Ensure the Representation of Black Composers on the ABRSM Syllabus

Ensure the Representation of Black Composers on the ABRSM Syllabus

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Grace Healy
Grace Healy signed this petition

I am a piano teacher in the UK who teaches the ABRSM syllabus. The 2019/20 piano syllabus has a total of 158 set works from a variety of eras and musical genres. None of these works are written by a black composer, and only one of the set works is written by a BAME composer.

Historically there are plenty of black composers who have shaped the course of Western classical music: Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Florence Price, Scott Joplin, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, George Bridgetower, William Grant Still, Julia Perry, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Nathaniel Dett, George Walker, Hale Smith, Nora Holt, Ulysses Kay, William Dawson, Margaret Bonds, Francis Johnson, Eva Jessye, Shirley Graham du Bois, Thomas Wiggins, Will Marion Cook... yet their names are consistently omitted. Why are we limiting diversity in a subject that clearly has a rich and varied history, and contributing to the erasure of people of colour from Western history?

Even in the ABRSM jazz piano syllabus, only around 22-25%* of the set works are written/arranged by black composers. Considering jazz originated in African-American communities, it seems to me that this statistic should be the other way round.

Over 650,000 candidates sit ABRSM exams each year, in more than 90 countries. Please sign this petition to urge ABRSM to take seriously their responsibility to create a more equal musical world through their educational material.

*This figure has been changed to include arrangers.