The gatherings and work of ICSOM’s DEI Committee have reached a new level of vibrancy and activity in recent months.
On June 1st, ICSOM launched a new monthly video series called Musician Profiles: Celebrating Racial Diversity, which I am proud to host. These one-on-one interviews focus on hearing and lifting the words of ICSOM Musicians of Color, their experiences, and how they view the need for racial diversity within our orchestras.
It was an honor to interview Joseph Conyers as the first guest of ICSOM’s new video series. I met Joseph when he became Principal bassist of the Grand Rapids Symphony, his first job after graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music. Since then, Joseph joined the bass section of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and is currently Assistant Principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Those of us who know Joseph agree that he shines his light brightly in many arenas as performer, teacher, and leader, always with a high level of musicianship, a warm personality, and a winning smile. All of this comes through clearly in our interview.
For the second interview of this series, it was a pleasure to speak with another ICSOM Musician of Color, Judy Dines. She has been a member of the Houston Symphony flute section since 1992. I first met Judy at the ICSOM conference in Washington DC back in 2016 and have enjoyed following her activities ever since, including her service as committee chair for Houston Symphony contract negotiations, her performances and speaking appearances at various conferences and conventions, and even a Houston Symphony video of Judy at her home to showcase her interesting collection of flutes. She closes our interview saying “I think that ICSOM is doing great and important work, and I am happy to encourage it to move forward in the future.” Thank you, Judy!
I hope you will take a few moments to watch these interviews with Joseph and Judy, and that you will view upcoming videos in this monthly series, which are housed at the ICSOM website—which also means they will be archived at the US Library of Congress—and at our YouTube channel, “ICSOM Orchestras.”
The vibrancy and depth of ICSOM’s DEI Committee stems from the insight of its members. The group is co-chaired by two first-year Governing Board Members-at-Large: Alberto Suarez (Principal hornist, Kansas City Symphony) and Kenneth Thompkins (Principal trombonist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra). In addition, Yuka Kadota (violinist, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) joined the DEI Committee in 2022. ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow and I are pleased to continue serving on this committee, as we have since its inception in 2018.
The work of our committee is supported by Jessica Schmidt of Orchestrate Inclusion, who serves as ICSOM’s DEI Consultant (see Senza Sordino April 2022 Chairperson’s Report, “Building Inclusion into Our New Normal”). Presently, the six of us meet monthly to discuss ways to support ICSOM musicians as they work toward greater inclusion and equity within their own orchestras.
DEI will be highlighted in several ways at ICSOM’s 60th annual conference in Grand Rapids this summer. On the first day of the conference, a presentation called ICSOM Musicians: Heard and Seen will be given by Seattle-based violinist and violist, writer, and educator yelley Taylor. The aim of this presentation is to build shared understanding and response to the experience of racism and discrimination in our orchestras. On Friday evening, conference participants will have the option of taking a guided walking tour along the Grand River to learn more about the history and experience of Grand Rapids’ Black population from 1826 to present, passing touchstones that prompt the telling of the stories of remarkable people, places, events, and issues.
The work of ICSOM’s DEI Committee—and the work of DEI in general—is a practice: always evolving, always challenging in a healthy way, and always important. ICSOM is especially grateful to our colleagues of color who continue to inform and guide ongoing work within our field via the DEI Committee. Feel free to contact me at AustinLPaul@gmail.com with any thoughts or ideas that you may have for our group to explore regarding racial diversity, or to express interest in joining the Committee.