras (ABO). 33 organisations have signed up in total, with leading orchestras including the five BBC Orchestras and BBC Singers, London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra.

The plan is a new approach to driving change in UK orchestras, a common policy for the recruitment of orchestral musicians.  A year-long process of discussions with both musicians and management, in the same conversation, has produced an agreement for a lasting legacy of fair recruitment. 40 orchestras were involved in more than 20 round table discussions to put together the Plan.

There is a distinct case for change. The ‘Equality and Diversity in the Classical Music Profession’ (2015) report found that less than 2% of orchestra musicians in the UK were from an ethnic minority background. There is no data available since then, perhaps a reflection of the lack of action on the issue. British conductor Charles Hazelwood says, “I conduct orchestras around the world, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of musicians with a disability I have encountered anywhere.”

Roger Wilson, Director Of Operations of Black Lives in Music: “This initiative is indicative of a new and energised, sector wide approach to driving change in UK orchestras.  The not insignificant collaboration of the ABO, BLiM and MU has catalysed a unified approach to the recruitment of orchestral musicians.  Our combined efforts have involved both musicians and management in the same conversation.   It’s reflective of the important allied approach required to produce an impactful and lasting legacy in the interests of fair recruitment and improved workforce development in the sector.”

Naomi Pohl, Musician’s Union General Secretary: “Over the course of this project, the orchestral sector has shown an appetite for change in their engagement with us. We see the desire from the sector to be more diverse, more inclusive, and more representative of the communities we work in. The MU, BLiM and ABO are united on this mission and will continue to support players, management, and the wider sector in their journeys to becoming the most diverse orchestras in the world.

The recommendations towards inclusive practice that have been co-created by the sector show that when we enter into a dialogue with open minds we can find solutions that work for everyone. By embarking on this change work together, we can all support each other to grow and embed the positive change we know our sector needs in order to be future-proofed.”

Judith Webster(she/her), Chief Executive at Association of British Orchestras: “The ABO is committed to supporting UK orchestras in their efforts to be ever more ambitious, relevant and inclusive in all that they do. This is best achieved through working in partnership and sharing ideas, problems and solutions as a sector and with other sector bodies. We are delighted that so many orchestras across the UK have signed up to this initiative – demonstrating their will to bring about change and work together to evolve and thrive.”

Emma Stenning, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra: “ The publication of the 10 Point Plan represents a real turning point for British orchestras. It’s the culmination of a sector wide rethink, brilliantly facilitated by Black Lives in Music, and commits us all to making determined change that will see our ensembles move towards greater representation of the communities and cities we serve.  Therein lies extraordinary creative opportunity, to find a future for our artform that matters for everyone, where no one gets left behind.”

Andrew Storey, Chair and Principal Second Violin, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: “The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes the 10-point plan that has been devised by the industry in partnership with Black Lives in Music, the Association of British Orchestras and the Musicians’ Union. It provides a roadmap for recruitment to share best practice driven by the collective desire to create a more equitable and inclusive orchestral sector.”

Paul A. Philbert MBE, Royal Scottish National Orchestra: “The 10 point plan that the ABO, BLiM and the MU have established is a tremendously important step in the music industry’s efforts to achieve greater equality of opportunity surrounding recruitment. I am delighted to hear that my beloved RSNO has now chosen to adopt the plan and I sincerely hope that those ensembles who are still yet to make the leap, will choose to do so in the very near future.”

Paulette Bayley, Second Violin at Hallé: “As an advocate of Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Belonging in our sector I am enthused that BLiM have created a recruitment policy to which all orchestras can refer. I hope that every orchestra will commit to making the necessary steps to create a fair process for all.”

As recruitment is relatively deregulated, the process varies from orchestra to orchestra.

“Many orchestras do not have inclusion training in place on an ongoing basis to support their own recruiting panels. Delivery of training requires a bespoke approach as specifically needed for hire and recruitment of musicians in orchestras”, adds Roger Wilson.

Amongst the many reasons for a review of historic processes is the way it affects individuals with protected characteristics and those less privileged.  For example, this can affect young mothers due to childcare as well as considerations of wellbeing of the individuals on trial.

And as players from diverse backgrounds are yet to be booked on a meaningful and consistent basis as freelancers, they cannot gain the experience to have a realistic chance of being appointed.

While UK orchestras have acknowledged the need to improve on recruitment practice through revised processes of player recruitment, the 10

Point Orchestral Plan proposes to bring convergence and consensus. These would include maximum lengths of trial periods, inclusivity training for audition panellists, candidates to audition from behind a screen to ensure an anonymised application process, auditions both in person and online for those who cannot travel, a full record of decisions taken from auditions and a reasonable amount of excerpts to be played so less experienced candidates can warm to the task.

The full Plan is:

1. Regular open calls for Extras and Deputies

2. Inclusion of impartial external member(s) on audition panels

(without voting rights)

3. All candidates required to audition before being offered a trial

(Candidates will not be invited to trial without prior involvement in

full recruitment process)

4. Screened early round auditions

5. First round, (proper) auditions with both in person and online


6. First main round auditions to include an unaccompanied/accompanied work and reasonable number of excerpts

7. Audition panellists to receive inclusivity training within the 3

month period prior to recruitment duties

8. Trial process to be streamlined:

Maximum trial period of 2 years for tutti and principal positions.

Appointments to be confirmed within 3 months of completion of

all trials

9. All audition panels to keep a thorough and robust record of

auditions and decisions during the trial process. Candidates

should be assessed using a clearly defined scoring framework

alongside a documented and robust anecdotal narrative

10. Anonymised application process

For media information and enquiries:

The Outside Organisation


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