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The arts have the potential for amazing and powerful influences on society; we as artists have the unique ability to reflect upon the society in which they were created. And when we reflect upon society, we are not only preserving the virtues of our era, but we are exposing the flaws. This is an aspect of the concert-going experience of classical music that gets mostly overlooked. The general Euro-masculine programming practice, and thus how classical music is mostly consumed, has been more or less identical for hundreds of years. This practice has forced classical music into an undesirable spot in our culture at large, with an aura of elitism that markets itself as inaccessible. Fortunately, in the last few years, individuals and institutions have taken steps to counteract this unfortunate development. Outreach concerts are an essential aspect of most major musical institutions, and musicians around the world have taken steps to develop a more accessible presence and to bring our music to a broader audience. These are great steps towards our assimilation into our culture; in fact, a wide range of community engagement is an essential part of our mission at Opus Illuminate. But we believe that this is only a part of the work we need to do.
Opus Illuminate is not advocating for the elimination of any common practice classical music. It is a testament to the brilliance of past composers that we’ve been playing these pieces for centuries and still have not tired of them. There's a reason we all love these works, but there's also a reason, one of racial injustices and prejudices, that all the composers we know and love are of a single demographic. We are not choosing to condemn works written by white men of the past. What we must choose to condemn is the societies that actively made it impossible for people of other demographics to be successful in the arts. We believe we must take a stand as a community and rise above the faults of our predecessors. If we continue to play music exclusively by white men of the past, we are still complicit in the system that allowed for only them to rise to prominence. We must, as artists, reflect upon our own current society, and not merely stay blind to the effects of its deeply flawed past.
By experiencing a whole new collection of works by composers of diverse demographics, we will be beautifying and enriching not only our culture as classical musicians, but our culture at large. We can change our society by choosing to allow high art to finally represent all the people of a vast spectrum of cultures, heritages, and communities, who have dedicated their lives to the craft.
Opus Illuminate is a performance organization dedicated to expanding and enriching the classical music industry by programming and performing works by composers of historically underrepresented communities and heritages. Along with substantial community engagement efforts, the diversification of programming that Opus Illuminate emphasizes will revitalize the spirit and cultural relevance of classical music and work towards reestablishing the art form as the pioneering force in the efforts of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging across the cultural sector.
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