partner of Oberlin Center for the Arts
The mission of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra is to provide exceptional musical education through a variety of performance opportunities for young musicians of all backgrounds in an inclusive community of learning and growth. Our success in pursuing that mission depends on our commitment that NOYO be diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are related but distinct concepts. Here’s how we understand them to apply to our work as a youth music organization.
NOYO is committed to making our orchestras, bands, staff, and board of trustees more diverse bodies. This means making space for dedicated people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, socioeconomic classes, cultures, ages, and abilities.
NOYO is committed to advancing equity and maintaining an atmosphere of respect in which all members of our community can flourish without suffering discrimination or prejudice. The project of equity within NOYO includes both official policies and informal principles (for example, our flexible audition requirements and broad allocation of financial aid) that ensure a uniformly positive and meaningful experience for everyone involved with the organization.
Inclusion, central to NOYO’s mission, means that we are determined to bring a wider array of participants to our programs and invest in the representation of different backgrounds among our students, board, and staff. We recognize that proactive energy is necessary in order to welcome historically excluded populations into NOYO, fostering a sense of belonging and empowering them to make music together.
Traditionally, one of the traits that has defined the institution of the orchestra is the extent to which it makes outsiders (particularly the non-wealthy, the non-White, and the young) unwelcome. We believe, however, that large-ensemble music-making is a vibrant medium for scalable music teaching and the cultivation of artistic technique alongside life skills like communication, teamwork, and self-motivation. The foundational social proposition of the extracurricular student orchestra or concert band is that young artists who represent a multitude of different communities and backgrounds but are equally passionate about the craft of music can come together each week to learn with and from one another. That proposition speaks powerfully to our society’s broader need to bridge seemingly insurmountable divides. If the orchestra is to survive in a society committed to equal happiness, prosperity, and justice for all of its people, urgent action to pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion is both morally and practically necessary.
Below are several measures NOYO takes to realize diversity, equity, and inclusion within our ensembles, board, and staff.
In pursuit of diversity, we recruit young musicians in grades three through twelve from school districts across northeast Ohio with the knowledge that these districts may serve communities whose racial makeup and socioeconomic contours differ widely. Furthermore, NOYO makes financial aid (including full scholarships) available to any participant who requests it; we are adamant that cost not be a barrier to participation. On our season concerts and through the Arlene and Larry Dunn Composer-In-Residence program, NOYO’s ensembles seek out repertoire by underrepresented and excluded composers.
In pursuit of inclusion, NOYO seeks out extraordinary musicians, educators, and community leaders of all backgrounds to serve on our staff and board. Just as importantly, we offer teaching opportunities and mentoring support to emerging artists and aspiring teachers through our partnership with the Oberlin Conservatory.
In pursuit of equity, NOYO enforces a code of conduct that expressly forbids the use of negative, degrading, intolerant or prejudicial speech or actions against a person or group of people based on race, gender, gender identity, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language ability, moral or political views, socioeconomic status, occupation or physical appearance.
NOYO’s 2021-2024 strategic plan sets forth several concrete action steps to reach our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Working with NOYO’s staff, our board of trustees monitors the organization’s progress through qualitative and quantitative data-gathering and is always seeking new strategies and practices to share. We recognize that the process of living up to our ideals is never fully complete, but by listening to the voices of marginalized and excluded people within and outside of NOYO, we hope that our changes will make us a model for peer youth arts organizations. Northeast Ohio deserves music institutions that embrace the values we would want our entire society to uphold.
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