The effect of blind auditions on orchestras

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:


But there are many different moments when I look back and think, gosh, how could I have been so optimistic? For example, Cecilia Rouse and I decided that we would study the effect of orchestras switching to blind auditions. [In a 2000 paper in the American Economic Review, Goldin and Rouse found that the practice of having musicians audition behind a screen significantly increased the proportion of women in symphony orchestras.] Many orchestras did not know they had records on auditions. It wasn’t that they weren’t receptive to us — it was that they were disorganized. But it turned out that the orchestral manager of the New York Philharmonic had an interest in our research, and he opened up their archives (which are beautiful; they’re a joy to work in). So we started writing letters to other orchestras, and they said, “Well, if you’re working with the New York Philharmonic …” I remember Ceci and I went to Detroit and met the orchestral director, who said, “I don’t know what we have but it’s upstairs in some room, just go.” Thank goodness these places didn’t throw things out. Looking back, there was nothing that guaranteed we were going to find nine orchestras that had all this information about the auditions just sitting there.