PSO Takes Leadership Role in Diversity

Mar 18, 2012

In June 2011, the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) approved a Diversity Plan. This new plan is significant, as it represents a long-term, strategic commitment to building diversity in all areas of its work. It is also the first comprehensive, long-term organizational diversity plan document of its kind in the orchestra field.

The plan positions the PSO to take a leadership role in the overall discussion of diversity in the orchestra field, as well as in the arts arena. It expands the definition of diversity to beyond, but including, cultural diversity.

A case study about PSO’s diversity plan creation and implementation will be explored at the League of American  Orchestras' 2012 National Conference in the Orchestra Academy Seminar, Expanding Diversity and Inclusion at Orchestras.


By 2008, PSO had developed a range of programs designed to engage the community and build a basic organizational understanding and support of diversity. However, next steps for making diversity a priority throughout all activities of the PSO on a long-term and strategic basis had yet to be defined. While the PSO had begun to address diversity through external programming, it had yet to set benchmarks for building greater internal diversity. As an industry, the orchestra field was just beginning to explore issues of diversity. Orchestras that were discussing diversity generally defined it within the boundaries of cultural diversity.

In the fall of 2008, the PSO began the process of developing a comprehensive, long-term diversity plan for the organization. The plan creation process took place from 2008 to 2010; the plan was completed in fall, 2010. The plan was formally presented to members of the PSO Board Diversity Committee and PSO Executive Committee in the 2010-2011 season; it was approved by the PSO Board on June 13th, 2011; and implementation of plan recommendations began in the current 2011-2012 season.

The Diversity Plan includes PSO core commitments, which represent the beliefs that guided the diversity plan process and will continue to guide future action around diversity at the PSO. These beliefs include the PSO Mission and Vision, Diversity Plan Mission and Vision, Diversity Plan Focus, and Diversity Plan Commitment.

A set of four action categories toward greater stakeholder engagement has been proposed within the plan and are as follows:

1) Establish Practices to Ensure Evidence-Based Decision Making: The PSO must make objective decisions based on concrete evidence to build greater diversity through stakeholder engagement.

2) Develop an Integrated Approach to Stakeholder Engagement: The PSO must focus on building seamless and meaningful long-term relationships with people from all backgrounds, thereby building diverse pipelines for future recruitment.

3) Define and Execute “Locally-Engaged,” and “High-Quality Experience” (Culture Change): The PSO needs a fundamental change in culture away from exclusive and toward inclusive and engaged.

4) Disseminate Information and Resources: The PSO must clearly communicate the wide definition of diversity it has adopted, then offering access to the resources and information its musicians, board, and staff need to affect positive change around diversity.

Programs include:

Community Engagement Concerts

Community Partners Program

Orchestra Training Program for African American Musicians

"Tribute" Concert