Lyric's commitment to IDEA values
Lyric Opera of Chicago has established four core areas that represent and describe our work in IDEA. These core areas or pillars are: Leadership, Artistic, Culture, and Communication & Engagement.
As you visit the statement below that outlines Lyric Opera of Chicago's commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access, we will also continue to provide updates on recent actions that reflect our work.
The purpose of this quarterly summary is to show progress and change, over time, in our commitment to IDEA. Updates will be published in the month following the most recently completed quarter.
DECEMBER 9, 2021 - 3ND QUARTER UPDATE
Lyric conducted Implicit Bias training with Dr. Bryant T. Marks from the National Training Institute on Race & Equity for 100% of the Administrative Staff. Parallel training was also made available to all of Lyric’s union groups.
Robert Goodwin joined the Lyric staff as Vice President for Lyric Unlimited, the company’s learning and community engagement wing.
Ursulla McWhorter joined the Lyric staff as its first-ever Vice President/ People and Culture.
Diverse hires from January — the end of the third quarter are at 67%. Ericka Carmona-Vega, Lyric’s Talent Acquisition Consultant, continues to expand recruiting practices for open positions.
On the artistic side, in Lyric’s 2021/22 season, all of our conductors, apart from our music director, are female, BIPOC, or both.
A new front of house orientation program for staff was implemented at the start of the 2021/22 season in September, with a focus on the Patron experience, welcoming guests into an inclusive environment.
The company created a new program, The New Employee Experience Onboarding Program, to onboard all new staff members in a welcoming and inclusive environment. The program also provides guidelines for hiring managers to unify the experience for new hires, across each department.
Lyric Unlimited’s ongoing partnership with the Chicago Urban League began its fourth year with the beginning of the 2021/22 Empower Youth! program designed for high school aged students to offer artistic explorations and creation of an original performance-based work.
Lyric is working with the National Training Institute on Race and Equity (NTIRE) and Sr4 Partners, a leadership development firm with an emphasis on inclusive leadership development. These two firms join Lyric as training and development resources, in addition to the ongoing work with Enrich Chicago to help fulfill Lyric’s commitment to have 100% of Lyric’s full time administrative staff and designated part time staff complete anti-racism training by the end of 2021.
To further deepen Lyric’s existing relationship with Enrich Chicago, two additional staff members will now join the General Director for quarterly cohort meetings.
NTIRE is developing a training plan for Lyric’s Board members. That plan will be reviewed by Lyric’s IDEA Steering Committee in the third quarter of 2021 with the goal of onboarding and training all new board members, including those already elected in 2021.
We are currently creating a leadership development curriculum with Sr4 Partners in which IDEA principles are embedded. This work began in May.
A part-time contract Recruiter has been selected to develop a sourcing strategy and identify diverse talent for current and future openings. All currently open positions at Lyric are posted and 67% of the company’s recently posted positions have been successfully filled by diverse candidates.
The full Board demographic review has been completed, with a 50% response rate. The results provide current baseline information and will be used to shape further board recruitment efforts.
As part of our ongoing efforts to measure and understand employee engagement and satisfaction, we administered a “Pulse Survey” to the full administrative staff in May, to be fully reviewed at a company meeting this summer. Overall sentiment is trending in a positive direction as we review these annual surveys, year over year.
Lyric officially designated Juneteenth as an annual all company holiday, ahead of state and national holiday designations.
Broadcast monthly from October through June, the nine programs of the 2020/21 Ryan Opera Center recital series on 98.7WFMT/WFMT.com. each featured works by two or more BIPOC composers.
Lyric Unlimited’s ongoing partnership with the Chicago Urban League marked the completion of its third year with the final, virtual performance from students participating in the artistic exploration and creation program, Empower Youth!
The first of the new paid positions in the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble that were announced in March--a conductor/pianist--was successfully filled with a diverse candidate who began in May with the start of the 2021/22 Ensemble year.
During the fourth quarter of 2020, Lyric moved our IDEA goals from commitments to an action plan, with a member of our senior leadership team assigned to oversee each core area.
The action plan was reviewed and approved by Lyric’s board-level IDEA Steering Committee, led by co-chairs Jane Pigott and Eric Smith. It was subsequently shared with Lyric’s IDEA Working Group, composed of a cross-company team of employees, and with the full administrative staff at a meeting in January.
At Lyric’s December 2020 Board of Directors meeting, led by chair Sylvia Neil, a new action plan was rolled out for the work of the Nominating Committee to focus on areas of diversity and inclusion. IDEA commitments were added to the Board of Directors recruitment materials and used to recruit three new members, all elected to the Board in February: Francesca Cornelli, Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Michael Strautmanis.
We have expanded our Ryan Opera Center training program to include three new paid positions. These are new professional areas of concentration that offer advanced training tracks for conductors, stage managers, and directors, as we recognize the importance of creating a pipeline for historically underrepresented artists. The first new training program for conductor/pianist was announced in March 2021. The program for stage management and director will be open and accepting candidates for the Ryan Opera Center ensemble for 2022.
Our paid internship program, which was funded by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust and developed in 2019 and meant to open in 2020 (delayed due to the pandemic), is on track for launch in 2022. This will create opportunities for young people for whom salary is essential, helping us to provide training for a new generation of arts leaders.
We have developed policies and instituted procedures around supplier diversity. More information is available here.
A full Board demographic review is in process, led by Nominating Committee member Amy Carbone. Two surveys were deployed to Lyric’s Board of Directors in February, to provide self-reported baseline information and inform future board recruitment.
In the area of artistic programming, in addition to having changed Lyric's 2021/22 Season to include the important new work Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons, we have committed to next steps on the new opera that Lyric workshopped in December 2020, The Factotum. More on that new work is available here.
We created a mechanism for anonymous feedback so that the staff may have a safe place to share concerns and thoughts, in addition to the existing channels that have already been in place.
We have increased our points of internal communication, including monthly administrative staff meetings, twice monthly general director “office hours” that are available for group discussion
We held an IDEA-focused open forum and discussion session on February 10 where our staff were able to express their feelings about issues of DEI at the company. Feedback has been positive.
We have publicly listed every available position, and added additional listing sites to our external job recruitment tactics in an effort to increase applicant diversity.
By the end of 2021, 100% of Lyric’s full-time administrative staff and designated part-time staff will have attended anti-racism training.
An update from Lyric: How we're working to become your Lyric
IDEA encompasses these four priorities which are at the center of reflection and work that we’ve been doing at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Lyric), and we want to share our ongoing commitment to moving these principles forward throughout our organization. We draw strength from diversity, and we stand against racism. The company exists to connect people to art, music, storytelling, and the human voice. The underlying themes in opera - including love, loss, family, betrayal, hope, redemption, and the complexity of relationships - are universal. We believe that art has the power to speak truths and unite us all. Yet we also recognize that our company has significant and serious work to do if we are to become the fully inclusive organization that we aspire to be.
Earlier this summer, we asked for feedback. How can Lyric join with Black people and other communities of color in combating systemic racism?
We are grateful to the many people who took the time to share their valuable feedback with us and we want you to know your voices have been heard. The care and the thought that went into your answers were inspiring and reaffirming. You will likely see ideas that you put forward have taken root in our newly intensified IDEA commitment, which we’ll share below. We have prioritized our commitment to the dismantling of systemic racism and systemic misogyny within our broader IDEA goals.
Prior to our intensified work this summer, Lyric had already made a commitment to embed the principles of IDEA throughout our company, recognizing that we needed to make real and substantial change in all aspects of our organization. This has been reflected in a wide range of changes at Lyric, including our increased focus on casting of artists of color in principal roles, increased commitment to working with Chicago Public Schools, a wide variety of engagement projects with diverse communities, and committed collaboration with other community-based organizations to provide creative and learning opportunities for youth of color. We established an IDEA Steering Committee, made up of leaders of the volunteer boards and staff leadership to monitor and oversee our work. We acknowledge that there is much more to be done.
While the items listed below represent a start, we know that meaningful institutional change takes time, intentionality, and accountability.
We commit to the following measurable actions in our determined effort to have a positive impact on racial equity as well as the broader principles of IDEA.
Lyric's Executive Leadership Team, overseen by the IDEA Steering Committee, has responsibility for implementing the company's IDEA strategies and goals.
We will require ongoing training for all leadership and staff through an outside, independent authority to improve our capacity to understand, embrace, and practice IDEA at every level of the company.
Principles of IDEA will be included in cultivation and expectation documents in the recruitment of members of our Board of Directors. IDEA training will be offered to all current and incoming board members.
We will establish metrics to determine our adherence to any goals set for hiring and volunteer recruitment.
Lyric pledges to ensure that IDEA principles are incorporated into decisions regarding the hiring of all professionals that work for and with Lyric.
All open staff positions at Lyric will be publicly posted. All new hires will be made with consideration of a diverse slate of qualified candidates and include a diverse group of internal interviewers.
The diversity demographics of Lyric’s staff and leadership roles will be reported to the IDEA Steering Committee on a quarterly basis.
The diversity demographics of Lyric’s vendors, contractors, and consultants will be reported to the IDEA Steering Committee on a quarterly basis. Lyric will approach the solicitation of bids from minority and women owned businesses with intentionality.
We will work to create a safe space for all employees to share feedback, thoughts, concerns, and suggestions.
Lyric will continue to require training on IDEA. The scope of Lyric’s employees who will be included in the training requirement will be expanded to include all employees whose responsibilities include hiring, retention, development, and promotion of other employees. The IDEA Steering Committee will be given a report about training and impact on a quarterly basis.
We will continue to work to identify and engage diverse artists, with focus not only on expanding opportunities for principal singers of color, but across every area of our artistic activity.
The diversity demographics of artists engaged by Lyric will be reported to the IDEA Steering Committee on an annual basis.
We will broaden the types of works Lyric presents on the main stage and other stages to ensure representation of diverse perspectives.
We will reframe our presentations of heritage operas to acknowledge the difficult issues inherent in many of them and use those issues to foster dialogue about their impact on diversity in the art form.
We pledge to be a part of the development and support of BIPOC and female artists by building a strong and visible path to encourage, support, and provide professional artistic opportunities through fellowships and mentorships.
Engagement and Communication
We will implement our paid internship program, which has already been funded and was postponed because of COVID, with the goal of diversifying our pool of applicants and making Lyric internships viable for students who need paid work opportunities.
We will continue to demonstrate the company’s commitment to IDEA through ongoing and intentional partnerships with BIPOC communities created to provide opportunities, education, and experiences, with the goal of creating meaningful inclusion and access for all people in this space.
Lyric will continue to ask for and listen to feedback from the communities we serve.
We will continue to ensure that the content that we share gives voice to diverse artistry and perspectives.
Lyric will work to be consistent and intentional in positioning the company as welcoming and inclusive for all audiences.
Lyric’s Board of Directors and its Executive Committee will receive an annual report on the results of our IDEA goals. A public report on IDEA will be posted annually on Lyric’s website.
Throughout this time of reflection and change, Lyric remains dedicated to delivering consistently excellent artistry and redefining what it means to experience great opera. As we commit to incorporating the principles of IDEA across our organization, we already feel this work strengthening and reinvigorating our work, our teams, and our love for the arts.
We thank you for being a part of this journey with us - your voice continues to play a critical role in our listening and learning, and in charting our course forward. We aspire to be your Lyric. Thank you for helping us get there and for being a stakeholder in the future of our art form.
A message of support
Dear Lyric Family,
It has been an extraordinarily traumatic time for our country. At times like these, there are no words that seem adequate, and yet we cannot stay silent as we process the grief, the anger, and the deep sense of sadness that we are experiencing together. We are outraged and heartbroken by the devastating, senseless, violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the loss of too many other Black lives in America, many bearing names we do not know because they never had justice.
To those who are grieving, especially in communities of color, Lyric stands alongside you. We wholeheartedly condemn the strongly rooted systemic racism that plays out every day in our communities.
We know that opera has a problematic history with race – with dedicated work, we do not believe that this has to be its future. We recognize that we have work to do. And we are committed to doing that work.
We pledge our commitment to listening, learning, and using our platform to help eradicate racism, to amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized, and to advance racial justice and equity.
We believe that an art form based in storytelling through music has unlimited potential to explore the stories of disenfranchised voices, and that opera has become stronger for the creation of works that have started to emerge from these stories. We know that artists of color are still struggling to be heard and that we must all collectively do more to champion their work.
But it’s not only about what happens on our stage. It’s about improving the experience for audiences of color in our theater. It’s about being more successful at recruiting diverse individuals for our staff and board as well as vendors and contractors. It’s about working even more closely with our community partners to provide them with the support and resources they need to ensure their voices are heard. And so much more.
We know there is work to be done, and that it all starts with dialogue. We invite you to share your thoughts on how you’d like to see Lyric create change here. Your feedback will be shared with our steering committees on both the board and staff levels who advance issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility on an ongoing basis. We are committed to using your valuable input as we take action.
To hear the collective cry for change is the glimmer of light at this dark but pivotal moment. We have seen tens of thousands of people joining together in passionate, peaceful protests in cities across America and around the world to affirm that there is hard work that must be done before any healing can begin. At Lyric, we know this to be true.
This is a time for listening, and a time for change. We ask you to join us in charting the way forward.
General Director, President & CEO
The Women’s Board Endowed Chair