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Two celebrated high school choruses have been barred from performing with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at this year’s Christmas concert over alleged complaints that the groups are not racially diverse enough. For the past four years, choirs from Lassiter and Walton high school in Cobb County have performed with the ASO, but for this year’s concert, another, more diverse chorus will take their place, according to Cobb County Schools spokesman Jay Dillon. The school district pointed out that its choral programs are open to all students and participation is determined on merit alone.
The move has sparked criticism in Atlanta, with some local residents, including African-Americans, decrying it as discriminatory and unfair toward students at the two high schools. Romanstein said he was surprised by the reaction.
Meanwhile, we also asked about the racial diversity of the ASO itself. A 2008 study by the League of American Orchestras found that 87% of musicians in U.S. symphonies are white. But Melissa A.E. Sanders, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's senior director of communications, wrote, "It is against our policy to share the race and/or ethnicity of our musicians, so I am unable to share that information."
‘There are at least 12 very talented high school choirs in Atlanta,’ Romanstein said. ‘We gave Lassiter and Walton choirs an opportunity to perform for four consecutive years, and they were marvelous.
‘We think it's time to give other Atlanta high school choirs, who are very skilled and deserving, their chance to perform with the ASO as well.’
Lassiter and Walton were given the option of sending some members of their choruses to perform at the concert, but the schools turned down the offer.
‘Because the full choruses would not be able to perform with the symphony, both Lassiter and Walton have declined to participate this year,’ said Dillon