Rich Coburn

Pianist coach and contract negotiation, Canada

I was hired as the organist of Christ Church Calgary—whose choir is a regular guest at Westminster Abby—despite having no formal organ training. I’ve developed a conflict resolution and negotiation workshop which I have shared with hundreds of young musicians through the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Conservatory, and the Association for Opera in Canada. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Earlier in my career I focused most of that entrepreneurial energy on learning to understand classical music more deeply. I performed across North America and China. I worked as an operatic and choral music director, a pianist, an organist, a vocal coach, an arranger, and an occasional composer.

But more recent events—starting with living in Richmond, Virginia following the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in nearby Charlottesville—have forced me to confront my position as a Black person working in classical music. I started reflecting on my own experiences with the white supremacy of classical music and institutions. I felt less and less comfortable continuing to engage with these institutions without also doing something tangible change them.

My solution was BIPOC Voices. At the intersection of my entrepreneurial spirit, my deep love of music, and my burning desire to nurture anti-racism, the goals of BIPOC Voices energize me. BIPOC Voices is the largest resource on the internet to help people program opera and instrumental art song by BIPOC creators.

Today, I balance my work leading BIPOC Voices with teaching courses on business and entrepreneurship for musicians at McGill University and my career as a performer.