Orchestrate Diversity

Friday night we watched from the seats of Disney Hall as Zubin Mehta, the former conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic slowly walked out on the arm of the violinist Pinchas Zukerman to conduct Brahms’ Violin Concerto. Mehta was carefully guided up a ramp to the conductor’s platform and led the orchestra from a chair due to his frail health. It was a breathtakingly beautiful performance. I had a sense that this is the last time I would see him conduct.

I thought back to when I was in my 20’s and would come to see the LA Phil at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion. It was a much bigger space and did not have the sound quality for which the Disney is world famous. The orchestra was mostly white and almost completely male. Mehta who is from India was part of the blind auditioning that began to hire musicians who played behind a curtain so women and minorities were hired at higher rates.

This Friday, when I counted, (and I always count) how many women, Asian Americans, African Americans… I saw about 35% women, 20% Asian and 2 African Americans, I saw progress, but not enough.

Why? Because we become what we see modeled. We believe we can play for the LA Phil if we see other people like us playing. Obviously virtuosity matters for a world class orchestra. But, what I’ve seen at Disney Hall and I saw recently at the Hollywood Bowl, is Chinese Americans showing up to see Lang Lang play. Then a mostly Hispanic community showing up for La Santa Cecilia, Cafe Tacuba and Mon LaFerte. The jazz concert drew from all of Los Angeles communities.

It seems to me it is good business to orchestrate diversity on stage and the audience will follow.

How do we bring that greater awareness to our businesses? Are we losing potential customers because we have not diversified our team? Are we even aware that our customers may be looking at our diversity as a sign of vigor, future thinking or hustle? This week, let’s ponder how we are doing reaching out to all parts of our community to orchestrate diversity. It can be breathtakingly beautiful.