Steven Osgood’s Pledge to Black Opera Alliance

I hereby pledge to make all legally permissible efforts to do the following:

  1. Hire Black artists who reflect, at minimum, the racial demographics of our most diverse communities for both outreach and mainstage projects. This action will work to restore equity for Black performers and will enable audiences to digest living art that is inclusive of our multifaceted experiences, encouraging diversity in donors and increased patronage of the opera. Active recruiting from institutions of higher learning (such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Young Artist Programs and Studios, and online resources will be utilized to help achieve this result.
  1. Use all new administrative and production personnel openings to build a company roster which reflects, at minimum, the racial demographics of our most diverse communities. This will build infrastructure that supports equity in our hiring practices through active and dynamic recruitment. This includes, but is not limited to: creating an evaluation and accountability process for affiliated recruitment firms, and insisting that equitable mechanisms be implemented in any new search and hire. This level of intentionality will allow for powerful opportunities to deepen the organization’s impact, relevance, and advancement of the art form. Inclusive organizational personnel will bring a broad range of ideas, skills, and views that would not otherwise be considered.
  1. Program and prioritize works by Black composers and librettists on the mainstage, especially those that feature storytelling true to the complexity and broad experience of Black culture. Hiring Black stage directors, dramaturgs, and librettists in the telling of these stories is crucial. This will validate the humanity of Blackness and strengthen our commitment to include, empower, and uplift diverse perspectives on the stage and throughout our organization.
  1. Hire more Black creatives and production personnel at every level of Chautauqua Opera. This includes, but is not limited to: stage managers, directors, conductors, costume designers, hair and makeup artists, and lighting designers.
  1. Provide training to ensure that visual artists are fully skilled in preparing a Black artist for the stage. This is especially true for wig technicians, makeup artists, and lighting designers. Black artists will not be required to provide their own makeup for shows if makeup is being provided for other cast members. There will be zero tolerance for Blackface (i.e., the darkening of skin to suggest Blackness).
  1. Review Chautauqua Opera's hiring and administrative practices for inherent racism and/or implicit bias. This includes looking for opportunities for increased transparency around artist wages and staff promotions, and working to ensure that Chautauqua Opera’s Young Artist Program adheres to legal guidelines for a livable wage and provides housing/transportation when appropriate to ensure that Black singers are not disproportionately disadvantaged in pursuing careers in opera.

Chautauqua Opera will work closely with the Chautauqua Institution’s Chief Diversity Officer to ensure the soundness and sufficiency of this review process. While Black opera professionals who are famous or highly regarded by our organization may choose to provide guidance and insight based upon their own experiences, Chautauqua Opera will not use them tokenistically as the sole faces of diversity or arbiters of Black talent. We acknowledge that tokenism is a form of gatekeeping and is not a sustainable or far-reaching means of veritable progress, and that effective equity and inclusion work requires specialized knowledge and training.

  1. Include within Chautauqua Opera's official Code of Conduct a commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression. This agreement will be signed by every company member. It will clearly outline how and where to report instances of racism, hate speech, or implicit racial bias, as well as a clear plan of action for when such instances occur. All company members will be required to undertake formal anti-racism and anti-oppression training to counter implicit bias.

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I will execute these action items to the best of my ability and within as timely a manner as possible in order to intentionally effect anti-racism in the opera field.  

Additionally, I will seek recommendations from the appropriate accountability commission(s), which will work in conjunction with Opera America to review the inclusionary progress of companies and hiring entities. This will ensure that the aforestated practices are upheld according to written and publicly shared policies and timelines, providing quantifiable and sustained systemic change.

Signed,

OsgoodSignature

Steven Osgood
General & Artistic Director
The Chautauqua Opera Company