Symphony says Cobb high school choirs not performing to give other schools a chance

Several upset Cobb parents alerted me to this story, but their version of why the Lassiter and Walton high schools choirs are not performing with the Atlanta  Symphony Orchestra this year differs dramatically from that of the orchestra leadership.

The orchestra contends it has nothing to do with the lack of racial diversity of the two choirs, but reflects the need to give other choirs a chance to perform with the ASO.

To be fair to the symphony, I have seen several holiday shows over the years, all with different local choirs. I am uncertain why there would be any expectation that once invited, a choir would be back every year.

According to the AJC:

For the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, it never rains but it pours.

On top of money troubles and bitter ongoing contract negotiations, the ASO has provoked a nasty public backlash when it was reported that the orchestra disinvited choruses from Lassiter and Walton high schools from the ASO’s holiday programs because the choirs weren’t “diverse enough.”

Websites lit up with negative responses.

“The ASO has just lost my business,” posted Linda McMichael, mother of a Cobb County high schooler. “They should be sued for racism.”

Earlier this week, Stanley Romanstein, president and CEO of the ASO, told Channel 2 Action News, “We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon, or Chastain, to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.”

But contacted Friday afternoon, Romanstein said he was referring to the eclectic programming offered by the ASO. The symphony has previously performed with the like of ZZ Topp and Dolly Parton.

“My comment was taken out of context,” said Romanstein, “and I’m not very happy about that.”

To the rescue Friday came the ASO Players Association, making an offer to stage free concerts at Lassiter and Walton. “The musicians have felt kind of helpless through this whole thing, trying to repair the relationships with the community,” said players representative and ASO principal trombonist Colin Williams. “The only way we know how is by performing.”

Jay Dillon, spokesman for Cobb County schools, said he didn’t know whether the schools were aware of the offer. “I will forward it to them as it seems like a reasonable remedy,” he said.

Romanstein said the controversy developed through a “misunderstanding.” Four years ago, he said, the ASO invited the choirs at Lassiter and Walton to participate in the symphony’s yearly holiday performances, which include Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs and appearances by Santa Claus. The ASO has a long tradition of performing with amateur groups, including the Atlanta Boy Choir and glee clubs at Spelman and Morehouse colleges.

At the end of the 2010 season, the schools were told the ASO could collaborate with Grady High School in 2012.

“We wanted to make sure other people had a chance,” said Romanstein. “The directors were cordial and understanding and thanked us for the opportunity to sing with the ASO. … How this got twisted on Monday into a racial battle … is really alarming.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

126 comments Add your comment

Bernie

August 17th, 2012
10:01 pm

I know why! , They are the children of the LUCKY GENE POOL CLUB! :)

IvyParent

August 17th, 2012
10:13 pm

Whatever that is supposed to mean…

jsmtih

August 17th, 2012
10:31 pm

i applaud the ASO for wanting a more diverse choir, i was just telling a friend the other day that the chorus that sings in the holiday program with the ASO ….. ” IS NOT AS DIVERSE AS I THINK IT SHOULD BE” ?????

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

August 17th, 2012
11:39 pm

Wow, I can’t believe Linda McMichael let herself go on record making such a stupid statement. Why should Lassiter and Walton have a monopoly on performing annually? It’s not owed to them, talk about feeling entitled…

William Casey

August 17th, 2012
11:46 pm

I’ve been gone from the Cobb County School System since 1980 but one thing hasn’t changed: The “East Cobb Entitlement Syndrome.” LOL

NoahVale

August 18th, 2012
12:21 am

An article on this story from the East Cobbler quoted Jay Dillon, “the schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus.” – Is ASO’s Romanstein back-pedaling in the AJC article by stating, “geographical diversity?”

Also, from the East Cobber article:

“Meanwhile, we also asked about the racial diversity of the ASO itself.

A 2008 study by the League of American Orchestras found that 87% of musicians in U.S. symphonies are white.

But Melissa A.E. Sanders, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s senior director of communications, wrote, ‘It is against our policy to share the race and/or ethnicity of our musicians, so I am unable to share that information.’”

Still, a class act by the ASO PA for offering to play free concerts at Walton and Lassiter.

Full East Cobber story – http://www.eastcobber.com/atlanta-symphony-thinks-two-cobb-high-school-choruses-not-diverse-enough/?utm_source=ENEWS+Aug+17+2012&utm_campaign=enews-august+17&utm_medium=email

FormerLHSChorusMember

August 18th, 2012
12:29 am

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra did not need to justify their decision by stating that Lassiter and Walton were not diverse enough. Diversity should not have been a factor in their decision AT ALL and shame on them for making it one of their deciding factors. That being said, there is nothing wrong with the ASO opening up the fantastic opportunity to other local choral programs. Lassiter and Walton have been fortunate for 4 years to perform with the ASO. HOWEVER, all the ASO needed to say was that they were opening up the opportunity to other programs, since LHS and WHS have had their moment in the spotlight.

Noble Square Nupe

August 18th, 2012
12:30 am

I sang in choirs at Walton from 98-01. And i’m black. I’m not going to lie. There were a few songs that we as a choir would sing and i would think “this just doesn’t sound right”. No offense, and not trying to sound racist, but there are some songs that were meant to be sung by a particular group of people. Why couldnt ASO just expand the program to include more choirs? And lets not forget, Walton and Lassiter are recognized INTERNATIONALY for chorus, band, and orchestra.

Eddie

August 18th, 2012
2:37 am

So, the ASO is going broke and this is the way they encourage community support? I wonder if their new motto should be – Performance does not a matter as long as we look like the United Nations.

NoahVale

August 18th, 2012
3:22 am

An article on this story from the East Cobber quoted Jay Dillon, “the schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus.” – Is ASO’s Romanstein back-pedaling in the AJC article by stating, “geographical diversity?”

Also, from the East Cobber article:

“Meanwhile, we also asked about the racial diversity of the ASO itself.

A 2008 study by the League of American Orchestras found that 87% of musicians in U.S. symphonies are white.

But Melissa A.E. Sanders, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s senior director of communications, wrote, ‘It is against our policy to share the race and/or ethnicity of our musicians, so I am unable to share that information.’”

Still, a class act by the ASO PA for offering to play free concerts at Walton and Lassiter.

jr

August 18th, 2012
3:51 am

oh give me a break you can call it what you want but its still discrimination.. When you tell and almost all white school they are not diverse enough but then you bring in a black school.. People can read between the lines.. Oh and let them tell that to Grady.. NAACP would be eating them alive….

Chaos

August 18th, 2012
5:45 am

“Not diverse enough…” And so it goes, all the kids (white, black, latino and otherwise) will sit at home because their choirs aren’t racially diverse enough. God help us. ASO has just participated in the discrimination that they thought that they were trying to protest.

Tabitha

August 18th, 2012
6:18 am

If the ASO wanted other good choirs to sing, there is not a problem. But when the ASO says your choir is not “diverse enough” that is just wrong at so many levels. First its an implied criticism of racism that is not true. Second, its a statement that what we value is the color of your skin, not the quality of your music. Third, these two choirs are about as “diverse” as the ASO. The ASO are hypocrites.
It seems that the ASO has compounded the problem with a lie which makes all this much, much worse.
The ASO just shot themselves inthe crotch. It was a willfully stupid decision that is likely unrepariable.

Dc

August 18th, 2012
7:05 am

And of course the same folks who cry “cobb entitlement syndrome” would be wanting someone to go to jail if this had happened to a more “diverse” high school……the double standard really does get old

Old timer

August 18th, 2012
7:46 am

Not being diverse enough is discrimination of its own.

rolls eyes

August 18th, 2012
7:49 am

well then Old person, lets just close the whole dang thing down so NO one is offended!

Pardon My Blog

August 18th, 2012
7:57 am

The ASO made a mistake early on by only inviting these two schools year after year instead of working with other high schools as well. The groundwork was laid to a sense of entitlement. To say that they are not diverse enough is racist especially when you look at other cultures represented at these two schools. Why should Morris Brown get to perform each year? I see no diversity there.

Having said that, each year different high schools (and not just from the Metro area) should be invited to try out for this special program irregardless of race, religion, etc. It should be to celebrate the youth and their talents, not the color of their skin.

Mad in Avondale

August 18th, 2012
8:24 am

TALENT knows no boundaries or barriers, color or otherwise. I am sick and tired of this diversity crap, when HARD WORK is what should be awarded. You talk of “entitlement”? My brother and his wife sacrificed YEARS to send their daughter to Lassiter and guess what, folks – she EARNED a music scholarship because of the hard work ethic instilled in her by her parents and a great mentor & teacher, Mr. Alfred Watkins. – a black man. Mr. Watkins didn’t notice what color or ethnicity his students were – he made them work their little asses off. Too bad for ASO, I hope they get the support they need from the diverse Atlanta population when all of the entitled Buckheaders & East Cobb folks refuse to pay for another ticket. I won’t be going to another concert.

UGA Parents

August 18th, 2012
8:45 am

Was the initial statement about not being diverse enough made by Mr. Romanstein in an e-mail, a phone call, a letter? I have not yet heard or read the exact details of how that statement was delivered to the schools. Mr. Dillon of Cobb schools states the “schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus.” Is Mr. Romanstein denying making such a statement? Is he trying to spin his statement? Did the choral directors misinterpret his statements? I lean toward believing the choral directors reported what was said to them and Mr. Romanstein is trying to spin his statement to look less offensive since he has not denied making such a statement.

Solutions

August 18th, 2012
8:46 am

Why not pair Grady with Walton or Lassiter for the gig at ASO? This diversity nonsense is just code talk for lowering standards and dumbing down education. I am tired of hearing the excuse that it is the “poor home environment” that holds black and brown kids back, it is not, rather it is all the things they have that distract them from books. Too much tv, internet, video games, and street time hold them back, not a lack of a tv, computer, internet connection, or video games. You cannot get more deprived than former President Abe Lincoln, reportedly doing homework by the light of the fireplace, and writing on the back of a shovel. But he was not distracted by tv, internet, games, and street thugs.

B

August 18th, 2012
8:50 am

And Grady is diverse? I guarantee they have a higher percentage of blacks in their choir that Walton and Lassiter have whites in their program. Does this mean Milton’s basketball team should not be able to play in the playoffs because they are not diverse enough?

Clark2

August 18th, 2012
8:52 am

di·ver·si·ty/diˈvərsitē/
Noun:
The state of being diverse; variety.
A range of different things.

Does this say anything about race? Nope. The ASO wants a variety of choirs. Using the word diverse was dumb, because people will jump to conclusions and get their panties in a wad.

The ASO wishes to give different kids the chance to sing. Why is that bad? And are they going to start using other choirs besides Gwinnett for major concerts now?

rolls eyes

August 18th, 2012
8:56 am

Clark2 so are you calling the kids things??

rolls eyes

August 18th, 2012
8:57 am

Solutions from what I understand is that they have over 200 kids in the choir and did not want to have to pick to set for the ASO’s diversity garbage…

Clark2

August 18th, 2012
8:59 am

from the Cobb Patch article (in which the original author did some serious spinning and publishing before getting hard facts from Cobb and a statement from the ASO)

“Because the full choruses would not be able to perform with the Symphony, both Lassiter and Walton have declined to participate this year.”

Other points: Grady is a great school and is not “all black”. Neither are Walton & Lassiter “all white”. Find out about the humans that go to those schools before you start tossing generalizations!

Clark2

August 18th, 2012
9:01 am

Rolls, give me a break. “Diversity” is a buzz word.

Clark2

August 18th, 2012
9:02 am

: differing from one another : unlike
2
: composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities

Happy?

rolls eyes

August 18th, 2012
9:03 am

honey your a bigot and its showing

SHS bandmom

August 18th, 2012
9:27 am

I am so glad that I did not let my child do their youth group. This whole thing makes me sad. If any of you know anything about chorus and band, this is not entitlement.. These kids work very hard. You learn to march in that heat. You practice every day for band. Have any of you ever seen the Lassiter Marching Band? They are where they are because they are GOOD. These are kids that want to be there. You can not get that good with Mediocricy

ASOrryyouscrewedup

August 18th, 2012
9:34 am

“The ASO has a long tradition of performing with amateur groups, including the Atlanta Boy Choir and glee clubs at Spelman and Morehouse colleges.” Wow, now that is a really diverse group. I’m not sure why people are calling the Cobb schools entitled, when they were invited year after year. And then to be suddenly told “you’re not diverse enough.” Anyone with half a brain can see what this is. If you question that, just turn it around to if a predominatly black school was uninvited for not being “diverse enough.” What do you think would happen then?

catlady

August 18th, 2012
9:37 am

I am glad they are giving other groups a chance. That sounds reasonable to me.

Chuntter

August 18th, 2012
9:45 am

Out of curiosity Maureen, among you salaried writers daily singing praises to the welfare state and our Food Stamp president over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … what percent are black?

Lee

August 18th, 2012
10:04 am

““We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon, or Chastain, to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.”

In today’s politically correct vernacular, “diversity” means non-white.

There was no “misinterpretation” here. Romanstein said exactly what he meant and now, realizing those same white people he just “dissed” make up the core population of people who donate to his organization, he’s in damage control mode.

As Homer Simpson would say; “Doh!!”

peter yaun

August 18th, 2012
10:26 am

So…does that mean that the Atlanta Symphony in their quest for diversity will forbid
the likes of the Mississippi Mass Choir, The Celtic Singers, white Italian opera singers, Afro-American Drummers, the Morman Tabernacle Choir, etc., etc., etc? (a phrase from “the King and I” which would also lack diversity (one English woman and a cast of Asians, for heaven sakes!)

SEE

August 18th, 2012
10:32 am

Nothing like biting the hand that feeds you!

RJ

August 18th, 2012
10:32 am

First, Grady is not Aa black school. I agree in choosing more schools. It really wasn’t necessary to say more diverse. Why should these be the only schools that get to perform. Good for them. And for the record Grady has a fine choir. Diverse or black does not mean subpar.

Really?

August 18th, 2012
10:39 am

RJ so you would be ok if Grady was told no bc they were not diverse enough?

SEE

August 18th, 2012
10:40 am

So, RJ, you agree, it IS a predominately black choir. “Diverse or black does not mean subpar”.

I’m sure if ASO disinvited a “diverse” choir for one that better displays the “unity” of the ASO, you’d be fine with that…right?

It’s not about allowing other choirs to participate…it’s about feeling comfortable saying in public that majority black choirs are okay, but not majority white. That’s the definition of discrimination.

Bernie

August 18th, 2012
10:42 am

SEE @ 10:32 am – I am quite sure in the ASO donation request forms there is NOT a disclaimer that says ” If you donate money to OUR organization, we in turn give you and your kids schools exclusive rights to have YOUR KIDS SCHOOL as the only performing group!”

This smells of the same sense of ENTITLEMENT that the more wealthy among us, are some how more special and deserve special consideration than anyone else because of their wealth and the things they bestow among the less fortunate.
I give you another perfect example! Mitt Romney ” I am not giving “YOU PEOPLE” any more information than I think YOU PEOPLE should have!

Solutions

August 18th, 2012
10:45 am

The people in Cobb have the Cobb Performing Arts Center, the one the Cobb County Commission forced on us by claiming it will give the public schools a place to perform. I notice their calendar is wide open, with lots of days when nothing is scheduled. Has anyone held the County Commission responsible for this boondoggle at the public’s expense? Walton and Lassiter should put on their own performance at the Cobb Performing Arts Center, in direct competition with the ASO!

SBinF

August 18th, 2012
10:56 am

Why the immediate thought of race? Diversity does not refer only to racial diversity. Sounds like the high schoolers need to suck it up. It’s an honor, not an entitlement to be chosen to sing along with the ASO.

SBinF

August 18th, 2012
11:01 am

And also, why is everyone crying about choosing choirs that don’t “measure up” to those at Walton and Lassiter. I miss the part where there is a competition to perform with the ASO. It is likely the highlight of a young choristers high school career. It seems that many more than just those at Walton or Lassiter should be given the opportunity to perform with a world class musical organization such as the ASO.

Michael

August 18th, 2012
11:07 am

Solution: select by lottery. This is a ridiculous argument to be having.

Interesting Observation

August 18th, 2012
11:19 am

We all know the word “diversity” is toxic in a deep red state. Get over yourselves already.

PatDowns

August 18th, 2012
11:34 am

40+ comments and only one poster has given kudos to the ASO Players Assoc. for trying to bring something positive to what probably is a massive lack of communication from ASO administrators. ALL of you are a sorry bunch.

bu2

August 18th, 2012
11:47 am

Actually several commended the players for trying to make up for the sorry ASO administrators.

It makes sense to have different choirs perform. I’m sure there are others that are close to Walton and Lassiter in caliber. But its obvious to anybody without their head in the sand that they were too white for the head of the ASO.

Follow the Course

August 18th, 2012
11:51 am

Loose or alienate your audience and loose your funding. The scope of the ASO decision transcends the purpose of the ASO. The “arts” are traditionaly “open” to all … not here … not anymore.

Georgia Coach

August 18th, 2012
11:51 am

@William Casey I am sure you experienced North Fulton entitlement too! ASO used a poor choice of words, but opening the opportunity up to others is a positive thing. Walton and Lassiter will survive.

Bernie

August 18th, 2012
11:57 am

SBinF @ 10:56 am – Unfortunately, In Georgia and especially in the South and across the Nation terms like Diversity, Inclusion, Fairness, Equality, Equal opportunity and doing the right thing by others are very DIRTY and OFFENSIVE words and terms!

Any other similar words or terms that does not agree or support the “White ONLY” mindset, that WE are better than YOU! We have more MONEY than YOU, We can and should be allowed to do what ever we WANT, Say whatever We Want to Anyone, Whenever we WANT and if you disagree, you just need to SHUT UP , BE QUIET and get back over there somewhere, away from US and GET back into your PLACE.

You are also a TRAITOROUS S.O.B. and you should be run out of town! Never to be seen around these parts again. If You do not like it…Its TOO BAD for YOU!

Welcome to America and The South……Always has been that Way and Always Will remain that way! it seems…. :) chanting crowds of…….USA! USA! USA!

Prof

August 18th, 2012
11:58 am

When I first read the news story about this, I thought it was unfortunate that Mr. Romanstein had used the word “diverse.” That word has become code for “racial/ethnic minorities,” whereas usually in the musical arena it means “varied time-periods of music” or “different groups of players or instruments”…all relating to the music.

I agree with Maureen that I don’t see why the choirs should expect to be asked back every year when that’s not the usual ASO policy.