It was with the greatest pleasure that I accepted Dale Olsen's invitation to serve as Chair of the Committee on Cultural Diversity. This charge held a special attraction for me in light of my long-standing professional involvement with music and musicians often overlooked by traditional academic and concert institutions. Furthermore, I felt this to be an important and timely task given the current political climate and The College Music Society's well known commitment to promoting diversity in all aspects of music education.
Rapid demographic and technological transformations are having profound impact on existing political institutions throughout the land. These changes have strong implications for institutions of higher learning and are fueling the need to reexamine our roles as both pedagogues and practicing musicians. Coming to terms with the multiplicity of issues raised by these phenomena not only makes political and economic sense but is also fundamental to the advancement and well-being of our profession.
The controversy surrounding diversity rages on unabated. Like wild fire, it has quickly and uncontrollably spread through all areas of academic life. Affirmative Action has been legally abolished in some states forcing institutions of higher learning to adopt admission and recruiting policies completely divorced from previously accepted ethnic and gender considerations. In other regions of the country, diversity considerations are still officially on the books but hardly ever discussed or enforced. In many instances, these new practices have resulted in a sharp downturn in attendance and participation by minority students.
As teachers, administrators, composers and performing artists, we have an obligation to reach out to all constituents of today's society. Diversity enriches the educational experience of all individuals. Student bodies and faculty who truly represent all segments of the entire population enhance the educational experience for all constituents of the academic environment.
Professional organizations including opera companies, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and presenting organizations are being forced to justify continued financial support from local and national governmental institutions. Their programming faces growing scrutiny from the point of view of relevance and public appeal. Funding agencies are also paying attention to the make-up of their regular public. Musical institutions are facing tremendous pressures to attract a wider audience and to be responsive to the needs of an ever more diverse population.
Similarly, university music departments are being confronted by comparable pressures and challenges. These range from the need to revise existing curricula and didactic methods that will prepare students to deal with the professional realities of the twenty-first century to the need to achieve the proper balance between the study of traditional and innovative disciplines.
We cannot escape the pressing exigency to make our artistic and teaching institutions truly reflective and inclusive of a diverse populace espousing a multitude of aesthetic viewpoints.
The current members of the Diversity Committee and I expect to build on the long-standing tradition for innovation and inclusion that The College Music Society has amply demonstrated. In the recent past, national and regional conferences sponsored by the Society have provided an appropriate forum for productive discussions concerning how topics involving ethnicity and gender affect our professional lives.
I invite your participation in the Cultural Diversity Open Forum to be scheduled during the upcoming National Conference in Toronto. Or, if you prefer, you may communicate your concerns via the electronic discussion group hosted by the National Office. To subscribe, please consult the CMS Web site.
- To conclude, I want to acknowledge the current members of the Committee on Cultural Diversity:
- Michelle Edwards, MacCalester College
- Mary Kathleen Ernst, University of Virginia
- Paul Konye, Siena College
- David Maves, College of Charleston
- William Ortiz, University of Puerto Rico
- Brenda Romero, University of Colorado
- Kathleen Wilson, University of New Hampshire
Max Lifchitz is active as a composer, performer, arts administrator, and educator. A graduate of The Juilliard School and Harvard University, he was invited to join the faculty of the University at Albany, SUNY in 1986. Previously, he held teaching appointments at the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. During the fall semester of 2006, Lifchitz served as the Elena Diaz Verson Amos Eminent Scholar in Latin American Studies at Columbus State University in Georgia.
In addition to teaching a variety of music courses and general education offerings, Lifchitz has served the University at Albany as Chair of the Music Department and the Department of Caribbean, Latin American, and US Latino Studies. In the spring of 2005, he was honored with the University at Albany’s Excellence in Research Award.
His creative endeavors have been supported by grants and fellowships from the ASCAP Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; Meet the Composer, Inc.; The University of Michigan Society of Fellows; the CAPS Program of New York State; and the National Endowment for the Arts. As a pianist, Lifchitz was awarded the first prize in the 1976 Gaudeamus Competition for Performers of Contemporary Music held in Holland. His concert appearances throughout Latin America have been underwritten by the Fund for US Artists at International Festivals. Lifchitz is the founder and artistic director of the New York City-based North/South Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble dedicated to performing music by composers from the Americas.