Statement of Commitment
The ongoing national dialogue about racism has led us to consider how the Aspen Music Festival and School could best respond more intentionally to the current environment and contribute to lasting, positive change in the world of music and beyond.
To fully explore this issue, we engaged in an intensive, months-long process to codify and deepen our organization’s commitment to anti-racist values. The resulting statement of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) commitments record what we are prepared to be held accountable for as we continue our work to embody the Aspen Idea: celebrating the union of mind, body, and spirit through music.
We believe we must not only be intentional about these commitments, we must also be explicit that they intend to embrace the talents and contributions of AMELIA (African, Middle Eastern, Latin, Indigenous, and Asian) people, lest we continue reflecting a society that privileges White talents and contributions.
We have already started our work and plan to achieve the commitments we describe below by September 2022. We will report on our progress quarterly to a newly formed DEI committee consisting of students, alumni, artist-faculty, staff, and Board members. In addition, we commit to being more open to input from all stakeholders. We understand that diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, and if we are to achieve greater equity, or fairness, as an organization and a field, we must be more inviting of criticism.
How Did We Develop the Statement?
The Aspen Music Festival and School’s Statement of Commitment was developed working with Hillombo LLC beginning in July of 2020 and it was completed in March of 2021. Hillombo began the project holding conversations with key stakeholders and reviewing financial and governance documents as well as audience and student feedback. The findings of this phase noted challenges and suggestions for increasing racial diversity coupled with feedback from staff and students that there was a strong desire for an organizational culture more flexible in terms of being open to input, particularly on matters pertaining to racism.
The next phase of the work involved Hillombo leading racial literacy sessions with staff and select alumni and board members. In these sessions we examined the intersections of Dr. Ibram Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist, Marty Linsky, and Ronald Heifetz’s Adaptive Leadership model and the White Supremacy Culture framework by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones and how they might be applied to help diagnose the challenges of the organization. Upon completion, a committee of staff, alumni, faculty, and board was convened and over several meetings we developed the Statement in order to make public our commitment to move forward on the challenges that were identified. The Statement, below, was approved by the Board in March and our plan is to achieve our goals by September of 2022.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commitments:
- Student Body: Every year we invite a number of AMELIA students who are not able to afford to attend the AMFS. We believe this reflects structural racism. In the interest of social justice, we are establishing 10-20 additional fellowships for Black, Latin, and Indigenous students. These fellowships will be new and will not reduce the current fellowships available.
- Faculty: We recognize a lack of diversity in our faculty. We will provide our students with the most well-rounded education, including a broad spectrum of musical perspectives, while simultaneously increasing opportunity for AMELIA teaching musicians by making efforts to diversify our faculty at every hiring opportunity.
- Stages: As a part of the larger movement to address the lack of diversity on the stages of classical music, it is our responsibility to find and promote AMELIA musicians. We will particularly focus on the creation of new repertoire, especially larger orchestral works and operas, because that is where we see the greatest deficits. By the summer 2022 season, 75% of our headlining programs will feature an AMELIA soloist, conductor, and/or composer.
- Board of Trustees: We will diversify our Board by actively recruiting AMELIA members. Having considered the obstacles to increasing diversity, AMFS commits to a change in our implicit policy that individuals must have a residence in Aspen to serve on our Board. Our goal is to increase AMELIA representation from 6% to 16%.
- Training: To stay abreast of the ways in which the field is confronting issues of DEI, we commit to biannual staff workshops and Board discussions concerning the intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, and religious identity. All staff will receive training in how to build a more inclusive culture.
- Measurement of Impact: We will annually survey students, artist-faculty, staff, and Board members to learn how they feel we have lived our deepened commitment to DEI. This information will be reviewed by a committee to verify that we are making progress.
- Commitment to the Roaring Fork Valley: We commit to work in partnership with local school districts, organizations, and communities to expand access to the arts for all. With a specific goal of more deeply engaging the Latin American community, we will create welcoming environments for all members of the Roaring Fork Valley community to experience music, will produce culturally responsive music programming, and will work to remove barriers to access.
How Do We Plan to Fulfill These Commitments?
A DEI Committee has been formed that will meet quarterly and will consist of faculty, staff, alumni, and board. This committee will shepherd the work over the next eighteen months to track and monitor progress. We anticipate that some of the goals and strategies may change as we learn more about this work, but as one of our objectives is to learn, we welcome this dynamic.
The process to complete the Statement has been challenging, so we are grateful to all who have shared their ideas and aspirations to allow us to get to this point. We now look forward to the next phase of this project as we implement the plans to achieve each commitment. We plan to share our progress as the work moves forward over the next eighteen months and we are excited for the conversations and new relationships that we believe will develop.