This month marks the first full year of the SEAMUS Diversity and Inclusion Committee and its meetings, projects, and activities. The current committee participants – Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner; Ted Coffey; Monisola Gbadebo; Ralph Lewis; Jiayue Cecilia Wu; and Caroline Miller – wish to thank all SEAMUS members for their support and encouragement during this inaugural year. Accomplishments of the organization include a record number of female representatives on our board with the election of Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Lyn Goeringer, and Olga Oseth as new officers; the option of stating preferred pronouns on conference nametags; a SEAMUS cd volume with a good gender balance; significant female representation on adjudication panels for all SEAMUS events, awards, projects, and conferences; and a strong showing of survey participants in our initial questionnaire for SEAMUS conference aspirants. Additionally, this year’s conference featured a remarkable number of fine pieces with diverse approaches including instrument design and automation, use of alternate controllers, and performance art. Personally, as I am the participant in many conferences and discussions in other musical disciplines, I can tell you that SEAMUS is light years ahead of several other major musical organizations in terms of our desire and impetus to create an atmosphere that is truly welcoming to all who wish to be a part of us.
However, a close look at our overall membership data shows that our fervent desire is not matched by our demographics. This may signal that though SEAMUS does not actively exclude diverse genders, races, and aesthetics, the organization is possibly practicing passive exclusion, setting boundaries and barriers that create a space where someone may “peek through the door and think, ‘Nope! I don’t want to or I cannot go in there.’” Some factors leading to passive exclusion that can be documented within the organization include:
- Gender Identity – 75 percent of SEAMUS membership identifies as cisgender male. (cisgender – denoting a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex)
- Racial Identity – about 85 percent of SEAMUS membership identifies as Caucasian.
- Professional Identity – the majority of our members come from professions in academia and the majority of our opportunities are for composers.
- Religious Identity – we have had conferences that have conflicted with major religious holidays for several religious groups, most notably the Jewish community.
- Age – our success with building strong student participation via targeted opportunities illustrates that such focused projects for other groups can/could also lead to greater inclusion.
- Economic Status and Means (including parental status) especially in terms of conference travel – with a “Pay to Play” setup for our conference participation, many members or prospective members are barred from enjoying this important networking and collegial opportunity due to finances. Additionally, persons having limited travel time due to parenting or elder care obligations face barriers to participation.
- Aesthetic Motivations and Interests – some of us have joked before about “a typical SEAMUS piece” especially with conference and recording inclusion; how to go beyond this to create a more varied, nuanced, and celebratory statement of the definition of “electroacoustic music” continues to often be a challenge.
Our report to the membership that was given at the annual conference meeting included some visualization of the data that was gathered from conference applicants who filled out our short survey. The first set of graphics show in an easy-to-read pie chart format our demographics for members wishing to attend this event:
A second graphic begins to map possible correlation/causations within the data. The largest represented demographic/economic/professional groups are at the top with the smaller groups gradually moving towards the bottom of the chart, providing a visualization of the survey data working together to create a report of our conference applicants:
This graphic shows that participation in this one major opportunity for performance, networking, and collegiality is significantly taken advantage of by our Caucasian, tenured/tenured track, cisgender male SEAMUS members.
Such data for this one of many opportunities for our membership is simply meant as a report, not as a pejorative scolding! However, it is important to study and work with the story that this particular data tells since conference participation, paper sessions, and performances (not just at SEAMUS but within other organizations such as ICMA, NIME, AMS, and CMS) remains the single most significant opportunity for our members to network; get a non-provincial overview of the “state of the art”; informally interview with each other for jobs, commissions, and artist-in-residence gigs; and just generally get a creative “recharge” that can be vital to professional and personal success.
With the goal of continuing our work to become an organization of active inclusion rather than passive exclusion, the SEAMUS D and I Committee will be launching an anonymous comprehensive membership-wide survey later this year. Modeled on our initial conference applicant survey, this questionnaire will focus on capturing member data (including gender, race, ethnicity, musical interests and aesthetics, conference and other professional opportunity ideas and interests, socio-economic status, and creative ideas and suggestions for a robust organization). This data will help set an agenda based on the needs and desires of our present and future membership. All current members will be given plenty of notice and time to participate, and we wish for all to be heard. Stay tuned to the newsletter and listserv for more details and links.
In the meantime, our committee will continue to work on some projects that we began last year and we strongly encourage your input on these current ideas and plans:
- The creation of more non-travel-related opportunities for members including online concerts, YouTube channel distribution and other video opportunities, and professionally-mastered and distributed recordings.
- The solicitation of sponsorships for awards, grants, and fellowship opportunities directed towards diverse categories, instrumentations, demographics, and aesthetic and research interests of our membership. [For an example of the possibilities, please see the diverse awards structure of the IAWM Search for New Music and the Pauline Alderman Research Awards offered by another music organization]
- The organization, funding, and creation of a program of “travel fellowships and grants” focused on particular financial needs and/or other criteria that can be applied for by participants in our conference opportunities.
- The development of a structured, formalized, and publicized cost-sharing and cost-saving apparatus (hotel roommate finder, composer/performer collaboration finder, childcare services) to facilitate easier travel and expense planning by participants in our conference opportunities.
- The encouragement of our members who are currently employed by or may be employed in the future by institutions such as music camps, community arts centers, community colleges, and historically black colleges (which feature far more diverse populations than traditional 4-year colleges and universities) to actively support and publicize and passionately solicit their students and colleagues about the SEAMUS organization and participation in it.
These ideas and projects all came from participants in the 2019 annual meeting as well as Facebook posts, and personal emails and discussions with D and I committee members. The committee looks forward to your continued enthusiastic participation in our surveys and projects and we invite all of you who wish to even further increase your involvement in our mission and activities to either contact Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner at [email protected] or Ted Coffey at [email protected].