Member Questions: How Can My Chorus Kickstart Our ADEI Work?

Chorus America staff is always happy to answer specific questions from members with personalized information and resources. In our High Notes blog feature, Member Questions, we will periodically share answers to frequently asked questions with our whole community. Please feel free to email [email protected] with additional questions or feedback.

When choruses begin exploring access, diversity, equity, and inclusion, a common question they reach out to Chorus America with is “Where do we start?” Their organizations may have been operating for many years, but they may not have addressed these topics with specific focus before.

The collected resources and recommendations below are some particular favorites of our staff. We’ve used them in Chorus America programs, with our own organizations, and our own personal work. There are many more out there that are worthy of your time. We’ll periodically update this first collection in new posts as we read and listen to more books, articles, podcasts, and videos that help us in this work.

First some thoughts as you get started.

A journey, not a box to check: One of the most important tenets to keep in mind as you begin this work is that there is no end point at which you will “know everything and be done.” ADEI and anti-racism work is a journey that continues to evolve over time. Just as we continue to learn more about choral music throughout our lives, so too, will we continue to learn about ADEI and anti-racism work throughout our lives. This is work you’ll want to make time and space for permanently.

Consultants: If you’re just starting on this journey, unless you already have a close relationship with an ADEI consultant, it will be best to engage your organization around some of the resources below and then engage a consultant. That will allow you to get an understanding of what you’re really asking your consultant to help with. This means that when you bring in your consultant, you’ll get more bang for your buck, and they’ll be able to dig in with you towards understanding and action, rather than just recommend articles.

How to get started: There’s a variety of ways to deploy these resources. If your chorus has a board and/or a leadership team, that’s a good group to begin with. You could share some for personal reading, watching, and learning. Some resources could be assigned as board homework with some space on the agenda to discuss them. This is particularly helpful because it makes your full board or leadership team responsible for the learning together.

The challenge here to be aware of is that every individual is in a different space with this work and will react differently to it. But that’s an opportunity too – for rich conversation, for deep and intentional listening. Community agreements or ground rules can help create a space that everyone feels they can work within. That doesn’t necessarily mean comfortable or safe. It hopefully means brave.

When your organization is ready, similar tactics can be deployed with your full chorus. This could be a great moment to invite a consultant in. It may be most helpful to have an outside voice facilitating a conversation with a bigger group. Your chorus may have a culture that supports asking different members to facilitate a conversation around your selected resources. There’s no doubt that in-person spaces are ideal so that people can remember the humanity of the others in the room and read body language cues. But if in-person isn’t an option for your chorus, many organizations have undertaken this work remotely in a productive way.

ADEI and anti-racism work takes thought and care. There’s no one right way to begin. Listening and learning that leads to informed action is the goal.

Some recommended resources for reading and discussion:

From Chorus America:
From Other Online Sources: