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Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Announces 10-Point Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Action Plan 

A newly senior management position to catalyze DE&I initiatives throughout the organization.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) unveiled today a 10-point Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Action Plan, developed to immediately prioritize the organization's deepening commitment to better representing and serving the entirety of its community.

The DE&I Action Plan complements the CSO's broader ten-year strategic plan, developed and adopted in 2019, and accelerates the process of achieving the organization's existing DE&I goals and objectives. As the Action Plan is refined it will include metrics to measure progress and ensure organization-wide accountability.

At the core of the plan is the creation of a new senior management position for the Orchestra: Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO), whose primary responsibility will be to guide the organization's DE&I work across every department. The CDIO will report directly to the President and lead a department focusing on community engagement and diversity.

The 10-point plan also calls for the creation of a standing CSO Community Advisory Council to strengthen the Orchestra's ties to the community, identifying initiatives from the perspective of the assets and needs of the community. Additionally, the CSO is implementing implicit bias training for Orchestra, Board and Staff; the continued amplification of the work of BIPOC artists in CSO, Pops and educational programming; a review of hiring and compensation policies and practices within the CSO to ensure fairness and equity; increased mentorship opportunities to develop future arts leaders of color; as well as several other initiatives.

"In May 2020, the realities of systemic inequity, injustice and racism in America were once again laid bare by the murder of George Floyd," said CSO President Jonathan Martin. "In this landscape, the CSO must prioritize and accelerate its DE&I work. In alignment with the events of the past three months, this Action Plan primarily addresses advancing the CSO's work in the


Black community, while acknowledging that we must simultaneously apply our learning to initiatives serving all underrepresented groups."

"A major component of our strategic planning process was dedicated to bolstering our DE&I efforts," said CSO Board Chair Rob McDonald. "We knew then that we needed to do better, and it became abundantly clear this summer that we needed to rethink our approach and to dedicate more energy and resources. The strategic plan's overarching DE&I goal is 'to reflect our community and the world at every level - on stage, behind the scenes, and in neighborhoods throughout the region.' Today we reaffirm our commitment to justice, equity, and a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra that embraces the totality of our community."

"The time is now. The CSO's diversity plan speaks to the need to address the systemic cultural blind spots suffered by most U.S. organizations, including our own. And it fully acknowledges the need to address the issues of race, inequity and lack of inclusion facing our community and the entire country. Just as the CSO is a leader in providing orchestral excellence we are choosing to be a leader around being relevant to all audiences regardless of race, and ethnicity and all other diversity dimensions," said CSO Board Member Charla Weiss, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Children's Hospital Medical Center. "I want the families that live blocks away from Music Hall to know that they have a direct pathway to history and culture that has always lived there. I'm proud of our orchestra and its leadership for having the courage and resolve to do the necessary work to ensure that. A brighter day is ahead of us, as we make music and history together."

"The creation of an executive-level Chief Diversity Officer places the Cincinnati Symphony at the leading edge of change in the orchestra field," said Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. "Our research confirms that one of the biggest barriers to progress is the lack of staff capacity. This move by the CSO models the level of commitment it takes to bring about equitable, diverse and inclusive organizations."

Following are a summary of the action steps to which the CSO has committed; the organization's mission and vision statements; the DE&I section of the 10-year strategic plan adopted in 2019; and, a summary of the Orchestra's current DE&I work.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 10-Point Action Plan Summary of Action Steps

1. Convene a standing Community Advisory Council to help CSO amplify and support important community initiatives.

  • a. How the CSO serves its community must be informed by the community. A Community Advisory Council (CAC) will help the CSO approach this work from an asset-based perspective, defined as taking the lead from the community about what CSO should be supporting, as opposed to assuming that we know what is needed.
  • b. CAC will help identify two-three large community initiatives that the CSO will amplify and support throughout the year.
  • c. This will also be an avenue to help connect with young professionals of color, with the goal of developing future leadership and accelerating the growing diversity of the CSO Board.

2. Build a CSO staff structure that better supports and amplifies its DE&I goals.

  • a. The CSO is launching a national search to fill the newly created position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, the first position of its kind among the top American orchestras.
  • b. Additional staff restructuring will better align with and support DE&I goals.

3. Implement cultural competency/implicit bias training for CSO staff, Board and Musicians.

  • a. Beginning with all CSO staff, this will broaden to include all internal constituencies and all customer-facing employees.

4. Review all application, interviewing, hiring/contracting and compensation policies and practices within the CSO to ensure fairness and equity.

5. Evolve the CSO's existing administrative internship program and create an ongoing mentorship program to develop future arts leaders of color.

  • a. Mentorships will align with the academic year, in partnership with regional higher educational institutions. b. Convert existing CSO internships from unpaid to paid and ensure equitable access to students interested in careers in the arts.

6. Develop and deepen its relationships with underrepresented Cincinnati cultural institutions.

7. Continue to amplify the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) artists in all forward CSO, Pops and educational programming.

8. Form long-term partnerships with Black-led arts organizations to co-create new programs.

9. Reposition and reinvest in CSO's Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC) programming, as MAC moves into its 31st year.

10. Evaluate all existing CSO marketing, communications, philanthropic and digital/social media collateral through a DE&I lens.

Statement in response to the murder of George Floyd

"Our city and our nation are in anguish, catalyzed by systemic injustice and inequality. Violence against Black citizens, perpetuated by individuals and institutions, betrays the interlocking covenants to build an equitable society, and to serve and protect. The range of emotions we are experiencing-fear, anger, sadness, confusion-has once again been laid bare and must be addressed.

The mission of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is to seek and share inspiration and at its essence, the CSO exists to serve our community. Our entire community.

At this crossroads, the question has become "How can we best serve?" In the past we have responded to tragedy with the inspirational, healing power of music, and we will continue to use that power. As racism and inequity continue to plague our nation, however, it is clear that music isn't enough. Words are not enough.

Where do we go from here? We must go forward with an evolving purpose to continue to fulfill our longstanding mission.

We see you. We hear you. We realize we must do better, and today we reaffirm our commitment to push for justice and equality, elevate and broaden our role as a voice of positive change, and amplify the voices of those who can help us realize that change."

2019 CSO Strategic Plan: DE&I Goal & Objectives


  • To better reflect our community and the world at every level - on stage, behind the scenes, and in neighborhoods throughout the region.


  1. Double underrepresented audiences to 8% by 2025.
  2. Achieve 14% BIPOC representation at CSO auditions by 2025.
  3. To ensure that the representation of women/non-binary and BIPOC composers, conductors, and other guest artists on CSO programs will meet or exceed that of the 2019/20 season when measured in five-year increments.
  4. Increase Board diversity to 20% Black/Latinx by 2025.
  5. Diversify staff to better reflect the community.
  6. Diversify volunteer base to better reflect the community.
  7. Incubate in Cincinnati and launch a national consortium of orchestras, conservatories and schools to develop increased talent pool of underrepresented musicians.
  8. Explore the creation of an El Sistema program in at least one underrepresented Cincinnati neighborhood.
  9. Launch a funded summer parks concerts with a focus on underrepresented neighborhoods.

Summary of Existing DE&I-Focused Initiatives

  • CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship: a dual-track performance fellowship/graduate-level degree program for exceptional string players from backgrounds that are underrepresented in classical music. Fellows receive full tuition, cost-of-living stipend, and professional performance opportunities with the CSO.
  • The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional support from the Patricia Kisker Foundation.
  • NIMAN: with the CSO as host and incubator, the National Instrumentalist Mentoring and Advancement Network (NIMAN) is a national association of organizations committed to furthering equity and opportunities for aspiring classical musicians from underrepresented ethnicities with the goal of creating a level playing field for all musicians.
  • Nouveau Program: supports increased participation in classical music by Black and Latinx student musicians by providing equitable opportunities for intensive music study and performance.
  • The Nouveau Program is supported by The Links, Incorporated - Queen City, OH Chapter, The Wohlgemuth Herschede Foundation, D'Addario Foundation, and the Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC).
  • Classical Roots: a celebration of the rich legacy of African American music, Classical Roots includes the annually sold-out spring concert at Music Hall, the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir, and its Community and Clergy Advisory Committee.
  • The Classical Roots program is made possible in part by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The CSO extends its thanks to the generous Classical Roots sponsors for their support.
  • DE&I Committee: this CSO Board committee oversees the advancement of objectives and strategies that support the Orchestra's goal to reflect and welcome the diversity of our community on our stage, in our audiences, in our offices and on our Board.
  • Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC): In its 31st year, MAC is a diverse volunteer committee helps to support and increase awareness of CSO programming by hosting special events and receptions, volunteering at concerts and providing guidance for CSO DE&I initiatives.
  • MAC Award: an annual award, recognizing community arts leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusion.
  • MAC Music Innovator: a residency program highlighting African American classical musicians who embody artistry, innovation and a commitment to education and community engagement.
  • Inclusive Content Team: a cross-departmental digital content team created to assist in the review of DE&I content and help brainstorm and implement inclusive content ideas.
  • Neighborhood Connection: strategic partnerships developed to help strengthen the CSO's relationship with our neighbors in the West End and other underrepresented neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati.
  • CSOne: an employee resource group with a focus on DE&I, created to foster greater employee retention and professional development opportunities.
  • Sound Discoveries: a school residency program in partnership with CPS that provides music integration learning at schools with desired increases in music enrichment.
  • Sound Discoveries is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council, the William P. Anderson Foundation, and the YOT Full Circle Foundation.
  • Melody Contest Commissions: a program that annually commissions works from new and rising composers, in partnership with CCM, for CSO Young People's Concerts.
  • Norman Johns Chair Award: a talent-based award to cover the cost of CSYO tuition given annually to support BIPOC students and their pursuit of orchestral music.
  • National Alliance for Audition Support membership: a national initiative led by The Sphinx Organization to increase diversity in American orchestras through national mentorship, intensive audition training and financial support.
  • League of American Orchestras Catalyst Fund Grant Program: the CSO was awarded a two-year grant to engage with skilled DE&I practitioners to foster and advance effective DE&I practices.

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