Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

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A Message from the President
The Colburn School’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)
EDI Initiatives Launching in 2020–21

A Message from the President

Dear Colburn Community,

Since its beginnings as a community music school in the 1950s, the Colburn School has been committed to providing equitable access to excellence in performing arts education. Created through the remarkable vision and transformational philanthropy of Richard D. Colburn, the School is also inspired by the legacy of Herbert Zipper, considered one of the founders of the community arts movement in the United States. The School believes that the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion are vital to our collective success as an institution and a community of performing artists.

However, we recognize that many major disciplines taught at Colburn, such as classical music and ballet, have historically excluded BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), as well as low-income communities. This has been an issue the performing arts industry has grappled with for many years, and while there has been some progress, none of us have seen the lasting change we would all desire. The recent national reckoning over racial injustice and examination of systemic racism in our country makes it imperative to confront these issues and to reflect on how cultural and educational institutions can do more to further racial equality.

Colburn School has an opportunity and a responsibility to do more.

The opportunity comes from the foundation we have built, which includes the Center for Innovation and Community Impact, a thriving community engagement pipeline, a robust scholarship program, and educational offerings for students at all stages from beginner to pre-professional. These programmatic cornerstones give us a platform to effect change in our field. We recognize that the performing arts community should reflect the diversity of the communities we live in, and that of our nation. Our community should be proactively welcoming and inclusive and it is our responsibility to make this true.

With those values in mind, the Colburn School has reflected, listened, reflected, and developed a course of action that will build on our prior work, make immediate changes in the present, and invest in the future. We intend these steps to be a beginning and will continue to involve our entire community in the planning and execution of this work.

Today, I am excited to share with you plans we are developing to address the lack of representation by BIPOC in the performing arts. Many of these will be managed by Colburn’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact, and the School is also committing significant additional educational, financial, and staffing resources, effective immediately, to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at Colburn and in the fields of music and dance.

As our work progresses, we will update our community on these and additional initiatives and continue the essential discussions we have initiated with our students, faculty, staff, and board. We also invite any member of the community to reach out to us with suggestions, questions, or feedback at EDI@colburnschool.edu. We firmly believe our ongoing commitment will result in a stronger, more diverse artistic community and creative society, and invite the entire Colburn community to be our partner in the months and years ahead.

With warmest regards,

Sel Kardan
President and CEO
The Colburn School

The Colburn School’s Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

The Colburn School is dedicated to providing equitable access to excellence in performing arts education. Founded on the core principle of community, Colburn believes that equity, diversity, and inclusion are vital to our collective success.

We recognize that many major disciplines in the institution, such as classical music and ballet, have historically excluded BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and low-income communities. Colburn has an opportunity—and an obligation—to do more. We are committing to a number of EDI initiatives that build upon our past work, allow us to make immediate change in the present, and lay the groundwork for future commitments.

To effectively do this important work, Colburn is proud to build on the foundational cornerstones that have informed our community-based work for decades:

  • Access to excellence: An important part of our institutional mission, the Colburn School has a history of opening its doors to all members of the Los Angeles community who wish to pursue dance and music at the highest level. The institution works to remove financial barriers by awarding nearly $10 million in scholarships annually.
  • The legacy of Herbert Zipper: Considered the founding father of the community arts movement in the United States, Herbert Zipper championed the notion that Colburn and a performing arts education should be available to everyone. His legacy lives on in our vibrant Community School, thriving community engagement programs, and the many community partners from around Los Angeles.
  • A thriving performing arts pipeline and scholarship program: Over the past 10 years, Colburn has built a robust pipeline of programs for students from 15 under-resourced partner schools within six miles of the institution. These programs offer opportunities for full scholarships to study in all areas of the Community School, from the time they enter the program. The current pipeline serves over 200 students from the Los Angeles community.

We have developed a series of initiatives grounded in these cornerstones which will begin with the 2020–21 academic year and continue long after, becoming part of the fabric of the institution. We believe these initiatives, outlined below, will be important steps towards a stronger, more diverse artistic workforce and creative society.

EDI Initiatives launching in 2020–21

In conversation with our staff, faculty, students, and board, we have developed the following first steps to support EDI initiatives as a performing arts organization, as a school, and as a member of the community.



As a performing arts organization, The Colburn School is committing to programmatic initiatives that spotlight BIPOC composers and performers.

The Amplify Series
This series celebrates the careers of artists of color through a number of on-campus short-term residencies throughout the academic year. Colburn will welcome four to five artists annually for performances, masterclasses, and panel discussions that connect with all areas of the institution. In addition, Colburn will support each artist through the resources of the institution, including recording projects, marketing support, and engagement work in the community through the Center for Innovation and Community Impact (CICI).

Social Innovation Grants
The Social Innovation Fund will be established to provide financial support to students working towards:

1. artistic projects centered around the work of BIPOC composers or choreographers
2. education and community engagement projects that serve BIPOC or low-income communities

Students will learn how to craft a pitch or proposal for their project. If their proposal is selected, the Center for Innovation and Community Impact will provide ongoing mentorship to develop the project.

The School will also commission a series of works from artists of color with an emphasis on Colburn alumni as an extension of the Amplify Series. Each season, a new work will premiere on either the Colburn Chamber Music Society series or by the Colburn Orchestra, and the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute will feature new choreography by persons of color.

Large ensemble and chamber music programs across all units of the School will regularly include works by BIPOC and other underrepresented groups.



Conservatory of Music

The Colburn Conservatory of Music will offer an enhanced academic curriculum to engage students with issues of with social justice in the classroom and beyond, harnessing their ability to lead and to informing their art for future good.

Protest. Educate. Change.
A suite of course offerings titled Protest. Educate. Change. will be available to every student in the Conservatory of Music, regardless of program or level. Courses will discuss racial inequality, ethics, social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, and these offerings will be augmented and updated each year to provide a rich and diversified curriculum that allows students to delve as deeply as their interests take them. Most will fulfill degree requirements for either the Bachelor or Master of Music degrees.

Additional Humanities courses that have been offered in past years and will be offered again in the future, include Voices of Protest: The 1960s and Today and Topics in American Literature: A Literary History of #blacklivesmatter. The Music History curriculum in the Bachelor of Music degree will continue to engage students actively with current events in “classical music” culture that touch on bias in terms of gender, race, sexual identity, and cultural origins and practices. In Fall 2020, MHL 518 – History of Jazz will be offered as an elective for the Master of Music and going forward, new electives in both the bachelor’s and master’s programs will be developed.


Colburn will implement robust EDI training and continuously look for additional opportunities to learn, listen, reflect, and ultimately, act in order to be a part of the change that is so necessary in our field.

Mandatory Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training
With the direction of an outside consultant, beginning this fall, EDI training will be required for all faculty and staff, as well as Conservatory, Music Academy, and Dance Academy students to ensure the community is a place of inclusion and belonging for all. Opportunities for learning and dialogue will also be tailored especially for Community School students.

Creation of President’s Council on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
This new council will represent diverse constituents from all areas of the institution, including students, staff, faculty, leadership, board, parents, and community members, and will meet regularly to advise the School on its efforts to create a more diverse and supportive community.

Diversifying Our Community
The School will expand current efforts to recruit a diverse applicant pool for open positions to increase the number of BIPOC in faculty, staff, and leadership positions.



Colburn will partner with local and national organizations who are established leaders in the EDI space, while learning from their experience and perspective. Together, we are developing long-term collaborative programming designed to engage, develop, and empower BIPOC artists in every area of the School. Partner organizations will benefit from free access to Colburn spaces, teaching artists, and CICI resources, as well as scholarship opportunities for participating students.

Local Partnerships: Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA)
Colburn and ICYOLA, the largest majority African-American orchestra in America, will embark on a multi-faceted partnership that will include side-by-side collaborations, scholarships, in-depth teaching artist support, and the creation of a joint strings and literacy program in predominantly African American elementary schools in South LA. Effective immediately, Colburn will begin offering direct scholarship support to artists in ICYOLA.

National Partnerships
Colburn is developing exciting partnerships with national organizations dedicated to identifying and developing musicians and dancers of color, with further details to be announced soon.

Scholarship and Audition Travel Support

Colburn will dedicate resources to enable a diverse pool of aspiring artists to apply to and audition at the School.

Scholarship Support
Expanded financial aid will be available for students of color in the Community School, Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, and Music Academy. (All Conservatory students already receive full scholarships.)

Audition Travel Funding
Audition travel support will be available for prospective students of color applying to the Conservatory, Music Academy and Dance Academy.

Community Engagement

Colburn will expand existing community engagement programs and intentionally engage a more diverse community.

Expanding Jumpstart
Creation of a new Jumpstart ballet program to complement existing Jumpstart programs in band, strings, and piano.

Expanding Fortissima
Founded in 2017 at Colburn, Fortissima is a leadership development program for young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music. Beginning in Fall 2021, it will expand from a local pilot program to one available to students across the nation, with an intensive residential program on campus.