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Improving diversity in orchestras

SPEAKER: Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE

CHI-CHI Nwanoku OBE will be giving a lecture at City, University of London’s Department of Music as a part of their Distinguished Lecture Series on May 28.

Nwanoku will be in conversation with Head of Music, Professor Laudan Nooshin, to discuss diversity in music, both within academia and in the wider sphere of professional music making.

The lecture is titled ‘Changing Perceptions: A Glimpse of Tomorrow’s Orchestras’.

A double bass player with an international career as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player, Nwanoku is also a broadcaster, teacher, board member and trustee of numerous organisations.

She has made an inspiring and outstanding contribution to music in Britain, particularly after launching the Chineke! Foundation in 2015, which supports, inspires and encourages black and minority ethnic (BME) classical musicians working in the UK and Europe, under the motto 'championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music’.

Previewing the event, Chi-chi Nwanoku said: "The majority of people in the world are led to believe that classical music is not for them; that it’s somehow above them.

“But, Chineke! Orchestras are breaking down those barriers and welcoming people in to share and experience music that in and of itself does not discriminate.

“Not only do we visibly reflect the rich diversity of our planet, but our programming, board and management do the same thing as well.

“We’re committed to including composers of relative ethnicity in every concert we play; composers whose work stands alongside Beethoven and the likes; composers whose names and work have been written out of history.

“In this, we’re educating ourselves as well as our audiences."

The 2011 census showed that 13% of the UK population was non-white. A 2014 survey of British Orchestras by McClure, Kokot and Scharff showed that, of the 629 players in 17 British Orchestras, only 11 (1.7%) were from the BME community.

The lack of diversity in British orchestras, and the arts in general, is at the forefront of current debate in the UK classical music industry.

Chineke! has added to that debate by conspicuous action: championing the work and talent of professional BME musicians in the UK and further afield and showing that music can, and should, be for everyone regardless of ethnicity.

“The need for Chineke! is as essential now as it was in 2015, if not more so,” said Nwanoku.

The lecture, which follows Michael Nyman’s 2018 talk to open the series, is part of City, University of London’s annual Summer Sounds music festival which runs from May 13-31 2019.

All events are free and open to the public.

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