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Classical music diversity — or the lack of it

(Greg Sandow, ArtsJournal) In my last post, I got up on a soapbox and orated, about classical music — in practice pretty much a lily-white art — claiming special privileges (lavish funding, school programs devoted to it) in an age of growing diversity. That seemed ugly to me, and, in the long run, not sustainable.

But there’s a simpler, less polemical way to look at this. Yesterday, perusing the business section of the New York Times (and in the print paper yet; how old-fashioned of me!), I came across a column that started this way: “Advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to appeal to consumers of color…” Then followed one of the lastest wrinkles in that effort, a website that provides data on African-American media consumption, demographics and purchasing power.

But then this is nothing new. Advertisers — not to mention TV and movie producers — have been paying at least token attention (and often quite a bit more than that) to minorities for more than a generation now. Allstate’s spokesman, in its TV ads, is black. Trial judges in the movies are so often black women that this in itself has become a stereotype. And of course films and TV shows (not to mention music) aimed at a black audience are common. Which isn’t to say there aren’t stereotypes involved, and much more progress to be made. But clearly there’s an awareness of diversity, which shows up front and center in the media, every day, so often that I feel silly even writing this. It flavors the air we breathe.

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