Symphony says Cobb high school choruses are not diverse enough

by: Carl Willis Updated:

MARIETTA, Ga. —

Two Cobb County high school choruses will not be performing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this year, because the symphony said their groups are not racially diverse enough.

Video of the Walton and Lassiter High School choruses performing can be found all over YouTube, but they will not be found on stage with Atlanta's professionals this fall.

"This year, 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," said Cobb County Schools spokesman Jay Dillon.

Some Marietta residents told Channel 2's Carl Willis the decision smacked of discrimination.

"I think it's sad," said Marietta resident Shar Nicholson. "I think if they have the talent and the desire they should be given the opportunity."

Willis sat down with the ASO president and CEO to get an explanation.

"We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon (Wireless Amphitheatre), or Chastain Park to reflect the diversity of Atlanta," said ASO President Stanley Romanstein.

Not everyone agrees.

"It's not necessarily fair to the students at all," said Vashon Ramsey, an African-American Cobb County resident. "They should be allowed to perform regardless."

Romanstein said he was surprised by the reaction.

"It's an interesting misunderstanding," he said.

Romanstein told Willis that he told the chorus directors about the decision two years ago and said they were understanding at the time.

"There are at least 12 very talented high school choirs in Atlanta," Romanstein said. "We gave Lassiter and Walton choirs an opportunity to perform for four consecutive years, and they were marvelous. 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."

Lassiter and Walton did have a chance to bring a smaller portion of their choruses to perform but decided not to take part.

"Because the full choruses would not be able to perform with the symphony, both Lassiter and Walton have declined to participate this year," said Dillon.

Grady High School's chorus has been invited to perform. The ASO president said they will also get a multi-year run.