CNMN Conversations are an opportunity to discuss relevant issues with recognized experts. These events offer our membership a chance to engage more regionally between our biennial Forums and to keep the conversations that emerge at our national meetings alive.

  • Decolonization Series

    We invite you to Canadian New Music Network’s series of knowledge-sharing online events for the creative music and sound community around decolonization. These six conversations address inequalities and oppression in our practice, to support a more generous and inclusive culture that is deeply understood within our communities.

    New music is undergoing a fundamental reexamination of its practices, history and community. Until recently, “new music” was understood among its practitioners as a non-commercial art form whose roots were anchored in the Western European tradition —which likewise shaped most music education and production. Within a colonial, and white supremacist model of cultural policy and funding, “new music” was valorized and thereby profited from the same systems which restricted and/or criminalized other traditions of creating and listening.

    As a community, we need to divest from the exclusion, suppression and underestimation of difference and establish respectful practices, frameworks and relations. Decolonization and the essential structural upheaval it requires on a personal, community and institutional level present enormous challenges, but guide us towards more equitable, representative, and meaningful sound making. Join us!

    January 14 @ 7 pm EST — We can’t play their game, their way
    Curator: Remy Siu
    Guests: Gabriel Dharmoo, Melody McKiver, Nancy Tam & Leslie Ting


    5 composers and musicians with multidisciplinary practices discuss their experiences interfacing with the larger structure of “new music” and its euro-centric priorities. Can anything be achieved without fundamentally re-arranging or removing the processes, materials, and/or methods of distribution that currently define the dominant practices? Can we move forward without confronting the possibility that “new music” and “classical music” in its practice and pedagogy does more harm than good?

    February 11 @ 7 pm EST
    Curator: Curtis Lefthand

    April 22 @ 7 pm EST
    Curator: Gabriel Dharmoo

    December 3 @ 7 pm EST — Process vs. Product
    Curator: Olivia Shortt
    Guests: Olivia C. DaviesKim Senklip HarveyMarion Newman & Tyler J. Sloane

    November 12 @ 7 pm EST — Can Western art music ever be equitable in practice and in perception?
    Curator: Parmela Attariwala
    Guests: Pat Carrabré, Ian Cusson, Lise Vaugeois, Dinuk Wijeratne

    October 22 @ 7 pm EST — Decolonial Imaginings
    An event in support of of-the-now’s Decolonial Imaginings project around Dylan Robinson’s new book Hungry Listening.

    Curators: Dylan Robinson & Mitch Renaud
    Settler composers: jake moore, Jocelyn Morlock, Juliet Palmer, Luke Nickel, Kelly Ryan
    Respondents: Tina Pearson, Tamara Levitz

    CNMN presents this series in collaboration with the Canadian League of Composers and the Canadian Music Centre.

  • Equity & Diversity – Winnipeg 2019

    On March 2, 2019, CNMN partnered with Cluster Festival to offer a knowledge-sharing event around questions of Equity & Diversity in the new music community. We were hosted by the wonderful and welcoming spaces of Creative Manitoba, right in the heart of the Cluster Festival activity.

    We began the day with a presentation by Erin Gee, whose proposal was to speak of the encouragement/discouragement of interdisciplinary creative practices in institutional environments. Erin described her education and the challenges and opportunities that she encountered all through the lens of voices and bodies, both human and machine. Her practice creating AI has given her a unique perspective on human interactions, on the work of collectives and on how machines are speaking to us.

    During our coffee break, Jeff Morton introduced us to a listening game/piece that we could all participate in and that would help him present later in the day. It involved recording sounds of relative silence and our presence in them and thus meditating on our agency in spaces.  

    Melody McKiver sensitized the group towards some of the Indigenous realities in Winnipeg and in their home area of Sioux Lookout before discussing their recent meetings at the Banff Centre of a collective of Indigenous classical musicians to prepare document on best practices for collaborations with the wider classical music community. They shared this document with us and underlined its main message: Nothing about us without us. They also shared recent experiences of working with youth in Sioux Lookout and surrounding reserves, which generated a lot of feedback and discussion.

    After lunch, Jeff Morton facilitated a discussion of equity and diversity with Erin Gee, Melody McKiver, Remy Siu and Vicki Young. Vicki presented the work that Manitoba Chamber Orchestra has been doing and the IDEA manifesto that Orchestras Canada has presented, which aims to define Equity, Diversity and Access and to exhort orchestras to take a lead in promoting these. The conversation often touched upon the ways in which many of these structures are in themselves inherently Euro-centric and how that plays out in current movement towards cultural inclusion. The question of aesthetic diversity also came up, as well as issues of tokenism, the timeline for real rather than superficial changes, and the future audiences for our practice.

    To lighten the atmosphere, Jeff Morton offered a window onto his practice and work with the arts collective Holophon by having us listen to the results of the morning’s recording. He encouraged us to find or give up agency in our listening and engaging.

    Remy Siu continued the critique of euro-centric music infrastructure and from his bi-continental multi-disciplinary perspective. He challenged us with the question of what we are willing to “give up” in new music in order to achieve diversity or equity, and suggested a few ways to add pluralism to the processes and gatekeepers. He used his personal experiences as a background for these calls to action.

    The conversations continued beyond the closing of the day in small groups and then into the bar and the subsequent fantastic Cluster Festival concert.

    Many people joined us also through the livestream on Facebook, which stayed active for a week after the event. An edited version will soon be available on CNMN’s YouTube channel.

    This event was made possible thanks to the support of FACTOR.

  • Acknowledgements

    CNMN would like to thank the following program and event sponsors that helped make this project possible.

    SOCAN Foundation
    Canada Council for the arts
    Government of Canada
    Canada’s private radio broadcasters

    Local & regional
    Montreal: Innovations en concert, Suoni per il popolo
    Victoria: Open Space, British Columbia Arts Council, BC Community Gaming Grants, Capital Regional District, City of Victoria, Victoria Foundation, CFUV 101.9
    Halifax: Upstream Music Association, SuddenlyLISTEN


    FACTOR CanadaWordmark-Combined-CMYK-Black+Red




    SOCAN Foundation Logo_Outlined

    Canada Council for the Arts




  • Sustainability – Vancouver 2019

    On February 23, 2019, CNMN hosted a knowledge-sharing event around Sustainability for the new music community at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Sustainability at UBC (CIRS). The goal was to discuss ways our practice can be more sustainable and the costs and advantages of such ecological stewardship.

    We began the day with a Soundwalk led by Hildegard Westerkamp. Despite rain and slightly chilly conditions, everyone welcomed the opportunity to, as Hildegard suggested, “come into the presence of sound in this location, to create a listening atmosphere for the day ahead of us, to listen together to the sound world around us, to the group and indeed to our own ways of listening.” A discussion of our impressions, thoughts and experiences followed.

    This led seamlessly into a talking circle facilitated by Rob Thomson, who encouraged everyone to present themselves, their home territory and to share one way that they are practicing sustainability in their everyday life. Answers ranged from rejecting the use of plastics in the household to reducing air travel. Rob closed with a presentation some of the work Full Circle is doing on sustainability, including efficiency in the way they book our traveling performers and how they maximize their stay.

    This opportunity for each participant to present their self, situation and ideas led to an animated lunch-time discussion still in our talking circle.

    To rouse us from our lunches, Sharon Kallis invited everyone to participate in rope making. Once she had taught us the basics, she began to share some stories about her practice of “connecting to this place through the plants, bringing others along for that journey, working with plants like stinging nettle which can serve as culture connectors.” Hearing about such direct work with issues of stewardship and sustainability raised a lot of questions about how that might translate to music and sound practice.

    For the conversation part of the afternoon,  Tina Pearson suggested we work in pairs or trios to enable more personal and vulnerable conversations around what sustainability, ecology and art practice raise for people. She provided us with a statement in the run-up to the event that framed the conversation:

    Many in the new music community have begun to at least consider changes to themes and materials of practices, modes of dissemination, and patterns of engagement with each other and with audiences / participants in consideration of the realities of environmental degradation. Although commitments can be made to, say, travel less, to focus on the local, to make one’s work more politically relevant, and/or to use music and sound art practices to bring awareness to ecological concerns, are there deeper and more vulnerable questions to be asked?

    Similar to the questioning that has been prompted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, it seems that an unlearning process is needed, where assumptions about context, impact, ownership and intention in new music practice can be unraveled as a preliminary step in any movements toward addressing environmental sustainability.

    It makes sense to first ask what each individual, and the community, intends to sustain. Examining values, ethics and beliefs about belonging, roles, responsibilities, rights, lineages and legacies can be illuminating, as can defining what “community” means when things fall apart.

    Questions of stewardship of the place we inhabit, for some, prioritizes the sustainability of a lifestyle, a job, or of human sustainability – ensuring optimum survival of upcoming generations. For others, stewardship is weighted toward sustainability of the planet as a living entity, thereby sacrificing current human lifestyle privileges in order to leave as gentle a footprint as possible. For still others, sustainability is focused so fully and completely on practice that other matters are assumed to, and perhaps do, take care of themselves.

    After sharing some of our small group discussions, Tina led us in a practice of Pauline Oliveros’ Heart Chant.

    During the day, the conversations and presentations were also supported by the presence of our guest, Giorgio Magnanensi.

    CNMN is grateful to the support of FACTOR for the production of this event.

  • Diversity: a rolling national conversation

    A project of the Canadian New Music Network, working with Upstream Music Association, SuddenlyLISTEN, Open Space Arts Society and Innovations en concert, largely sponsored by FACTOR

    Guest panelists speak with local artists and practitioners
    on diversity in new music.

    Beginning in Halifax (Jan. 9, 2017), moving on to Victoria (March 26, 2017), and winding up in Montreal (May 1, 2017), this rolling national conversation on diversity in new music was bound to come up with new perspectives, novel approaches and creative solutions.

    Please read the following reports by Jennifer Waring to find out what was discussed and came up:

    Halifax – Communicating
    Montreal – Mandate: a sticky issue
    Victoria – audience engagement

    We would like to thank our partners and sponsors for making this project possible.

    Community cards from all 3 sessions:

  • Diversity: Report on the Halifax Session

    Monday, January 9 | 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM AST
    Room 401, Dalhousie Arts Centre – 6101 University
    As part of Open Waters Festival 2017

    A CNMN project funded by Factor and presented in Halifax by Upstream Music Association and SuddenlyLISTEN

    Report: Jennifer Waring

    The session in Halifax was a great kick-off to CNMN’s Rolling National Conversation. (The next iterations take place in Victoria on March 26 and in Montreal on May 1.)  Twenty-three people attended, with another 15 connecting via live streaming.  The three-hour event was divided equally between a panel discussion with audience input conducted in the round, and a circle exercise, which broke out into smaller discussion groups.

    Ellen Waterman, ethnomusicologist and improviser (St. John’s)

    Juliet Palmer, facilitator/composer/collaborator/AD Urban Vessel (Toronto)
    Rémy Bélanger de Beauport, free improviser/organizer (Quebec City)
    Dinuk Wijeratne, composer/pianist/conductor (Halifax)


    The Halifax session was about communicating, what constitutes communication, how we undertake it and to whom. Organizers framed the issue as follows:

    Communication is a two-way street that entails both clarity of expression and active listening. Effective communication is more than a simple exchange of information; it means understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. If we want to increase diversity in contemporary music, we need to become more aware of what kinds of messages we are sending to audiences and musicians. We also need to seek opportunities to listen to people who are not already involved in contemporary music to find out what they need and want, and what would constitute a welcoming environment for participation. 

    In this discussion, we will explore some of our motives and means for effective communication both within and beyond the “borders” of our contemporary music scenes.  What are our motives for seeking a more diverse range of participants and expression in contemporary music? What kinds of messages are we currently sending through our programming and marketing? What potential audience do we miss or even exclude? And in programming, are we open and welcoming in whom we present? Do we actively seek new and diverse creative voices, and new expression, as much as we could or should?

    The first act of communication at the Halifax session began with an acknowledgement of traditional territory:

    We would like to begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.

    The Panelists

    Rémy Bélanger de Beauport has been an improvising cellist for 15 years, and is an organizer of safe spaces for the queer community.  He brings experience programming concerts and events that fight against homophobia, and wants to transfer that sensibility to diversity in all its forms.

    Juliet Palmer, originally from Aotearoa/New Zealand, she grew up with an understanding of the importance of indigenous peoples in the life and culture of a country.  As an immigrant to Canada, she wants to know more about the complex mix of cultures and communities here and how to connect creatively with them.

    Dinuk Wijeratne is Sri Lankan by birth, lived in the UK and US, arriving Canada in 2005.  He has had a nomadic life, eclecticism is something he lived with and has become part of his music.  As a nomadic immigrant, there is “no sense of gravity”, but how do you turn that into an advantage?  Situations or places where there is no sense of eclecticism do not resonate with him. Diversity is the lens he sees the world through.

    Key comments & ideas

    As discussion developed, these key comments and ideas emerged:

    Women in new music – It’s still an uphill battle.  Women account for 20% of composers in Canada but festivals and presenters often programme none.  And only 4 of the more than 70 tenured composition professors in the country are women.  Just think of what might be possible if there were more women in these positions.

    Whether music reflects the identity/background of the composer/creator

    “The music we are creating here is so exciting, it would be good to draw more people in, and more diverse people. But what is it about this music that moves me so much, because it can be challenging.  Is it possible that it can only be related to by privileged people, who have time, people who are already feeling good about themselves and have the leisure to engage in society?  I hope not, I hope it is a music engaged in struggle which anybody can engage in.  But I wonder about this notion of privilege and whether this music is for all.”  Rémy

    Rémy would also like to think that there is a correlation between his queer identities in general, which he defines as non-heteronormative, and the music he creates, which is not played on the radio, is not capitalist mainstream music. For him, the combination between the non-traditional music and the non-traditional identity is a good fit, but then, in gay bars there is mainstream music and in new music there are straight white men. So, what is that disconnect?

    Aesthetic style as a barrier to communicating

    Youth are open to a broad range of styles.  As people get older, they affiliate with one style or another, creating pockets, becoming clique-y, less open and inclusive.  Why do people feel this need?

    “I have a childhood need for eclecticism.  As a contemporary classical composer, I ask myself, ‘how does this communicate? and what?’  It gets back to style.  If I’m challenged to write a piece that will stand next to Beethoven 5, that brings up a lot of questions for artist, audience and presenter, and it comes back to style.”  Dinuk

    Entry points into music

    “As moderator, I want to interject for a moment and say that the door into music is a really tiny door.  We need to ask the question of who are we filtering out in our training – it’s a complicated question.”  Ellen

    Related to the question of why diversity is important, one might ask “what is the motive for restricting access.  Ask people to justify why the door is so narrow.


    We’re in the habit of marketing narrowly to the audience we know, or think, already exists.  Perhaps this is a mistake. Perhaps we need to assume the best and communicate widely.

    Communicating what we’re about by other means – the messages we send out

    • Acknowledging that a concert takes place on occupied territory.
    • Publicizing that the venue has non-binary bathrooms (things that a cis white male may not think of doing.)
    • Announcing that there will be strobe lights if needed.
    • Publicizing policies on scent.
    • Publicizing wheelchair accessibility.
    • Publicizing that it is a safe space where homophobia, transphobia and racism are not tolerated.

    All these can be entailed in the announcement that “this is a safe place”, but is that enough?  Specifying may be necessary.

    “I acknowledge that while some people feel that these sorts of measures emphasize difference and may create ghettos, I disagree.”  Rémy

    Communicating/reaching out – targeting a specific community

    You need to invest time in reaching out and consider how to do it.  You can’t just send an e-mail to youth at risk and expect them to come.

    Note about youth at risk and other such communities – turn around the way in which you’re identifying them, not marginalized people but people with specific skills, while acknowledging that they need special support and inclusion in the artistic process.

    “We will open our doors sometimes and discover that what we are offering may not be wanted.  A specific example is a project where we were looking at creating an interdisciplinary project with two communities, one in Japan and one in Canada. The communities had parallel connections to atomic history through mining and power generation.  In spite of this shared history and our enthusiasm for the collaboration, one community we spoke with was reluctant to be involved — reminder that your own agenda might have to take a back seat and that meaningful relationships take time to grow.”  Juliet


    To engage in music making is to create a community. But in creating a community, you automatically exclude.


    Idea –  that new music in the “Classical” stream is very insular.  It is not commercial or popular, and so gets defined very specifically, within a silo.   We need to acknowledge how new and radical the idea of inclusion is, in a field where the opposite has been the operational mode.

    Counter idea – that “classical” music has always been about rebellion, time after time, new propositions for how and what music might be. And human nature being what it is, as people adopt these new ways and invest their creative energies in them, these ways become sanctified, and codified, and people become righteous about them. They are not so much deliberately exclusionary of any particular people becoming involved, but they are very exclusionary about what music must be. Then there’s a new wave of ideas that rebels against the last dearly held new (now old and ossified) way.

    “I think human nature is such that we have this tendency to fix things in time and context. We could get an [artistically interesting] ironic situation born of many contradictions when we attempt to freeze things in time as classical music was constantly in rebellion.”  Dinuk

    Alternative spaces as a way of connecting with new or different communities

    Purpose-built concert halls are empty when no one is using them.  But other kinds of spaces – bars, etc – are building their own public all the time.  In an event in an alternative space, the space itself can be the draw.

    Tokenism – how to recognize and deal with it

    Recognition that the call for diversity can create convenient, token inclusion.

    • A young bi-racial musician at the event doesn’t know how to view/respond to some of the gigs he gets.
    • Someone relates a story of an Aboriginal artist who was conflicted about the “token” opportunities she was getting, but who got the advice to “cash in those tokens.”  She then uses that opportunity to make space for other marginalized artists.
    • A woman composer expresses discomfort at being included in all-woman programmes.
    • Someone tells of a programming idea that wasn’t carried out before she left her organization, but which dealt with the all-women problem: without being explicit, programme a whole season of women composers (just as one can still see concert seasons of all male composers without that fact made explicit.)
    • If someone uses a reluctance to engage in tokenism as an excuse not to programme people of a certain community, challenge them. They have not done sufficient research.

    What to do when confronted with discrimination?

    • If something is uncomfortable, be honest.
    • If it’s an organization, make sure that someone in the organization makes the response as a person.
    • You can be humble, but if the situation warrants, you can also be direct.

    Turning questions around

    It can be revealing (and was) to turn the question around.  For example: “Why don’t we allow more people in?”  becomes, “Why do we restrict entry?”

    The Circle

    “In alignment with our desire to create an open discussion, we adopted a circle format. In a forum examining barriers to inclusion, it was vital to encourage active participation by people who had in the previous session been “audience members”. Moving from one large circle into many smaller circles, we sought to create an inclusive structure for community engagement. This approach was inspired by both talking circles in Indigenous cultures as well as non-hierarchical meeting formats other traditions.” Juliet Palmer

    Following the break, Juliet Palmer led the group – invited guests and audience alike – in a circle discussion.  It began with a breathing exercise that expanded into vocalization and improvisation – discussion in musical form.  Everyone was then invited to write or draw a reflection on the discussion so far – a question, a concern or a personal intention.  These were deposited into a pile in the centre of the circle.  They were then redistributed, with people forming into groups of three or four, each group choosing the idea on one of the cards for further discussion.

    Community Cards from Halifax, Victoria and Montreal 

  • 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 

  • Diversity: Report on the Victoria Session

    Diversity: A Rolling National Conversation
    Report on the Victoria Session

    Sunday, March 26, 2017 | 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM PST
    Open Space Arts Society – 2nd floor, 510 Fort St, Victoria, BC
    A CNMN project funded by Factor and presented in Victoria with Open Space Arts Society
    We would like to thank our partners and sponsors for making this project possible.

    Report: Jennifer Waring

    Christopher Reiche Boucher, New Music Coordinator, Open Space (Victoria)

    Rachel Iwaasa – Director of Development, Pride in Art Society (Vancouver)
    Juliet Palmer – composer/collaborator/Artistic Director, Urban Vessel (Toronto)
    France Trépanier – Aboriginal Curator, Open Space (Victoria)

    The session in Victoria followed six weeks after the opener in Halifax.  It resumed the discussion of diversity, but from the angle of audience engagement.  The two-and-a-half-hour event was divided equally between a live-streamed panel discussion conducted in the round with audience, and an in-camera circle exercise that broke out into smaller discussion groups.  Juliet Palmer provided continuity with the previous session; as with the previous session, she led the circle exercise.

    To begin, Christopher Reiche Boucher, New Music Coordinator at Open Space and moderator of the discussion welcomed everyone attending the event. There were 22 people in person and 14 people by live stream. He acknowledged the unceded and traditional territories of the Songhese and Esquimalt nations. He thanked the sponsors for making this event possible, and he invited the panellists to introduce themselves.

    In his opening remarks the moderator identified three different groups: creators, audiences and communities, then asked if audience and community are distinct, or one in the same?

    I think they are overlapping. I think that it is important not to talk about community but communities – we have poly-identities.  This is much the case with the communities that we belong to.  The communities are forever growing and changing which means that it is not just a community.  When we talk about the new music community, we don’t necessarily talk about all the communities that share this space. 

    I agree with Rachel from the perspective of a creator, I am creating in a community setting.  In that context, we make creative work with a community. 

    The notion of community is interesting; my work is often relational in that sense. The community that I engage with is not an audience, or an audience in the making. I think there is a way of engaging with community that will in time become an audience. It is engaging the community that we learn where they are, not on our terms, but on their terms.  Defining what an audience needs and wants, changes the conversation quite a bit. It is a long-term endeavor. From an Indigenous perspective, wherever we are working, from wherever you are working from, there is a First Nation community there, we are always working on their land, this is the first community we should acknowledge, engage with, and respect.

    Key comments and ideas:

    Barriers to participation as audience, as artists

    • By its very nature, new music is exclusionary.
    • In many ways, it is the current expression in the “classical” stream, with all the unspoken classical music protocols that make people feel ashamed, like they can’t participate if they don’t know how to take in the event. Consequently, how you present yourself on stage matters; it can have a huge impact when trying to connect with communities outside the narrow ones already there.
    • France pointed out that infrastructure for art is recent in Canada. It was created in the 50’s at a time when Indigenous cultures were not considered living but rather dying cultures, their practices still banned.  The people who designed the system only had in mind European-based art forms.

    We live in a very racist art system, privileging western European traditions…it is very uncomfortable at times. – France

    Diversity and inclusion versus giving space

    Chris knew that France had an issue with the idea of inclusion and asked her to explain.

    First, I am going to tackle diversity. Everyone is diverse.  What is that? It’s like ethnic food — all food is ethnic. So we have to be careful about how we use these words. Every culture is by definition different.  Now to the question of inclusion, let’s think about that for a second. We have a country where, for thousands of years, there was a thriving culture.  Then Europeans come, there’s massive change, systems develop that privilege the Europeans.  And then the Europeans turn around and are now trying to include these ‘diverse’ cultures, poaching their communities.  It’s as detrimental their other practices.  – France

    Inclusion maintains the centrality of European culture and an intellectual tradition that has been very oppressive. If we really want to talk about diversity then we have to challenge ourselves, be rigorous, and flexible enough to allow practices and different bodies of knowledge to come in.  – France

    And further: “It doesn’t dismiss any classical music or practice, it belongs to the tradition it belongs to, but it needs to share the space.” – France

    • An audience member voiced concern about the effect of mandated diversity. Perhaps it would be better to view all the different kinds of practices as diversity in themselves, rather than making everyone be “diverse.”  Otherwise, everyone’s practices could become a multicultural mishmash.
    • Another audience member commented that arts councils can’t just impose and enforce diversity. The system needs changing.

    Systems and the perpetuation of the status quo  

    • It was observed that Indigenous communities don’t create silos of their art forms; they have a different approach to the process than western traditions.
    • Ghettoization was identified by Juliet as a problem in the new music of the classical stream, where it’s relegated to festivals, or specific concerts rather than being integrated.
    • An audience member called the economic class system the elephant in the room: traditional arts are supported by a class system that denigrates folk arts – folk, in general. While there is a place for elite art, there is little impetus to include those who are systemically disadvantaged.
    • Rachel suggested that we need to identify systems before knowing how to dismantle them. Targeted interventions may help.  Example: the queer arts festival encompasses a range of identities, but in 2017 they mounted a two-spirited festival, which ended up being the least diverse festival they had had.  It was a necessary measure, though, as they wanted to spotlight that group – and it was a decision of the curators and not the result of any underlying system.
    • In education there is the question of who is teaching, and what they are teaching. That system perpetuates the status quo.
    • Also perpetuating the status quo: most people who are white don’t recognize themselves as white. Like thinking you don’t have an accent.

    Community engagement

    • Art should be for every day. We fall into the trap of thinking of it as a profession, which leads to the trap of marketing and diversifying funding streams.

    Reflecting on her childhood in New Zealand: In the 70’s when there was a revival of Indigenous identity and children were taught dances and language. It had a huge impact on me – understanding culture as a ceremonial practice. It was not about an event or selling tickets, but a part of life. I manifest this in my own work. It’s about making work together, not selling tickets, and taking things out of the usual venues and concert halls. – Juliet

    The idea of bums in seats is very Eurocentric. When I was on the council, we had a theater company from the north that was trying to follow marketing guidelines… I gave them permission to market how they wanted, and they went to the grocery store and bought food for a feast. The concert hall was full. When we treat art as a commodity, it is very Eurocentric. – France

    Identity and assumption: how things look / how they actually are and  also how things look influences how they are

    The comment coming in on live feed that all the panelists looked white, elicited these responses:

    I am Mohawk and French, I come from the province of Quebec, and I live on Coast Salish territory. – France

    I am a woman and make up 20% of the composing community. I came as an immigrant to Canada. – Juliet

    My background is Danish and Japanese. I get labeled as white and straight all the time.  The ways in which I am minority are not visible. What I find interesting is that we often don’t see the diversity around us because we base our judgment on what we see. – Rachel

    The moderator noted that there is a great deal of importance placed on the visible, with the response from Rachel:

    yes, it is our first impression. If people read my name, they see me as Japanese sooner. I think the look we present does matter, especially in organizations — we are trying to create an environment that appeals to a wider variety of people.– Rachel

    Which led to the observation that it matters who you put on your board, who you hire, who makes decisions.  Power is the issue.

    It’s a white system – without pointing fingers, how do we address the imbalances of power and access to resources?  I walk with some privileges because I come across as white. – France

    An audience member commented that if you’re Métis, then you’re not accepted as Indigenous. The issue is not “who represents our organization’, but “who do you have to be true to”?

    Because of systematic erasure (Indigenous children removed from their families, the Japanese wartime experience), we are now seeing efforts to reclaim identity.


    Authorship and mentorship / inclusion of people who are unable to break in

    • Audience member – the new music community seems to claim that there are no composers of colour. This is not deliberate individual racism but systematic racism.  How can we help inform these organizations?
    • There are many composers who aren’t white men, just looking for opportunities. You have to go out and find them.
    • When it comes to helping artists from diverse communities engage in these “white” art forms, its necessary to find someone who can support someone else’s voice – mentoring, seeing and nurturing the talent. The traditional model doesn’t work, where the composer is unable to relinquish authorship.

    I was the only indigenous person available to take part in a project where a composer wanted to work with Indigenous people.  I had to fight to get the point across that this was inappropriate.  If you don’t understand the tradition and the protocols or the aesthetics, then you can’t accept the merit or excellence. Different traditions is key here. – France

    Artists of colour and Indigenous artists are more sophisticated because they come first from their own tradition first and then they have to straddle the western world. – France

    Concluding thoughts

    It comes back to a question of intent.

    Why? My first question is always why? Why do we need more diversification? Why do we need bigger audiences? Why do you want to do that? – France

    Smaller group discussion

    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