Michael Butera has left his position as CEO of National Executive Board of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) following accusations of racism.
Keryl McCord, the operations director of Atlanta-based arts group Alternate Roots, reported that at a 26 April forum on diversity Butera said: ‘Blacks and Latinos lack the keyboard skills needed for this field.’
Butera was suspended from his position on 10 May and agreed to leave NAfME by mutual consent the following day. Michael Blakeslee has been appointed to fill the role of executive director and CEO vacated by Butera.
At the moment NAfME has an all-white board, with board members elected by the votes of NAfME’s members. In his conversation with McCord Butera said there was nothing he could do about the lack of diversity because the board was democratically elected.
On 6 May Butera took to Facebook to defend himself, saying: ‘I want to make clear, unequivocally, that the reporting of these comments was a deeply inaccurate portrayal of the dialogue which took place that day…I am personally passionate about increasing the size and scope of the music education “tent,” and want nothing more than to grow the participation in our field of individuals from all different backgrounds.’
Music education, as with many other fields in performing arts, has failed to achieve ethnic diversity among its practitioners. As an industry body NAfME has come in for criticism for not taking stronger action to rectify this problem.