The ICD Internal Review Part 2: Holy Plagiarism, Batman

Eleven pages of ICD's 2020 internal review, layered on top of each other, fill the frame. They are heavily marked up, with underlines, scribbles in the margin, and seven colors of highlighter denoting important sections of text. The number "2" is overlaid over the picture in a large black serif font.

Greetings, one and all, and welcome back to our multi-day escapade through the ICD internal review. If you’re new here, fear not! You can go back and read Part 1 to catch up on what we’ve discussed previously. Today, we’re finishing our look at ICD’s communications breakdown; we’ll also discuss ICD’s impact on composers, touch briefly on tokenism, and begin the long slog through the leadership review. I can’t say any one part of the report is the review’s darkest hour, but today’s chunk is certainly a contender. Let’s dive in.


Communication (cont. from Part 1)

Point 15: The ICD Financial Report: Coming Soon to a Home Theater Near You

The Complaint:

“Rob Deemer has agreed to release a financial statement or budget report for the ICD, but has not done so.”
This complaint has a known mention in Trade Winds’ post.

The Review Team Says:

  • A report should be released, but by the Head of Development (Ciyadh).
  • Release report in the first six months of 2021.
  • Until then, the FAQ page has a “financial summary.”

My Notes:

  • Ciyadh isn’t mentioned by name here, despite being named elsewhere. (Pretty much no one else is named; only titles are given.) Confusing but not alarming.

The FAQ page’s financial info doesn’t include the $75,000 Sphinx Venture Fund grant they got this fall or anything beyond their crowdfunding campaigns. Summaries should at least mention what’s already public.

A screenshot of a post from ICD's Facebook page on November 11, 2020. The post reads as follows: "We are excited to announce that The Institute for Composer Diversity has been chosen as a recipient of a Sphinx Venture Fund (SVF) grant for 2021. Sphinx will be supporting our newest initiative, The ICD Database Expansion and Community Impact Venture, which will allow us to continue to expand the current ICD databases and partner with ensembles and organizations to diversify their concert programming. Thank you so much to the Sphinx Organization for this award. If you would like to be involved in this project, please contact ICD Associate Director Ciyadh Wells for more information." Below the post is a red-toned photo collage of various people smiling and playing string instruments; overlaid onto it is the text: "ANNOUNCING THE 2021 SPHINX VENTURE FUND RECIPIENTS. LEARN MORE: SPHINXVENTUREFUND.ORG"
ICD’s announcement of their receipt of a Sphinx Venture Fund grant.

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Point 16: ICD Sucks at Apologizing

The Complaint:

“A public apology that was issued to a person with concerns about ICD was too weak and unspecific.”
This complaint is common; the “weak and unspecific” phrase directly borrows from my email to them (“…even the apology issued was weak, nonspecific, and did not address….“).

The Review Team Says:

  • The team agrees, “the apology in question was weak and unspecific.”
  • Apologies should be directed toward individuals privately before they’re posted.
  • For apologies that need to be publicized, individuals should be “contacted for permission before their name is included in a public post.”
  • Create and share communications policy with public-facing staff.

My Notes:

  • Scribbled in the margins on my hard copy: “they’ve made so many apologies I wouldn’t know which one they meant if they weren’t quoting me.”
  • Assuming this references my writing, I wouldn’t trivialize the exploitation of a Black artist’s work without permission and the mischaracterization of that work down to “concerns.” Y’know, if I were them.
  • The review says they shouldn’t post communication regarding specific people over “social media without an attempt by email or phone.” I don’t believe they’ll wait to get someone’s permission when they fuck up big again.
  • No timeline for creating the communication policy.
  • Communication policy should, per their words, “be shared with all staff who have public interactions,” but they should apply it to all staff since the website’s just made them more reachable.

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Point 17: ICD Lied About Representing Disabled Composers

The Complaint:

“ICD mentions disabled composers in the mission statement, but does not include works of disabled composers in the database.”
This complaint has a known mention in Trade Winds’ post.

The Review Team Says:

  • Disabled composers should be represented.
  • Consult community members to do this appropriately.
  • This plan should include “disabilities of all types” and should be developed in collaboration with experts.

My Notes:

  • I’m disgusted ICD never bothered to check that the folks in their mission statement matched who’s in their database.
  • Disabled composers routinely get swept under the rug in advocacy work.
  • ICD has included disabled composers in promo materials and funding requests for years, like this 2019 Indiegogo campaign that still has some of that original wording:
A screenshot of ICD's 2019 Indiegogo campaign. At the top are menu options: Story, FAQ, Updates (3), and Comments (0), followed by a question mark in a black circle. Below that, in a box, it says "Highlights: 6 Projects." In the bottom half of the screenshot is the bulk of the text. It reads: "Overview "The Institute for Composer Diversity is committed to the promotion and advancement of music created by composers from historically underrepresented groups including women, composers of color, LGBTQIA+ composers, and composers with disabilities. Following the success of our award-winning Composer Diversity Database, we are launching a series of new initiatives and collaborations, all open and available to the public. To do this, we need your help."
A screenshot of ICD’s 2019 crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which raised $11,126.

I can’t say a whole lot here other than “fix your shit,” but folks reading this, we should all keep our eyes open for organizations claiming folks they don’t represent as leverage for funding. That’s predatory.

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Point 18: ICD Ignores Social Media Criticism

The Complaint:

“Critiques of ICD made on other social media outlets are not acknowledged.”
Unsurprisingly, I’ve made this critique via social media, as have others. Trade Winds directly referenced it in their post.

The Review Team Says:

  • Critiques should be acknowledged/responded to.
  • “…there is a need for a more detailed dialogue beyond social media to address any comments, questions, and concerns pertaining to the work of ICD.”
  • “It is the responsibility of ICD staff to be up-to-date on issues of access, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the music communities in which it operates….”
  • The Communications Coordinator (listed as the Specialist in the report) will be tasked with ensuring ICD staff are up to date on DEI subjects.
  • The website should clarify feedback is welcomed and point users toward specific ways to provide it.

My Notes:

  • By “other social media outlets,” I assume they mean “not email.”
  • That “more detailed dialogue” is exactly why I was pissed when they used Point 8 to say, “but we’re addressing some things now!”
  • It IS the ICD staff’s job to know their DEI shit.

This last thing is one of the problems many of us have with Rob, both as a leader and as Director: he has arguably the worst DEI know-how among ICD’s staff, which is why we often have direct critiques of him. Someone running a DEI organization should not only be up-to-date on these issues, they should amplify voices who are ahead of the curve. If ICD’s education in this field doesn’t equal or exceed their knowledge about composing and performing, they’ll keep failing the composers in their care.

You don’t need an academic background to do this, by the way; a lot of education happens on Twitter. Activists and educators are out there every day, offering a staggering amount of education and labor. Y’all reading at home can engage with it! Drop their Venmos and Cashapps and Ko-fis some funds whenever you can.

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The Complaint:

“Emails to confirm consent have taken too long.”
This issue is a common complaint on social media. I also mentioned it.

The Review Team Says:

  • Yes, they have.
  • Three people are working on consent emails; it is a priority.
  • ICD increased staffing here.

My Notes:

  • Even ignoring 2018-19, considering these conversations were extensive in June and the emails didn’t go out until September, they took too long.
  • My question for the reviewers: since confirmations are still ongoing, will we be notified when they’re complete?

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Composer Assistance/Role of ICD for Composers

Point 20: Relationships With Living Composers? What are Thoooooose?

The Complaint:

“Very little information is provided to users on how to establish relationships with living composers, including any information on commissioning of composers, as well as how to avoid tokenizing composers and their work.”
This is all drawn from a single paragraph in my writing, which is likely why it’s listed together. Tokenism especially is thoroughly mentioned in the Trade Winds post.

The Review Team Says:

  • These tools are necessary, and enough information has not been provided.
  • Their recommendation: “a list of resources be created on best practices for interacting with composers found on the website in an appropriate and respectful way….”
  • Include information on tokenism and working with traumatic subject matter.
  • Provide resources on respectfully commissioning composers.
  • Create best practices resources for appropriate, respectful communication with composers.

My Notes:

  • I’d argue no information has been provided, not just insufficient information.
  • A bare-bones Best Practices page now exists on their site.
  • ICD’s made it slightly clearer that their arbitrary programming stats are minimums, but they still haven’t justified their oddly low numbers.
  • Their minimum stats read like, “don’t worry, you can still program LOADS of dead white cishet men!” Not a particularly resounding thing to hear for anyone who’s not… you know… at risk of becoming a dead white cis man someday. (More on this in Part 3.)
  • There is no representation on their Best Practices page for marginalized genders who aren’t women—or for anyone in the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

Despite a bevy of changes in the database’s functions, ICD hasn’t even considered that maybe queer people belong on their Best Practices page.

I realize this is likely in its infancy. Still, the fact that no one’s even updated the fun diagrams to include the “vaguely gay” catchall group (please separate gender and attraction) or change “women composers” to “gender-marginalized composers” demonstrates their carelessness.

A diagram in two parts: on the left, one labeled "ENTIRE SEASON (ENSEMBLES WITH FOCUS ON HISTORICAL AND NEW MUSIC)" consists of a large gray circle with three small overlapping circles within it. These smaller circles are red, blue, and yellow, and they are translucent (like a Venn diagram). These are labeled "WOMEN COMPOSERS 15-25%", "COMPOSERS FROM UNDERREPRESENTED HERITAGES 15-25%", and "LIVING COMPOSERS 25-35%". The diagram on the right is similar (still three translucent circles within a very large gray circle), but this one is labeled "ENTIRE SEASON (ENSEMBLES WITH FOCUS ON NEW MUSIC)". The colored circles within are larger here; they are labeled "WOMEN COMPOSERS 35-55%", "COMPOSERS FROM UNDERREPRESENTED HERITAGES 35-55%", and "LIVING COMPOSERS 60-80%". The ICD logo is in the bottom left of both parts.
Anyone missing here?

Seriously, is anyone content-editing their website?

“Despite a bevy of changes in the database’s functions, @ComposerProject hasn’t even considered that maybe queer people belong on their Best Practices page.”

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Point 21: ICD Misconstrues My Writing

The Complaint:

“ICD does not include ‘ownvoices’ or stories by diverse voices in their work.”
This sentence is comprised of chopped-up pieces of my writing, which warps the overall meaning.

The Review Team Says:

  • They agree!
  • Add “an item” about ownvoices to the Notes Blog (they refer us to Point 23).

My Notes:

  • It reads as equating ownvoices with “stories by diverse voices,” which is only half the ownvoices criteria.
    • Ownvoices is when marginalized creators speak to their own experiences with specificity and nuance that those from different demographics or marginalizations would not be able to provide.
    • For example, if I were to write something about a person of color, it wouldn’t be ownvoices because I am white.
    • Rewording might have been better than half-plagiarizing, because ICD risks miseducating its audience.
  • Notes Blog is never fully or sufficiently explained: what is their vision here?
    • Notes Blog currently is where ICD posts non-apologies big enough to go on their website, plus fun stuff like the Sphinx Venture grant.
    • The internal review is hosted there.
    • Functions more like an Institute News page and not an educational source; this is NOT where educational materials should go.

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Point 22: ICD Listings Don’t Benefit Composers

The Complaint:

“A composer on the site reported not receiving any increase in sales after being listed on the ICD. Also, data regarding composer profile location and body of work has not been updated.”
This is pulled directly from the Trade Winds post; others have made similar complaints on social media re: tangible benefits. I talk about it in my writing in terms of page views.

The Review Team Says:

  • They recommend an annual update reminder to all composers.
  • “With regard to increased sales, the ICD does hope there are indirect financial benefits to composers who are listed in the database; however, this is not a direct goal of the ICD.”
  • Explain to composers the benefits of being listed, explicitly mentioning that financial gain is not an explicit goal.
  • It’s composers’ responsibility to send updated profile info to ICD (email or website).
  • Fall 2020 update email was sent “to those composers for which the organization had valid emails.”

My Notes:

  • How did ICD handle the Fall 2020 updates if they didn’t have a composer’s email?
  • For most of us, our names being clickable on the ICD website has not translated into increased success as composers.
  • Many of us feel next to no increase in engagement. (I can name one ensemble who found me through the database.)
  • What are the expected benefits/direct goals for composers?
  • After searching the site, including the “composers” section of the FAQ, I’ve found no proof they’re prepared to offer composers… any benefits.
  • Bolded sentence above: ICD doesn’t expect or plan for composers to benefit financially from being searchable.

How is that different from “it’s good exposure”?

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Point 23: Welcome to the ICD Plagiarizes Trade Winds Section

The Complaint:

“ICD should host a series of community discussions where marginalized composers can discuss the real systemic barriers they face and come up with work that ICD could do to begin to dismantle those barriers.”
The text of this feedback is pulled point-blank from the Trade Winds post without attribution. I understand ICD has had problems with naming people who did not consent to be named, but aren’t there enough teachers around their staff to know they should cite their sources, especially when copy-pasting text? At least put direct quotes in quotes. Jeez.

The Review Team Says:

  • Great idea! Throw it in the Notes Blog (still not explained).
  • Maybe a webinar or interview.
  • Communications Coordinator will handle this.

My Notes:

  • The complaint wants ICD to foster community conversation by giving their platform to marginalized voices. The reviewers haven’t addressed the meat of this.
  • Notes Blog is still not where these things should live.
  • No actual plans are presented here; unclear if they understand the underlying goal.
  • Based on current policy, this amplifying actually appears to go against their goals for composers. (See “Composers” section of FAQ: “The ICD is not designed to directly provide publicity to composers.” This is bad policy and should be changed.)
A screenshot from the ICD FAQ page that reads: "The ICD is not designed to directly provide publicity to composers."

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Point 24: Composer Funding (Where’s JW Pepper?)

The Complaint:

“ICD should initiate programs that direct funding resources and commissioning opportunities to composers of diverse backgrounds.”
This is plagiarized from the Trade Winds post without attribution.

The Review Team Says:

  • Great idea! For now, list links to organizations doing this work.
  • In 2021, develop a Composer Resources page for various funding opportunities. Unlike other pages recommended in the report, this one does not yet exist.

My Notes:

  • This goes against ICD’s commission policy in the “Composers” FAQ section: “it is not currently within the mission of ICD to provide this type of resources to composers.” I’m going to keep saying this: they need to update this policy.
  • Linking to other orgs is okay for now, though more questions may arise when we see the funding report.
  • One more question: what happened to the JWPepper partnership?

Last August, JWPepper awarded ICD a portion of 100 total MyScore memberships. MyScore seems to be a pay-to-access distribution and publishing service that gets composers a presence on the Pepper website. Four organizations, including ICD, were awarded a share of that 100 memberships. ICD may have received 25 of those; maybe more, maybe less. Regardless, I’ve never heard a single mention of what happened to them. Shouldn’t those be a direct-to-composer benefit? Who did they end up with?

This isn’t a direct funding opportunity, but it is a chance for composers to increase their visibility, particularly in wind band, in a way that might net them more sales over time. Accountability matters every step of the way, and I want to know—bare minimum—that these opportunities didn’t go to ICD staff and volunteers.

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Point 25: Poorly Paraphrasing the Trade Winds Post

The Complaint:

“Create a composer spotlight series that is not reactive (like the one created during the Summer of 2020) and that is consent-driven, and based on self-representation for living composers.”
This is slightly (more confusingly) reworded from the Trade Winds post.

The Review Team Says:

  • Recommend an opt-in spotlight program, so composers can sign up and “have a voice in what is featured.”
  • Spotlights should cross genres and represent many marginalizations.
  • All info will involve the composer’s consent.
  • The Communications Coordinator will curate.

My Notes:

  • This continues to be at odds with the “Composers” FAQ about not providing publicity to composers.
  • It’s unclear how much creative control composers would have (getting composers’ consent for the information doesn’t necessarily mean letting them sign off on how it’s presented).
  • The Communications Coordinator is now both a PR person and a content creator. This job needs to pay WELL. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. More on this in Part 3.)

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Education/Tokenism

Point 26: Educate Your Users

The Complaint:

“ICD should include more initiatives focused on education so that the database isn’t just a list of names but a directory of people and their lives’ work.”
This is plagiarized from the Trade Winds post without attribution.

The Review Team Says:

  • This has become a consistent conversation among ICD staff; priority in 2021.
  • Added tokenism info to database pages (nonspecific) so visitors can read before they search.
  • In the long term, databases should be part of “a more comprehensive page of resources to discourage the use of the database on its own,” including info about “performance practice, cultural sensitivity, programming and education, context, and the composer [themself].”
  • The personal statement category helps.

My Notes:

  • Why is this the only point that goes under Education/Tokenism? Many others would fit here.
  • These quick additions to database pages seem akin to the warning halfway through the Big Thunder Mountain line at Disneyland that pregnant people should not ride. Folks who made it that far have likely already decided.
  • Unless someone is actively supervising and can intervene when tools are used beyond their intended purpose, people will do what they want.

ICD needs to spend the time and money to make its database a complete educational framework instead of just propping it up a couple paragraphs at a time. I’m not sure they’re willing to follow through with this, though.

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Feedback on Rob Deemer and ICD Leadership

A screenshot of (most of) ICD's October 6, 2020 statement on Facebook. It reads: "Dear Music Community, "Recently, the Institute of Composer Diversity (ICD) has received criticism about several aspects of our work. This feedback shows clearly that ICD has negatively impacted members of communities that it has hoped to be serving. Regardless of that not being the intent, it has happened, and for that, the ICD, its staff, and its director Rob Deemer are deeply sorry. There will be more specific apologies coming to other specific artists as soon as we gather the information necessary to make this happen. "The Institute has been criticized for not doing enough to truly listen to the unique needs of its community members. Another criticism is that requests for changes to the leadership and organizational structure have not been enacted quickly enough or gone far enough, also that concerns about how artists and creators can and should be identified in the databases have not been prioritized, and that ICD resources have not yet empowered artists, composers, and administrators with enough tools to do the work of programming music with an intentional focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Institute wants to do more to ensure the creation of a culture that is both anti-racist and anti-oppressive. ICD and its staff and director have compromised the trust of some members of the music community, and we are committed to working to regain that trust when the time is right. "A review process of founder and director, Rob Deemer, is being initiated, at the request of the director, by several new members of the ICD staff that will include a careful examination of the critiques raised by members of our community. This team will also be conferring with organizations outside of ICD to elicit advice for carrying out the review according to best practices and to ensure the audit is unbiased. Rob continues to act in his role as Director of the Institute during this process, but all aspects of ICD's work including the director's role will be examined. The review team will strive for transparency in the review, in sharing the findings, in specifically and publicly addressing the feedback given, and in creating a list of actionable changes and specific responses to all feedback. Just" The screenshot cuts off before the end of the post.
A screenshot of most of the October 6 Facebook statement on ICD’s page.

Remember this?

A review process of founder and director, Rob Deemer, is being initiated, at the request of the director, by several new members of the ICD staff that will include a careful examination of the critiques raised by members of our community.

ICD’s October 6 Facebook statement

What do we think of the review of Rob so far? Pretty nonexistent, right? Well, buckle up, because the following several points are going to be pretty much… the same. For some of the issues I’ve critiqued already, I can genuinely say I believe the review team tried to directly address the concerns raised, though they may not have always had the education and expertise to respond appropriately. This next section does not go quite as well—time and time again, they have opportunities to hold Rob accountable, and time and time again, they choose not to.

In this section, keep in mind that the reviewers took direct responses from Rob into account (for every point, even these) while they created their document.

Point 27: Rob Ignores Others and Makes Unilateral Decisions

The Complaint:

“Rob does not consistently communicate with staff and others offering suggestions and services to ICD, makes decisions without consulting others, and does not properly follow-up when mistakes have been made.”
They aggregated this complaint from many smaller points, but aspects of it have known mentions in my writing and the Trade Winds post.

The Review Team Says:

  • “The review team agrees that communications, decision-making, and follow-through can be improved at ICD. The leadership team created in fall 2020 helps to solve this issue, as three additional directors in the organization now make decisions together. All policy decisions regarding the work of ICD will now come through the leadership team with equal input and consensus-based decision-making among all four members.”
  • Should create and implement a communications policy for staff.

My Notes:

  • Rob isn’t even mentioned in the response.
  • This answer centers itself in the present, when a leadership team has already been established, instead of looking definitively at Rob’s past actions and impacts.
  • Rob has had folks on board giving him good advice in the past; he’s simply ignored it. Adding more staff doesn’t inherently make him stop ignoring staff.
  • Roles and influence of the leadership team aren’t clear—what’s the difference between an Assistant and an Associate Director? Who breaks ties?
  • Rob is very persuasive; his willingness to leverage that charisma in his favor is part of how we got here. I don’t believe this structure will keep him from overriding decisions.
  • The communications policy should apply to all staff, but Point 16 specified public-facing staff. We could use clarification as to which of these decisions is now ICD policy.

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Point 28: ICD is about Rob

The Complaint:

“ICD seems more about Rob and accolades to him than advocacy, and he has not provided acknowledgement of the important work of past staff.”
This is cobbled together from many, many complaints. It is directly referenced in my writing, Trade Winds’ post, and countless social media posts and comments.

The Review Team Says:

  • ICD shouldn’t be about individuals, even Rob (“the Director”).
  • Personal highlights should center consenting composers or “others(?) promoting the work of the mission.”
  • Communications Coordinator will create a social media policy that de-centers leadership. (Note: this is incredibly specialized work.)
  • Re: previous staff, see Point 11.

My Notes:

  • They might have pulled this complaint directly from somewhere; otherwise, I don’t know why they’re restating Point 11. I can’t find the source, though.
  • Most ICD media I’ve ever seen has been Rob-centric. He runs their socials (see Point 13), sometimes posts ICD statements on his Facebook profile, and is the face and voice of ICD.
  • Rob’s visibility has bought him clout, which he uses to elevate his status: leading group discussions, writing for/being quoted by various outlets, and convincing people of his position as a model of inclusive, progressive advocacy.
  • During his Directorship, Rob has received numerous personal accolades, including a Chancellor’s Award for Faculty Service at Fredonia (who houses ICD) last year and the 2018 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Internet Award.
  • Rob’s visibility extends beyond socials (presenting at conferences, giving ICD talks, facilitating discussions); a social media policy will not completely address this issue.

The review team has at no point comprehensively addressed the full benefit of Rob’s ICD position, and considering the review’s original scope, that’s discouraging. We will talk more about this in Part 3 next week.

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Point 29: Consequences for the Executive Advisory Council?

The Complaint:

“An affiliate of ICD on the Executive Advisory Council posted inappropriate commentary on ICD’s Facebook page. These posts need to be addressed and the individual removed from the ICD position.”
This is extremely vague, but I think it’s a response to this portion of a complaint from the Trade Winds post:

…Moreover and distressingly, recent social media debacles have demonstrated that ICD affiliates are alarmingly recalcitrant in the face of valid critique (see: Alex Shapiro, ICD Executive Council member, who proudly taunted ‘angry foot-stompers outside the tent,’ when the nearly all-white constituency of two webinar panels on diversity she participated in was duly called out)….

Demanding Accountability: Systemic Issues in the Institute for Composer Diversity

The Review Team Says:

  • “…posts with an inappropriate, disrespectful, or discriminatory nature should be addressed with the individual in question.”
  • The Executive Advisory Council (EAC) is a resource; they don’t hold power over ICD, but the exact relationship isn’t clear.
  • EAC has no communications policy.
  • Proposed review of EAC membership by the leadership team (no implementation plan).
  • Consider a smaller EAC; create a transparent policy for adding new members.
  • Examine the degree to which the EAC speaks for ICD “to ensure views they express are consistent with ICD values.”

My Notes:

  • This is an unacceptable amount of glossing over; ICD never (to my knowledge) even made a statement on the Shapiro comments, despite public outcry and a thorough piece by Chris Mena. [N.b. in his piece, Mena incorrectly characterized the panel in question as all-white. One member of that panel is not. However, it’s an important read because of the many points he raises over the course of the essay.]
  • The Executive Advisory Council is not a board of directors; they have no official sway over ICD. It’s unclear how much sway ICD has over them.
    • Mostly composers and band directors, plus some performers, ensemble heads, and media people.
    • Not immediately obvious if EAC includes trans and nonbinary people. (When I say “not immediately obvious,” I mean that nobody in my queer community is aware of any EAC members who are trans.)
    • Considering some of the early responses to “you need to include pronouns” were “our advisors told us that wasn’t necessary,” I’d guess there’s not tons of gender-expansive experience represented.
  • EAC is a web of powerful institutional connections: Boulanger Initiative, Sphinx Foundation (givers of the $75k grant), Colorado and Phoenix Symphonies, lots of universities and ensembles, The Library of Congress, ASCAP, NAfME, and others.
  • ICD’s connections have launched it forward as a leader in diversity, equity, inclusion, and access without having the knowledge or experience to back that up.
  • A smaller EAC would be great, but reps need to be folks who find and address ICD’s blind spots, not classical music and wind band influencers.

The EAC needs to prioritize voices who engage directly and intersectionally with the marginalizations they represent rather than serving as a list of colleagues professionally similar to the leadership team. This council should be comprised not only of folks who experience oppression but of those who are experts on the topic. If you want to do right by folks of specific, clearly-stated-on-your-website marginalizations, those perspectives must be the cornerstone of your organization.

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Point 30: White Saviorism: The Musical

The Complaint:

“ICD promotes white saviorism since most of the leadership [is] white.”
This complaint has a known mention in Trade Winds’ post.

The Review Team Says:

  • “in the past, an all-white leadership team could easily have promoted white saviorism” (implied here: current, half-white leadership team does not?).
  • Move toward majority non-white leadership made in creating the leadership team (2020) “which includes two women of color, and three women total.”
  • White staff should be trained in cultural sensitivity; the whole team should have sensitivity training for all ICD’s underrepresented populations.
  • Proposed prioritizing non-white hires at all levels to increase diversity.

My Notes:

  • “[T]hree women total” in a point about white saviorism is a red herring. In a discussion about more non-white staffing, highlighting the white woman only placates white audiences.
  • Using repertoire proportions on white institutions mostly sounds like “if you do a little of this, you can keep programming dead white cishet guys, and people won’t complain too much.”
  • Risk of these proportions backfiring: Many butthurt (white) band directors retaliate at marginalized artists who continue asking for better because their programs meet the ICD minimum percents.

I think the review team is perhaps staring too hard at the trees and missing the forest here: yes, a mostly-white leadership inherently contributes to white saviorism, but it’s also important to consider their still-casual approach to teaching on tokenism, their habit of speaking over people of color, and their conservative and exclusionary programming percent games (see Point 20).

Further, ICD can’t absolve itself of white saviorism when the review team explicitly chooses not to hold Rob personally accountable in any facet of this review. No organization can claim to work beyond that threshold while continually brushing off well-documented mistakes and harm caused by the white man leading the operation. Regardless of how many non-white staff ICD hires, the Institute will continue mistreating the people of color who catalyze this change without appropriate support. And if Rob continues getting free passes with no consequences, non-white staff will never have a safe work environment.

“No organization can claim to work beyond that threshold [of white saviorism] while continually brushing off well-documented mistakes and harm caused by the white man leading the operation.” —@ordinarilymeg on @ComposerProject

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Coming Soon: Wrapping Up Rob (and the review)

The end is in sight. Next time, we’ll look at the last nine points of the internal review, starting with the end of the Leadership section. Once we find our way to the end of the document, we’ll talk about a couple of significant points that have permeated the review as a whole, and I’ll leave you with some straightforward tools you can implement into your artistic practice right away!

Thanks again for being here. I’m so glad you’re on this journey with me.


This review has been a big project. Many thanks to Nebal Maysaud for their brilliance in editing and sensitivity reading, to Brandon Rumsey for their archival assistance, and to Nick St. Croix for his patience as I upended our apartment and schedules for a month and a half to get this done.

Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @ordinarilymeg on Instagram.

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