Westchester Philharmonic makes inroads toward diversity
Expert musicians will tell you that every American genre has its roots in Black music – but in the halls dedicated to music at its highest level, there are almost no Black musicians.
Currently led by Joshua Worby, the Westchester Philharmonic prides itself on supporting artists of diverse backgrounds in an industry based on a 250-year-old white, European tradition.
"We want to personify on the stage what we hope to see in the house,” he says.
Over the past 10 seasons, the Philharmonic has worked with 30 conductors or guest soloists from diverse racial backgrounds. But of the freelance musicians that make up the orchestra, only three are people of color.
Eugene Moye, the principal cellist, is one of them.
"A lot of times I feel alone and am alone,” he told News 12.
According to the League of American Orchestras, less than 2% of musicians in the country's orchestras are Black.
Moye says the issue is not about race, but class. He credits Greenwich Public Schools for getting him where he is. He says some European and Asian countries encourage students to learn and appreciate classical music – not so much in the United States. It's something that Moye called “tragic.”
Many orchestras also have union contracts to give musicians some job security, so changing the face of an orchestra can only happen when someone chooses to leave.
Worby says there's so much more to do, but Westchester has been diversifying long before it was popular. The orchestra has found Black-owned businesses to work with, elected a Black board chair and has performed for many children who may not have ever been exposed to classical music.