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Lassiter/Walton Chorus controvesy reviewed: Atlanta Symphony thinks two East Cobb high school choruses ‘not diverse enough’


Walton High School Chorus

After a four-year partnership, two suburban Cobb County high school choruses will not be performing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this coming fall.

That’s because they’ve been told they are not racially diverse enough.

The Walton High School Chorus has received many honors and performed all over the world.

So, too, has the Lassiter High School Chorus.

But they won’t be back with the ASO for a joint holiday concert this coming December.

11Alive was first alerted to the change by e-mails from some angry parents, none of whom would go on camera.

But a spokesperson for the Cobb County School District confirmed the breakup.

In a response to an 11Alive e-mail, school system communications director Jay Dillon wrote 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.”

Dillon said Walton and Lassiter were still welcome to participate but, “because of limited space, only a portion of the Lassiter and Walton choruses would therefore be able to attend.”

He added that the schools chose not to leave any chorus members behind and “would not be able to perform with the Symphony.”

Dillon also wrote, “Cobb County School District choral programs are open to all students, and participation is determined on the basis of merit alone.”

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sent us a written reply from marketing VP Charlie Wade.

“We’ve been thrilled with the quality and performance of Lassiter and Walton choruses for four straight years; they are terrific,” Wade wrote. “But we felt it was simply time to let another set of kids participate.”

He said Atlanta’s Grady High School chorus had been added.

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.”



(Reprinted from 11Alive News. Written Submitted by Paul Crawley, 11Alive Reporter, Thursday, August 16th, 2012)

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  1. Chris Lambrecht says:

    The ASO can ill afford to lose supporters. Bad decision, I believe.

    • What I read into this is that the ASO has turned away better musicians in order to be racially diverse and would like the schools to do the same.

  2. I agree, bad move on their part. I wonder just how diverse Atlanta’s Grady High School chorus is?

  3. Carolyn McKenney says:

    I am so confused by this decision by the ASO. This is the best case of reverse discrimination I’ve heard of to date. I do believe there is a lawsuit in their future. I hope they lose the support of every parent whose child was affected by this horrible decision, they sure lost mine!

  4. I understand ASO policy, if they were in Cobb Co. it probably would have been different.


    I looked at the ASO website and could find no “diversity” on the home page. Then I looked at the pix from the summer concert. I believe I did find one person of color in the orchestra. Interestingly, the audience was virtually all white. Maybe ASO should only sell a portion of tickets and only accept a portion of donations from different races.

    This is the most absurd event I have witnessed in decades.

  6. Ellen Repasky says:

    Gee, four of us white gals from East Cobb sang with the ASO in a Gospel Choir one Christmas – does 4% count as diverse?

  7. Very sad to hear this and I too will question my attendance and support of ASO in the future.

  8. Don’t jump the gun on this. This article is not telling the entire story. Please read what Romanstein said:

    ASO President Stanley Romanstein said, “We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon (Wireless Amphitheatre), or Chastain Park to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.” While he praised Lassiter and Walton for their exceptional skill over four consecutive years perfroming, he added, “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.”

    “…their chance to perform with the ASO as well.” ASO is doing what it should: open up to other groups.

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