As the world has come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, the other undeniable headline of 2020 has been the Black Lives Matter movement. A wave of demonstrations demanding equality, government action and an end to racism swept the globe following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery this summer. The College of Music stands as a community of artists and educators against racism and in support of inclusivity for all our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.

alma ramos posingUniversities must be a beacon of progress in times of social change, and the College of Music must help underscore that effort. With that goal, new Diversity and Outreach Coordinator Alma Ramos joined the college this fall to resume the important work of bringing greater diversity to music study at CU Boulder. “Classical music is very much seen as a White industry, and when looking at the demographic, it is,” says Ramos. “The college has work to do in recognizing its place within this system that makes it less accessible for minoritized folx. It is the responsibility of the college to acknowledge how it has played a part, as well as discover methods and skills to create a more inclusive field and challenge the privileged norms of classical music.”

Ramos recently completed a master’s degree in counseling with a concentration in higher education and student affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. While there, she worked as a graduate assistant at the Peer Advocate Leaders (PAL) Program under the department of Student Life and at the Center for Identity and Inclusion under the department of Diversity and Inclusion. Prior to her graduate work, Ramos received a Bachelor of Educational Studies with an emphasis in vocal music education from the University of Missouri.

“I'm excited about this position because it combines my two passions: music and social justice,” she says. “I feel like music can become such a bridge in understanding the history of when a piece is written and the emotions and messages that should be felt throughout the performance."

During her master’s studies, Ramos says she honed her management, communication and presentation skills to create more equitable spaces for marginalized voices. “I have also done contract work for various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consulting firms that work towards building curriculum and workshops for higher education institutions and the corporate world. All of my experiences have been extremely rewarding and I know they will take me towards my goals of completely revamping how the education system can support oppressed students and communities.”

At the College of Music, Ramos will also be coordinating the Diverse Musicians’ Alliance (DiMA), among other activities. 

“I love working with students, and so the fact that I will be working with the DiMA students is extremely exciting. I truly think that we can create some positive change to improve the diversity, equity and inclusivity of the College of Music.”

Photo above courtesy the Boulder Daily Camera

Cleveland Orchestra residency, Distinguished Lectureship include discussions on diversity

Cleveland orchestra members on stage
Dworkins on stage

By Jessie Bauters

The College of Music’s third Distinguished Lectureship in Music, Diversity and Inclusion wasn’t the only special event last year to include a discussion about one of classical music’s biggest challenges.

In September 2019, members of the renowned Cleveland Orchestra were in residence at the College of Music for three days of master classes, one-on-one sessions and side-by-side work with students. The residency has become a marquee event for the college, occurring every two years as part of the Daniel P. Sher Master Class Program, but this year there was an added element. Lynne Ramsey, viola; Jessica Sindell, flute; and Trina Bourne, harp; took part in a panel discussion on women in orchestras, answering questions about their experiences with auditions and unconscious bias in the male-dominated orchestra world. They also met with members of the Diverse Musicians’ Alliance for a breakfast discussion on mentorship and what their first steps into orchestral performance were like.

The Cleveland Orchestra members’ residency was made possible by a $150,000 pledge from The Clinton Family Fund. Bruce Clinton is a longtime philanthropist and supporter of orchestras nationwide.

In February, Aaron Dworkin and Afa Sadykhly Dworkin—professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan and president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization, respectively—led a similar discussion about the lack of diversity in classical music. The talk, titled “Throwing the DICE that Fuel Inclusion: A Wager on Diversity, Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship in the Arts,” delved into the role that diversity and the arts play in society. The Dworkins discussed their work with the Sphinx Organization, an award-winning nonprofit dedicated to the development of young black and Latinx musicians in the classical sphere. 

“While we’ve made some important strides, there’s still a lot more work to be done in order for true balance to be achieved,” Afa says. “Ultimately, we all see success when our field, our sector, will reflect the rich diversity inherent in our communities.”