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ASO Denies Diversity Snub Allegation

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has denied allegations that Lassiter and Walton High Schools will not be allowed to perform in full with the orchestra because of their racial makeup.

Update, 3:50 p.m.: Jay Dillon, the spokesperson who was quoted in the original 11 Alive story, has released the following statement to news agencies:

For the past four years, the Lassiter and Walton high school choruses have performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. This year, the schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus. Because of limited space, only a portion of the Lassiter and Walton choruses would therefore be able to attend.

Cobb County School District choral programs are open to all students, and participation in these programs is determined on the basis of merit alone. Because the full choruses would not be able to perform with the Symphony, both Lassiter and Walton have declined to participate this year.

Patch has asked Dillon to produce the documentation the ASO gave the schools about their decision.

Update, 3:15 p.m.: Patch has received an offical response from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Vice President for Marketing and Symphony Pops, Charlie Wade. Wade's statement reads as follows:

Thank you for your concern, and we apologize for any misunderstanding. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has a long and proud tradition of inviting talented amateur singers to perform with our orchestra. Our audiences have heard the Young Singers of Callanwolde, Morehouse and Spelman College Glee Clubs, and Gwinnett Young Singers —accompanied by our talented musicians. Four years ago, for the first time, we invited two high school choirs to participate in our Holiday Pops concerts. The Lassiter and Walton high school choruses have done an outstanding job, but they are only two of at least 12 very fine high school choirs in the Atlanta area. We think those choirs merit a chance to sing with the ASO as well.

Two years ago we told the choral directors from Lassiter and Walton that, after their December 2011 concerts with us — capping a four-year run — we would invite other high school choirs to sing with the ASO beginning in 2012. The Lassiter and Walton directors thanked us for the opportunity we had afforded them and their students. This year, we look forward to sharing our stage with the Grady High School chorus for the first time, and we're delighted to continue our tradition of inviting talented amateur singers to perform with the ASO. We enjoy our partnership with Lassiter and Walton, and look forward to collaborating with them in the future.

Update, 3:00 p.m.: According to Dr. Timothy Furnish of Woodstock, the Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra called him after Furnish left a heated voicemail with the ASO. Furnish says the director made no mention of racial diversity. Additionally, the director said that after four years of working with Lassiter and Walton high schools, they wanted to give other schools a chance to participate in the holiday concert.

Original Report

Two East Cobb high schools have been told they will not be performing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in the fall because they lack racial diversity.

The choruses at and high schools have been barred from full participation in the ASO's joint holiday concert held in December.

Both schools would still be allowed to send smaller contingents of chorus singers to the performance due to space restrictions.

spokesperson Jay Dillon told 11 Alive News that, "the schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus."

Membership in both choral groups is based upon merit alone.

Atlanta's chorus will take the place of Lassiter and Walton.

Joseph Pond August 16, 2012 at 02:42 PM
So the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra chooses to use an Atlanta high school over a mix of two East Cobb high schools because they thought it more represented Atlanta, and you folks are outraged? This article was written in a biased, inflammatory way and you guys drank the Kool-Aid! Congrats!
Georgia Elite Realty August 16, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Since when does talent have anything to do with diversity? This is horrible.
TPvy August 16, 2012 at 03:12 PM
ASO doesn't seem to be "diverse enough" either. Perhaps they should not play, or be replaced with an orchestra that is "diverse enough". Question: Exactly what are the specifications for a group to be considered "diverse enough"??
Tom Glass August 16, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I don't know why everyone is surprised by this. ASO is another liberal organization, run by liberals, catering to liberals, bending over backward to assure other liberals they aren't racist. I looked at all the ASO pictures. There are two - TWO!!! - blacks in the whole ASO... A trombone player and a librarian. There are a number of Orientials, but I guess they don't count. Walton & Lassiter have a make-up commensurate with their demography. Perhaps more bussing is the answer. Wouldn't that be delightful??? Unless we stop looking at the color of someone's skin this WILL NOT CHANGE. To hell with ASO. I'll never attend another performance again.
Byron Rangitsch August 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM
More dbags to boycott. If they'd just keep quiet, I'd never know....
Tom Glass August 16, 2012 at 03:53 PM
This article is written in such a way that it points out an injustice. Both these choruses have sung at Christmas with ASO for years and this has never been an issue. Now, in a election year with the first black POTUS circling the drain, it now becomes an issue. I don't drink Kool-aid, buster, but it sounds like you have a lifetime supply. Drink it till it comes out your ears.
Carol August 16, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I completely agree with what you have said and let's not forget that the select few have been chosen by MERIT only......since when can someone have the audacity to force "diversity" over talent. What are people thinking these days? It's pathetic!
D Dillon August 16, 2012 at 04:06 PM
As a former East Cobb resident and a person of color/mixed races now living in Canada, I am appalled by the gall of the ASO to deny these two choirs to participate because they "lack racial diversity". The pot calling the kettle black. . . I counted 8 people who could be classified as "minorities" among the ASO's musicians.
JannieRee August 16, 2012 at 04:11 PM
How was the article "written in a biased, inflammatory way"? They strictly reported what happened - that's exactly the reason for not inviting the choruses not to participate! How would you have written it to make innocuous? I say, 'Good reporting of the facts!'
Hannah Schug August 16, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I am a graduate and former chorus member of Lassiter High School, class of '02. I can't speak to the current set up, but when I was there, the chorus was comprised of 4 different choirs. Two of them were for ladies only; the other two were ladies and gentlemen. If you wanted to be in any of the choirs, you had to audition with one of the chorus teachers, and you were then placed in whichever choir the teacher believed you were best suited for. It was not a matter of race or ethnicity. If you didn't audition, you couldn't be included, simple as that. I would imagine that the current chorus teacher chooses the students he/she believes are the most talented and not what race or ethnicity the students are.
Carol August 16, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I also looked at their performer's photos and found the same thing as you found. Where is their diversity??? Their philosophy must be "Do what I say and not what I do." Great example they are setting for our youth, just lie and lie and lie some more. The liberals are run amuck, it would seem.......
Lori August 16, 2012 at 06:06 PM
if it was just a matter of a better representation of Atlanta City Schools over East Cobb Schools--they should have said just that!! And I certainly hope if ASO changes their mind due to all the flack they are getting--that these 2 schools will not go back!!
Cobbianite August 16, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Don't you have some chickens to eat?
Tom Glass August 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Someone is doing some serious backtracking here... Either ASO told this Jay Dillon person about racial diversity being the reason ASO was dumping Walton & Lassiter - that's what my daughter who is in the Walton chorus said she was told in chourus on Monday - or Dillon made this up. Either way there are some pissed off parents here in Cobb county. ASO is denying they snubbed us, and the Cobb County Schools spokesman is still crying "foul!". Both can't be right. Before this kind of thing gets published and gets everyone's bowels in an uproar, Patch needs to have its facts right. A bit more digging on Patch's part would have gotten to the bottom of this and had the straight poop. Now it appears we'll never know for sure.
MariettaGator August 16, 2012 at 08:52 PM
There are exactly 2 black faces listed: Assistant Principle Trombone and Assistant Librarian. Out of 100 musicians, ONE African American. I guess if you add in the "Librarians" that DOUBLES the racial diversity of the ASO to exactly two African Americans. Still that's more African Americans than you will see sitting in the audience at the ASO. 5 conductors: No African Americans 15 "First Violin": No African Americans 3 "Section Violin": No African Americans 12 "Second Violin": No African Americans 10 "Viola": No African Americans 10 "Cello" No African Americans 8 "Bass": No African Americans 14 "Woodwinds": No African Americans 15 "Brass": ONE African American (Assistant Trombone) 5 "Persussion": No African Americans 3 "Keyboards": No African Americans 3 "Librarians": One African American (Assistant Librarian)
Beth August 16, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Does the $14 all Cobb County parents are asked to donate per child each year for the PERFORMING ARTS go to the ASO? If so, I will be canceling 3 checks I have already written. I wonder how the make up of Spellman and Morehouse qualifies for racial diversity.
JD August 16, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Definitely 5th grade, all other grades, ask your school.
Tom Glass August 17, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Here is the report from 11Alive. http://www.11alive.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1787093122001&odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|featured It seems to me that the message is pretty clear.
Yoshio Usui August 17, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Democracy Tax There are no Democracy costs for the Products of China. For all products from China, we should have China pay Democracy Tax to America, because price competition has to be fair. Democracy costs too much, and the costs of democracy such as the election and division of the three powers are added on all products from toothbrushes to cars. The cause of the recession and unemployment lies in the Communist China.
Chip Jacobs August 17, 2012 at 10:32 AM
What "digging" could Patch have done? The school system's official spokesman said, and still says, one thing, and the ASO is saying something else now. By getting the story out there, Patch has pushed our knowledge of the story forward, both by compelling further statements from the CCSD and ASO and by getting comments from choir parents about what kids have been told and from people who have called the ASO to complain. Shining a light on this story online as soon as possible is the best way to bring out all the facts and get the straight poop.
Norman August 17, 2012 at 11:58 AM
The message from ASO was abundantly clear...listen to the ASO rep. speak the words himself "the chorus is not diverse". I'm done supporting ASO in any way, as small as my contribution is.
Raymond Koepsell August 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Is anyone willing to appear on camera? The local news stations are looking to interview parents
Raymond Koepsell August 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Follow the timeline, and apply a modicum of discernment. We were told Monday the chorus didn't have enough "black faces" to suit ASO. Jay Dillon then confirmed ASO advised the reason was a lack of racial diversity. Then, as the story got legs, ASO denied it. Ask yourself this? What would motivate an employee of the Cobb County School District to make up something so incendiary? Answer: nothing. Then ask yourself this? What would motivate ASO, which is supported by a large number of Walton and Lassiter parents, to deny that race is a reason? Answer: money.
Parent65 August 17, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Your daughter said racial diversity was the reason Then Jay Dillon of Cobb County confirmed it And your response is to question the diligence of the Patch after the Symphony denied it? Are you kidding? Of course somebody is "doing some serious backtracking." The Symphony is trying to wipe egg of its racially-motivated face since the story went public!
Tim Langley August 17, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Did Tim Lee's remark about opponents of T-SPLOST being racially motivated play a role? I think so.
Helen Mills August 17, 2012 at 04:15 PM
There's something fishy about all of this "racist uproar". As someone that grew up in the East Cobb school systems, I know the fine arts programs are incredibly talented across the board. There's no doubt about it. There are many parents of these students who enjoy fine arts and are patrons of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Why, then, would the director of the ASO say something so radical and offensive and not expect backlash? I suspect because he never said it. There is no proof, otherwise I would be just as shocked as the rest of these commenters. What I do sense is some animosity from Dillon-- it seems to me that they were floored that the ASO were to give other schools a chance to perform, and perhaps felt the need to project his own reasoning as to why things didn't pan out. I partially have to feel for these other kids. East Cobb is well known for being affluent. A lot of these kids are born into great opportunities, whether or not they have talent. There are kids at schools that aren't appraised as the best public schools in Georgia that also have talent. I think it's great that they would also be able to perform. These kids are not professionals that have beat each other out-- they're kids getting an opportunity to feel special. I think a four year run is awesome for Walton and Lassiter. I also think it's time other kids got to enjoy that sort of performance.
Raymond Koepsell August 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Helen, I not only grew up in the East Cobb school system, I am a Walton graduate - so now we've pointlessly compared our credentials long-standing suburban Atlantans- let me respond to your statement "East Cobb is well known for being affluent. A lot of these kids are born into great opportunities, whether or not they have talent." You imply, intentionally or not, that Walton and Lassiter performed at ASO based on affluence, not on talent. That is poppycock. You made a statement I completely agree with: "I think a four year run is awesome for Walton and Lassiter. I also think it's time other kids got to enjoy that sort of performance." However, when my daughter came home on Monday, she didn't say Walton wasn't going to perform at ASO so that other, less affluent schools could participate, she said Walton was not invited back "because there are not enough black faces" in the chorus. This was corroborated by an official statement by Cobb County School Board by way of Mr. Dillon. I challenge you to explain how Mr. Dillon's statement could possibly qualify as "animosity." He said "the schools were informed by Symphony officials that their choruses are not diverse enough, and that the Symphony would be inviting a third, more diverse chorus." Where is the animosity in that, or than in your imagination?
Frank August 17, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Jamie: You are so right on this issue! The ASO is speaking out of two sides of its instrument. Being dishonest is no way to win over any community and this is a public relations nightmare for them - The ASO denies the snub is diversity based, yet follow this link to see a different story on the ASO website. http://www.atlantasymphony.org/EducationAndCommunity/TDP/History.aspx Here are two quotes: "...diversity on the stage would result in diversity in the audience as well." "Over the years, more than 100 students have benefitted from the Orchestra’s long-term commitment to increasing diversity on the American orchestral stage." Note to ASO - Diversity is the inclusion of all, not the elimination of any. When you pull these types of shenanigans, the community becomes more divisive not less. You have lost my business and that of many of my friends. Additionally, ASO musicians perform at other venues such as Chastain and Verizon Amphitheater. You've lost our business there too as long as they choose to associate with the ASO. By the way ASO - Thank you for the Gospel rendition of Amen seen here and its less than stunning lack of diversity in the choral group: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r9V5WV_Fbk How's that diversity working out for you? Can I hear an AMEN?
Beth August 17, 2012 at 07:32 PM
The ASO decision is the lead story on FoxNews.com. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/08/17/georgia-high-school-choruses-reportedly-not-diverse-enough-to-perform-with/

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