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Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional of the Year: Aiden Kim Feltkamp

December 4, 2018 | By Brian Wise

Director of Emerging Composers and Diversity
American Composers Orchestra

It’s no secret that the American orchestral field has a serious diversity deficit, with less than five percent of its workforce being African American, Hispanic, or Native American, according to a 2014 industry study. So when the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) hired Aiden Kim Feltkamp as its first director of emerging composers
and diversity, it literally put its money where its mouth is.

Feltkamp hit the ground running in July, by examining how to get more composers of underrepresented backgrounds to apply for the ACO’s competitive readings and commissioning programs. He began by looking at the balance of current applicants: 66 percent white, 79 percent male.

Aiming for a more diverse mix, he then asked some 50 composers why they might self-select out of ACO’s opportunities for exposure. “When they do know about a call, why don’t they apply? What is holding them back?” From those conversations, Feltkamp has developed a master plan to identify and encourage a more diverse applicant pool. He has several lines of attack, including contacting teachers and spreading the word on social media. He’s also set up a diversity task force for the orchestra.

The job is a natural fit for Feltkamp, a cellist and singer who identifies as transgender/nonbinary and holds music degrees from the Bard College Conservatory of Music and Hofstra University. He’s also the founding artistic director of OperaRox Productions, a nonprofit established in 2015 dedicated to highlighting underrepresented artists and promoting socially conscious productions. Among its most recent was an evening of opera scenes at New York’s Stonewall Inn, and a workshop staging of Ghost Variations by Tony Manfredonia, about Clara and Robert Schumann.

“To me, inclusion is creating an environment that diverse people feel welcomed into,” Feltkamp writes in an e-mail. “ACO has been committed to diversity for years. It has amplified that commitment by creating this position. Now it’s my job to build on that foundation.”


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