“I’M IN”! Baselining Inclusion & Creating Opportunity in Music
Music Masters (formerly London Music Masters) is a charity that was founded in 2008 by Victoria Robey OBE and Prof. Itzhak Rashkovsky. Its vision is truly inclusive: a world where every single child can benefit from the extraordinary power of music. Led by new Chief Executive Officer Roz De Vile, it works in schools and in orchestras to positively impact the lives of schoolchildren and early career musicians, providing access to build their talent that might sadly have been absent before.
Music Masters’ launch of I’M IN in 2020 is a huge step forward for inclusion in the music sector, and is a reflection of the critical moment we are in. Music Masters’ work done in recent years has meant that the door was open at the right time.
Already the I’M IN campaign has had a fantastic signup across music and commercial organisations. The proof on change for D&I within music will be in the pudding in 12 months’ time and beyond.
Systemic & collaborative
I’M IN shows that for the first time, music seems to be taking a systemic and collaborative approach to systemic challenges, rather than working in siloes and piecemeal. Music Masters is at the forefront.
There is a big historical challenge to overcome in addressing D&I in the classical music sector. Because there is so much tradition and resistance, this is a unique challenge even when set against other artistic forms. Classical music in the West tends to lean on the same big composers, year after year: Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Wagner.
The overexposure to these composers, former Executive Director Rob Adediran told us, is astonishing. It cannot be possible that in the entire history of classical music, there have only been a handful of genius white men. These terms of reference have led to a culture of marginalisation of different voices and talents. He says that music – as with other cultural access – is a universal human right, and if that’s not happening, something’s wrong. Moreover, the art itself will suffer. If we can build a more diverse workforce, talent pool and audience, the art will be enriched.
Music Masters has sought to help young musicians who were graduating from music schools out of their bubble, not being confident that they would be accepted for who they are. It has therefore taken on responsibility for shifting the sector and to increase comfort with the discourse of inclusion.
The major challenge in a purpose-led organisation like Music Masters has been to improve access and drive change. Rob observes that many of the actions taken on D&I in the sector have historically been at the individual or company level: ‘given the amount of interconnection in a relatively small sector like ours, this approach is not sufficient to produce real change’.
Included’s first support for (London) Music Masters came in 2014, through our participation in a panel discussion at Southbank Centre entitled ‘Class, Race and Classical Music’.
The Included team worked with academics, authors, and music professionals, and participated in a series of talks including the one at the Southbank Centre. We then worked with the team again in 2017 to start to imagine a practical diversity tool that might change the sector – and to imagine what an inclusive music sector could look like. Rob said of our joint work together that “the Included team was tremendous. It was incredible what they did.”
The work conducted with Rob and the team helped to contribute to the 2020 launch of ‘I’M IN’, Music Masters’ inclusive music index, in conjunction with consulting firm AlixPartners (another subject of this report). A significant disruptor to the music sector, I’M IN is the industry’s first truly accessible and affordable D&I strategy tool designed specifically for music organisations. One of its functions will be to audit music institutions on their D&I progress. This is the first step on the road to boosting marginalised-group participation in classical music, and ultimately to enrich artistic output.
I’M IN, years in the making, has arrived at a critical moment, and the work performed by Music Masters in recent years represents readiness for it. 2020 has proved to be the very moment for which Music Masters was founded – much like Included. The widening of the Black Lives Matter movement has seen an increase in external pressure on the music industry, opening the door further for change. I’M IN marks a significant step forward for the music industry.
Already, organisations of all sizes have signed up to I’M IN – from small organisations with turnovers of £70,000, to the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, to Conservatoires and 4-18 music hubs that represent the key to music education. Moreover, the commercial sector, not involved in these discussions, are now providing a voice at the table. Convening such a diverse group of stakeholders with a commitment to change is a huge step forward already. This first year’s impact will be about creating key baselines that we can return to and measure progress by in the future.
More broadly, what we are seeing with initiatives such as I’M IN is a profound change in the music sector: away from siloed and uni-institutional action, towards the concept of inclusion as a systemic challenge which requires systemic (or system level) solutions.
As Rob has it, “we are now seeing, on a regular basis, music organisations using this language and engaging with programmes like ours which are designed to reveal underlying causes of inequality. This is new, certainly in my experience of the industry over the past 15 years.”
Despite being a recent 2020 launch, I’M IN is already starting to be used at scale, with wide enthusiasm and sign-up across the sector. Time will tell what the D&I metrics are saying and what the meaningful impacts for the artform will look like. The tool will assess the level of and appetite for radicalism of its members. We look forward to checking in again on I’M IN with Music Masters in 12 months. The very fact of its name change in 2020 – dropping the ‘London’ to better reflect the charity’s extended national reach and impact – is telling.
Of course, a lot still needs to change. Very little of how the music industry currently operates is compatible with inclusive working. But there’s real hope that a corner has been turned, based on this year of all years. As Rob says, “for change to happen it has to happen everywhere: in education, in management, in ensembles, in the commercial sector, in festivals and in venues. We hope that the breadth of organisations who are taking part will inspire others to join us on this mission.” New CEO Roz De Vile points out that I’M IN is not simply a thought-provoking exploration into D&I, but a practical, relevant and accessible tool that is already influencing real change within many organisations. She told us that “we look forward to working together with many more organisations to create a more inclusive music sector – a sector that genuinely welcomes, nurtures and appreciates diverse talent at every level and in every role.”
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