ARS Represented at Early Music America Summit in Boston MA

EMA Summit Dispatch
By Jamie Allen
On a lovely late October day in Boston MA, fellow ARS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee co-chair Jan Elliott and I met at a special session of the Early Music America Summit. The goal of the session was for EMA staff to get feedback regarding EMA’s nascent “Best Practices and Protocols Guide for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in the Early Music Field.” This document is still a work in progress, so is not quite ready for public consumption, but the draft manifests a great deal of important work by committed and passionate people. For context, Early Music America describes itself as “a community of people who find joy, meaning, and purpose in studying and experiencing historically informed performance,” and their most recent Strategic Plan recognizes that “historically informed performances provide important musical insights and experiences, and all people and communities should have access to learning, performing and enjoying early music.”

Recognizing that such a goal is still far on the horizon, EMA assembled a task force, comprising musicians in the field who promote EMA’s values of inclusion, diversity, equity, access and belonging, to advise EMA on the planning and implementation of strategic initiatives designed to help the early music field more fully represent, embrace, and serve the many different communities of The Americas. The new guide is seen as a vital first step.

As co-chairs of the ARS DEI committee, Jan and I were both keenly interested in EMA’s work in this area, and the session proved to be a bit of an eye-opener. Feelings and experiences were (as Jan put it) “all over the map.” While some positive stories were shared, so was powerful testimony by musicians and educators who have been made to feel unsupported or even unwelcome in the field, either by the force of legislation (such as the recently passed Texas Senate bill requiring public universities to end all diversity, equity and inclusion work), or by broadly accepted and unchallenged practices. Fear of change and lack of mutual trust seem to be common contributing factors to this situation.

At the end of the session, it was clear that the work done so far on the guide has not been fruitless, as the need for such a tool is great. But it was equally clear that we are still much closer to the beginning of this work than the end. As it relates to the ARS, there is much material in the guide that is currently being reviewed by members of our DEI committee. We hope to glean from it ideas and/or calls to action appropriate for the ARS, which will be recommended to the Board of Directors at an upcoming semi-annual meeting.