Diversity: Report on the Montreal Session

Mon­day, May 1, 2017 | 1 – 4 PM EST
La Sala Rossa – 4848 boul. St-Lau­rent, Mon­tre­al, QC
A CNMN project fund­ed by Fac­tor and pre­sent­ed with Inno­va­tions en con­cert and Suoni per il popolo
We would like to thank our part­ners and spon­sors for mak­ing this project possible.

Report: Jen­nifer Waring

The final ses­sion of CNMN’s rolling nation­al con­ver­sa­tion on diver­si­ty focused on the issue of man­date – specif­i­cal­ly, the ways man­date might help achieve diver­si­ty goals, and the ways that aes­thet­ic man­date might con­flict with diver­si­ty goals.  The dis­cus­sion ranged wide­ly, though, as peo­ple spoke about the all the press­ing diver­si­ty issues.

The ses­sion began with a mod­er­at­ed full group dis­cus­sion involv­ing invit­ed guests and audi­ence seat­ed in cir­cle for­ma­tion; it was also avail­able to oth­ers via live stream­ing. After­wards, a short trust-build­ing exer­cise helped par­tic­i­pants change gears in prepa­ra­tion for intense, break-out discussions.

The Panel


Patri­cia Bouschel, pro­duc­er / board mem­ber of Inno­va­tions en con­cert (Mon­tre­al)


Dar­ren Creech, pianist/multidisciplinary artist (Toron­to)
Mar­tin Hes­lop, bassist/­co-own­er of Café Résonance/concert series orga­niz­er (Mon­tre­al)
Cléo Pala­tio-Quintin, flutist/improviser/composer/producer (Mon­tre­al)
Ida Ton­i­na­to, saxophonist/composer/improviser (Mon­tre­al)

Isak Gold­schnei­der wel­comed par­tic­i­pants and acknowl­edged the tra­di­tion­al territory:

We respect­ful­ly acknowl­edge that the land on which we are gath­ered is the tra­di­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry of the Kanien’kehá:ka peo­ple. The island called “Mon­tre­al” is known as Tiotia:ke in the lan­guage of the Kanien’kehá:ka, and it has his­tor­i­cal­ly been a meet­ing place for oth­er Indige­nous nations.

Open­ing remarks mod­er­a­tor by Patri­cia Bouschel:

Diver­si­ty, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, inclu­sion, audi­ence devel­op­ment; all these key­words have become the lin­gua fran­ca of pub­lic fund­ing guide­lines in Cana­da, guide­lines that are strong influ­encers on the man­dates both indi­vid­ual artists and arts orga­ni­za­tions adhere to which, in turn, shape the new music com­mu­ni­ty and its out­put, such as pro­gram­ming and new cre­ations. Let’s assume one speaks against a homo­ge­neous­ly white and male estab­lish­ment that sets the rules of access to per­for­mance spaces and cre­ation oppor­tu­ni­ties in order to cre­ate bet­ter mech­a­nisms that will increase par­tic­i­pa­tion and fos­ter the careers of those under­rep­re­sent­ed by skewed his­tor­i­cal par­a­digms. If great art must reflect the soci­ety from which it emerges, can we assume such mech­a­nisms will in fact gen­er­ate a large enough wave of change that will ade­quate­ly rep­re­sent and be rel­e­vant to our soci­ety today? Is the estab­lish­ment tru­ly seek­ing diver­si­ty and inclu­sion that would lev­el access and priv­i­lege? Is it mere­ly about acquir­ing the appro­pri­ate lan­guage? Are there still valences in the pro­gram­ming and fund­ing that accom­mo­date some groups over oth­ers? How is the focus on diver­si­ty affect­ing the man­dates of both indi­vid­ual artists and arts orga­ni­za­tions in the new music com­mu­ni­ty? What is the inter­play between man­dates and the ele­ments and dynam­ics of diver­si­ty as they relate to cul­ture, iden­ti­ty, com­mu­ni­cat­ing across dif­fer­ence, pow­er dif­fer­en­tials and fund­ing pol­i­cy expec­ta­tions? Are our man­dates tru­ly effec­tive at open­ing access and invig­o­rat­ing cre­ation? We’ve assem­bled mem­bers from Montreal’s new music com­mu­ni­ty to dis­cuss these notions, among oth­ers that will emerge organ­i­cal­ly from the discussion

Key comments & ideas:

Set­ting the basic terms: what do you under­stand diver­si­ty to be?

Respons­es from those assem­bled included:

  • Cul­ture, gen­der, ways of think­ing and creating.
  • The Con­seil des arts et des let­tres du Québec (CALQ) has recent­ly adopt­ed a very dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tion: diver­si­ty is rep­re­sent­ed by peo­ple who are immi­grants or first gen­er­a­tion cit­i­zens from cul­tures oth­er than British or French [ref. Plan d’action pour la diver­sité cul­turelle du CALQ, p.3]
  • Peo­ple of all dif­fer­ent backgrounds.
  • Age, income, gen­der iden­ti­ty, sex­u­al orientation.
  • Giv­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to mar­gin­al­ized communities.
  • Man­i­fest­ing diver­si­ty in all steps of the pro­duc­tion of a work of art.

Peo­ple are in dif­fer­ent posi­tions to address diver­si­ty in dif­fer­ent ways. We need to dis­man­tle sys­temic bar­ri­ers per­son­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly at all lev­els. – Dar­ren Creech

Fund­ing: Arts coun­cils ver­sus oth­er forms of support
Some background

Arts coun­cils came into being fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War. The world we live in, as artists, is pro­found­ly influ­enced by UNESCO, which stat­ed in a 1945 dec­la­ra­tion that if you build a world on com­merce and pol­i­tics, it inevitably leads to con­flict. But, if you build a world on com­merce, pol­i­tics, sci­ence and art, you will have a chance for peace. There­fore, sig­na­to­ry coun­tries were encour­aged to fos­ter arts and sci­ences. Cana­da ini­ti­at­ed the Massey com­mis­sion in 1949, which even­tu­al­ly led to the cre­ation of the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts in 1957. Most of the arts coun­cils in the West­ern world are all post-war – except for the Saskatchewan arts coun­cil, which was cre­at­ed in 1942 thanks to Tom­my Dou­glas’ ini­tia­tives with regards to the arts and health care. The whole mod­el which we live in is a pro­found reac­tion to WWII and try­ing to find a solu­tion, in order to avoid the next world cat­a­stro­phe, through invest­ment in sci­ence and the arts. – Tim Brady

We live, right now, in a nation pri­mar­i­ly descend­ed from Euro­pean cul­tures so if you’re trained in that tra­di­tion, you’re deal­ing with that reper­toire, the peo­ple con­trol­ling the fund­ing are often peo­ple who have also been trained in those tra­di­tions – so that’s the music they rec­og­nize as the most valu­able, the most inter­est­ing, the most pro­found – so  [a lack of diver­si­ty] is not real­ly their fault if that is their frame of ref­er­ence. If you want to change that from a fund­ing per­spec­tive, you real­ly need to involve more peo­ple from oth­er cul­tures … [who can expert­ly iden­ti­fy the projects root­ed in non-Euro­pean cul­tures to sup­port]. With­out that, there’s real­ly no way to bridge that fund­ing gap. I don’t know how you change that oth­er­wise. – Mar­tin Heslop


  • Some lev­el of finan­cial secu­ri­ty is nec­es­sary in order to be able to dream artistically.
  • Arts coun­cils and oth­er pub­lic fun­ders don’t always rec­og­nize and reward peo­ple who cre­ate out­side the norm. By their nature, coun­cils can only assess work and artists through cer­tain points of ref­er­ence, or dimensions.
  • It’s impor­tant for the com­mu­ni­ty to fig­ure out how to oper­ate inde­pen­dent of pub­lic support.
  • Col­lec­tive action is nec­es­sary in order to take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and ensure fair access and fair pay.
  • Grass­roots fundrais­ing is anoth­er means of funding.
  • In sit­u­a­tions of oppres­sion, it is up to the peo­ple in pow­er to share their priv­i­lege. They should ask how they can help.


  • Pur­suit of diverse prac­tices in music should begin with ear­ly learning.
  • It is impor­tant to acknowl­edge every community’s right to define its edu­ca­tion system.
  • New Music as cur­rent­ly prac­ticed requires a lot of train­ing. Not a bad thing, but it ampli­fies the chal­lenges to par­tic­i­pa­tion.  And it inter­sects with oth­er sys­temic prob­lems, such as ped­a­gog­i­cal mod­els that come out of an his­tor­i­cal West­ern Euro­pean art form dom­i­nat­ed by white, male prac­ti­tion­ers. Instead, we need to con­nect with oth­er modes of access and ways of cre­at­ing that are not com­ing from restric­tive traditions.
  • An audi­ence mem­ber ner­vous­ly offered that as a white male, at music school he did not feel he was a part of any priv­i­leged West­ern Euro­pean white male tra­di­tion, and he doesn’t he feel part of any oth­er mod­el, either. Doesn’t know where he fits – hasn’t been giv­en a lot of support.
  • Obser­va­tion: most peo­ple in Martin’s con­cert series Les Sym­pa­thiques stud­ied jazz in school (as he him­self did) where, off the top of his head, 85% of the stu­dents are male and 95% are white. More diver­si­ty at the per­for­mance end requires more diver­si­ty in ear­ly music education.
  • Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty has recent­ly made a change to its music cur­ricu­lum, remov­ing tra­di­tion­al the­o­ry cours­es, replac­ing them with crit­i­cal lis­ten­ing course and cours­es in how to think about music.

Role Mod­els

The ques­tion of mod­els is real­ly impor­tant… hav­ing vis­i­ble mod­els, this is true of all careers and fields for that mat­ter.  A woman, a young girl or a child will not imag­ine her­self in a pro­fes­sion if she has nev­er seen a mod­el, which she can relate to, doing that pro­fes­sion. So, for me, it’s obvi­ous that it’s the same thing for music. – Cléo Pala­cio-Quintin (the first woman to receive a doc­tor­ate in elec­troa­coustic com­po­si­tion from the Uni­ver­sité de Montréal)

  • How has soci­ety changed in the past few decades? In school, our mod­els are our teach­ers but their expe­ri­ences date from 20–30 years ago.

[I thought that I would] have the same con­di­tions as them. I didn’t real­ize that the world was chang­ing so fast that I would have to adapt much faster. …What we do with what we have and how we can make it bet­ter for every­body is the issue. – Ida Ton­i­na­to

  • There is a need for orga­ni­za­tion­al role mod­els, as well. Said one audi­ence mem­ber: The absence or invis­i­bil­i­ty of some­thing can be debil­i­tat­ing. It means that you have to use so much of your imag­i­na­tion just to cre­ate some­thing out of thin air.
  • Orga­ni­za­tions need to reflect val­ues that are out­side the mar­ket econ­o­my, out­side hier­ar­chi­cal models.

We have to make deci­sions that reflect what we think and what’s impor­tant to us because this is what we will leave to oth­ers. – Ida Ton­i­na­to

Artis­tic Pro­gram­ming: encour­ag­ing equi­ty and diversity

  • Per­form­ers need to look for reper­toire from diverse composers.
  • Many fac­tors to con­sid­er in pro­gram­ming. You may not be able to achieve every­thing in every con­cert. You have to find a bal­ance between address­ing the issues and main­tain­ing artis­tic liberty.
  • By default, we are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sys­tems that have been put in place by a colo­nial­ist soci­ety with racial and gen­der biases.
  • An exam­ple of the artis­tic man­date chal­lenge: the man­date of Mar­tin Heslop’s series Les Sym­pa­thiques is to pro­gram music that is inter­est­ing (tech­ni­cal­ly or semi­ot­i­cal­ly) or inno­v­a­tive, and this already skews the avail­able pool of can­di­dates. It’s a chal­lenge to fig­ure out how to reach out to oth­er demo­graph­ics than your own.
  • Equi­ty in artis­tic pro­gram­ming is not just a prob­lem in music: only 4% of the art in nation­al gal­leries is by women despite the fact that 60% of the artists who have come out of acad­e­mies since 2000 have been women.
  • Impor­tance of devel­op­ing a dai­ly artis­tic prac­tice that includes an aware­ness of being part of a diverse culture.
  • Artis­tic deci­sions should not be made only to meet diver­si­ty criteria.
  • Orches­tral music pro­gram­mers and main­stream cul­tur­al pro­gram­mers also need to have this con­ver­sa­tion because their pro­gram­ming prac­tices lack cul­tur­al diversity.
  • Tokenism: It is insult­ing to be pro­grammed just because you’re a woman.
  • New music cre­ators are inher­ent­ly look­ing for diver­si­ty, and they give lots of val­ue to some­one who comes from else­where. Impro­vised music in par­tic­u­lar cel­e­brates new approach­es to music mak­ing. Cléo gives the exam­ple of Ensem­ble Super­Musique. She has noticed that the diver­si­ty found among its mem­bers reflects that diver­si­ty found in Que­bec soci­ety. They real­ly val­ue some­one who has come from else­where, who brings new atti­tudes, new ideas, new ways of play­ing. The pro­gram­ming sit­u­a­tion is much tougher for orches­tras. In the clas­si­cal canon, there is such a long, pre­dom­i­nant­ly male, tra­di­tion of music com­po­si­tion. It would be eas­i­er to ensure diver­si­ty if clas­si­cal ensem­bles played more new music.
  • Ida coun­tered that obser­va­tion with a dif­fer­ent exam­ple: She recent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in a pan­el dis­cus­sion where a punk group com­prised of five women and a DJ duo com­prised of two women pre­sent­ed their work. Both groups formed for the same rea­son as Joane Hétu and Danielle Palardy-Roger of Super­Musique: not enough women are mak­ing music. It is thir­ty years lat­er, have things real­ly changed as lit­tle as that?

It’s true of Super­Musique. Punk group (5 women), DJs (2 women), same sto­ry as Super­Musique (same goals as Joane Hétu and Danielle Palardy-Roger). – Ida Ton­i­na­to

Per­haps the dis­crep­an­cy between male and female might trav­el across cul­tures, but as a jazz musi­cian if I’m play­ing some­thing from my tra­di­tion­al reper­toire, I’m deal­ing with com­po­si­tions that are exclu­sive­ly white. – Mar­tin Heslop

Pro­duc­tion, audience

Three use­ful actions for presenters/producers:

  • Keep your door open (research con­tin­u­al­ly, reach out habitually.)
  • Ask your­self whether the peo­ple you want to attract are there, and if not – why not?
  • Eval­u­ate out­comes. How much respon­si­bil­i­ty are you will­ing to take?

Per­form­ers need to think about how peo­ple might feel more at home in clas­si­cal music per­for­mance spaces.


Sum­ming up

When you’re try­ing to change a sys­tem, it’s very long and it’s very slow. – Tim Brady

  • The lack of diver­si­ty is a huge sys­temic prob­lem. How­ev­er, the flip side is that each lit­tle ges­ture does make a difference.
  • Cre­ative musi­cians are the first peo­ple to feel the next change, to expe­ri­ence first what the rest of soci­ety will feel about 25 years lat­er. In his book Noise (1977), French philoso­pher Jacques Attali sug­gests that music mak­ing is always the canary in the coalmine. All major social, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic trans­for­ma­tions in soci­ety start with music mak­ers. He pre­dict­ed, back then, that the dig­i­tal era and record­ing tech­nol­o­gy would rad­i­cal­ly trans­form the world. A lot of the prob­lems musi­cians are expe­ri­enc­ing will even­tu­al­ly become an issue in oth­er fields as well.

Smaller group discussions

For the sec­ond part of the ses­sion, par­tic­i­pants broke into small­er groups to dis­cuss cards con­tain­ing short­ly phrased thoughts writ­ten by fel­low par­tic­i­pants and redis­trib­uted anony­mous­ly. The full group recon­vened to share sum­ma­rized ideas.

Com­mu­ni­ty Cards from Hal­i­fax, Vic­to­ria and Montreal