Updated Thursday, June 4, 2020 - Recently, our world witnessed the horror of yet another Black man dying at the hands of the very individuals charged with keeping the peace. George Floyd’s murder has spurred protests and a call to action on a scale not seen in decades. It has, perhaps for the first time, succeeded in shaking many in our nation out of their complacency. At ESYO, our hearts ache for all of those who have lost friends and family members to such injustice, and we are resolute in our determination to stand in solidarity with those fighting for real change. Fighting for there to be a difference this time. For there to be true reform at last.
ESYO believes that music has the power to connect us as humans, to fill us with a joy that transcends cultural differences, language barriers, or economic disparities. As a youth orchestra, we provide a space for that connection to happen; a way for young people from across our region to gather to make music and share laughter within an atmosphere of "serious fun." Since 1979, ESYO has had its doors open to all qualified players; but five years ago, we decided we could do more than just hold the door open; we could begin building a broad path to the entryway and help all children discover the joy of ensemble-based music-making. Since 2015, we have expanded our reach, we have stepped through the door and extended our hand, and yet we know we still need to do so much more.
This past winter, ESYO won a grant through the League of American Orchestras to support our efforts to expand our understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. ESYO’s Board, faculty, and staff are all united in a common desire to be inclusive, to provide an equitable program for all youth, but we need help learning how best to communicate that desire. We seek guidance on how to take the necessary action. ESYO created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force in March to utilize the grant funding to identify a consultant to guide our efforts. This Task Force includes members of our faculty, staff and Board, as well as two of our Young Leaders. As a youth orchestra, we know that our youth have a powerful voice, and that, as adults, we have much to learn from them. As our work progresses, we look forward to sharing our plans for the 2020-2021 season with you.
Back in March, we knew this work was important. Now, in light of the events unfolding in our nation today, we know this work is imperative. We are ready to listen, to learn, and to grow, side by side with our youth, our families and our community. We know that we have a powerful musical voice to share and we look forward to being a part of the positive change our nation deserves.
Becky Calos, Executive Director
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - At Empire State Youth Orchestra, we mourn the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury, Tony McDade and too many others. We are saddened that the destruction and discrimination felt throughout our history is not a thing of the past but is clearly in evidence today.
Part of our job as educators is to lead by example, and to foster in our young musicians the courage to lead change and advocate for a more just and empathetic world. We stand with those committed to a world where justice prevails, and we are committed as an organization to fostering equality and fighting racism. We stand as one; we are stronger together.
Thomas Merton said, “silence is consent”; we cannot be silent.
-The ESYO Team