Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Herb Wiksleblatt

How to break a discrimination trend? In any selection hiring procedures…

In the previous post https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/hiring-discrimination-in-classical-music-world/I wrote:

“When judging musician players, the eyes and all the other senses increase prejudiced assessment, and only the ears should be used in selecting talented musicians.

Herb Wiksleblatt, tuba player for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, let the fight in the 60’s for blind screening auditions. High heel sounds or coughing or anything that might divulge the gender or origin of the person coming to audition were ground enough to be issued a different number and come back behind the screen…

Control the environment and rapid cognition that usually decides can come under control and reduce biases.

Control the first impressions and you have the opportunity to hire the best qualified talented people…

Since blind screen auditioning procedures were instituted, the number of female musicians increased from 5% to 50% within two decades.”

The question is:

“Would blind screening procedures acquire such an excellent success story in selecting the best talented musician if the laws of equal opportunity was not enforced and educated?”

Probably not to such an extent of 50%, but do you have any doubt that equal opportunity laws alone could have made a dent?

Suppose that instead of this practical anti-discrimination solution (blind screen) the musical world followed the route of:

1. Creating affirmative action programs for women in the music industry

2. Establishing awareness programs for gender biases

3. Teaching female musicians to be more assertive in making the case for their own abilities

4. Conducting discussions with maestro on the trend of social discrimination…

Do you think that women and maestra would have made any significant victories if maestra were still the sole decision makers and relying on their “blink decisions” without removing the biasing elements or variables in the selection process?

Suppose you are presented with the task of reducing the biases in the court jury system.  It is evident that any jury is biased in its judgement on gender, skin color, religious affiliation, minority, wealth status…

For example, in many US States, blacks are sentenced to prison terms 50 times more frequently than “while classy citizens” on drug charges.  So how would you go about bringing some kind of fairness in court proceeding?

You are facing a constitutional restriction that the charged person has to face the jury in person, and you know that the first impression weight very heavily on the jury judgment in the remaining proceedings…

Would consider that the jury hear the charges and facts in the first session without the presence of the person, that the jury does not have to see, hear or even know the name of the charged person? Like all communication be done by a third person through e-mail or any other means that does not divulge the origin and gender of the person?

Once the jury is educated on the evidences, it is very likely that biases will be reduced when the jury meet the person face to face. Why?

First impression of evidences may resist the inevitable follow-up natural discriminating behavior…

At least, prison term frequency will be reduced on blacks and Latinos and Moslem-looking people.

Any practical method that diminish instant first impression biases and enhance fairness should be welcomed…

Note: Piece inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Hiring discrimination: In Classical music world

Abbie Conant, a trombone player, had to fight a protracted legal battle (5 years) to retain her position and another one (3 years) to get equal pay as men musicians…Trombone, like French horn and other brass instruments…are considered men sections in orchestras.  Trombone is used for military marches and apparently, Beethoven used trombone to create background noises

“Herr” Abbir Conant, (instead of frau) as she was referred to in the audition letter of acceptance by the Munich Deutsches Philharmonic, had the number 16 for a blind screen procedure audition.  The judges were not able to see the player auditioning for the trombone position. Why?  The son of a musician was also auditioning and the jury didn’t want to be blamed for any biases

After Abbie finished her piece, maestro Sergiu Celibidache exclaimed: “That’s who we want!” and sent the remaining auditioners packing without any trial…Sergiu Celibidache was very displeased to see a women selected.

A year later, Abbie was relegated to second trombone, since the orchestra wanted a man, as tradition wanted. And Abbie filed suit…

Maestro Otto Strasser told this story.  A blind screen audition was conducted and a Japanese musician was judged to be the best. That was a complete chock: Japanese were assumed not to play with any soul and fidelity of classical music composed by European…

Rainer Kuchl claimed that he could instantly differentiate between a female and a male violinist by picking up the softness and flexibility of the female style. Another hog wash claim by biased maestro…

Sylvia Alimea, 5 feet tall, a French horn player “who could blow down a house” was selected in a blind screen audition, otherwise she had no chance whatsoever.

Julie Landsman held at the last high c for a very long time, just not to leave any doubt in the jury’s mind (that she is a male player)

The eyes and all the other senses increase prejudiced assessment, and only the ears should be used in selecting talented musicians.

Herb Wiksleblatt, tuba player for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, let the fight in the 60’s for blind screening auditions. High heel sounds or coughing or anything that might divulge the gender or origin of the person coming to audition were ground enough to be issued a different number and come back behind the screen…

Control the environment and rapid cognition that usually decides can come under control and reduce biases.

Control the first impressions and you have the opportunity to hire the best qualified talented people…

Since blind screen auditioning procedures were instituted, the number of female musicians increased from 5% to 50% within two decades.

Note: Piece inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell


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