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St. Louis Symphony Orchestra hires Yolanda Alovor to guide diversity plans

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has hired St. Louis native Yolanda “Yoli” Alovor as the organization’s first vice president of external affairs and equity, diversity and inclusion.

Alovor, who starts Jan. 18, will oversee diversity initiatives across the organization and lead the symphony’s external affairs and communications work.

Alovor said she's excited to return to her hometown to continue to make diversity and inclusion a central part of the symphony’s work.

St. Louis native Yolanda “Yoli” Alovor will serve as a vice president to lead the organization’s equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
St. Louis native Yolanda “Yoli” Alovor will serve as a vice president to lead the organization’s equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.

“I think it's the core of everything that we do,” Alovor said. “Equity, humanity, fairness is a part of what we should do, and it should be ingrained in any type of work that we [take on]”

Alovor comes to the orchestra from Rosemont College in Pennsylvania, where she serves as chief of staff and vice president of diversity and belonging. She received a doctorate in educational research from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and finished her postdoctoral training at the University of California, Berkeley's Intercultural Leadership Program: Global DEI Practitioner Institute.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard said the orchestra is committed to diversity and inclusion and has provided training for board members and staff.

“This over time led to the realization that we needed to create internally a position that would help integrate our commitment to EDI, but also that would be keeping the orchestra with an external affairs view,” Bernard said. “None of us are experts in that field, so we realized in the last year we need to recruit a strategic mind, an expert who can come and guide this work.”

In 2014, the orchestra became the first major symphony orchestra in the U.S. to feature a majority of female musicians. But 37 of its 42 board members are white.

"It's a work in progress," Bernard said. "But I can say that both the full board and the advisory council are extraordinarily committed and invested in this work."

The new position follows efforts by the symphony orchestra to further its outreach and diversity initiatives over the last few years. Last year, the orchestra used $160,000 from the Bayer Fund to support its IN UNISON programs, which includes a chorus that focuses on works by Black composers, and Peer to Peer, a mentorship program for young African American musicians.

Alovor, a Webster Groves High School graduate, said she’s excited to take on her new role. She said she first wants to acclimate herself to the community to understand the region’s needs.

“I think what is important is to listen to the needs of your stakeholders, and the people you serve,” Alovor said. “That's what's going to be most critical for me and on my first day.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.