Otsfm logo

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Statement

Updated April, 2024


Old Town School of Folk Music (OTSFM) was founded in 1957 with the belief that all people should have access to music and dance education, creative expression, and performance opportunities. From the beginning, OTSFM has strived to welcome and create a sense of belonging among teachers, students, staff, and performers of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, genders, ages, and abilities.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of OTSFM and guide our efforts to create welcoming, inclusive communities for creative expression. We are working to foster an environment, policies, and practices that better support all people and dismantle systems that perpetuate injustice toward BIPOC community members and other marginalized groups. OTSFM was a co-founder of Enrich in 2014, and in 2015 it created the basis for what is now its Community Ventures program. The school recently reiterated and strengthened its commitment to DEI after the 2020 racial justice protests.

Since the school’s inception, BIPOC employees, performers, and community members have made essential contributions that have shaped and advanced OTSFM. We are also cognizant of the systemic and structural inequities that have impacted our society, and thus, our organization. As such, we endeavor to honestly and openly examine and refine our leadership, operations, structures, and practices in order to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.

For more about OTSFM’s history: https://www.oldtownschool.org/history/

What are we doing?

OTSFM recognizes the systemic inequities inherent in our country’s education systems and in the highly segregated city of Chicago. For over 20 years, OTSFM has committed to providing programming in the Chicago Public Schools, where many students may have limited access to music and dance education programs. More recently, the Music Moves program has built and supported programming with neighborhood partners on the South and West sides of the city.

OTSFM holds robust concert programming (including, but not limited to, our free World Music Wednesday programming), providing platforms for musicians and dancers from all over the world. The schools tuition-based program presents classes from every corner of American traditional and contemporary music and folk music and dance from all over the world. OTSFM also offers considerable need-based financial aid for its onsite programming.

In the last few years, we have:

  • conducted an extensive training program on DEI for staff, faculty, volunteers, and board members
  • held training on working with neurodiverse students
  • provided training on de-escalation for administrative staff
  • required training for staff and faculty on harassment prevention, bystander training, workplace violence, and bullying
  • hosted presentations on the Folded Map project (Project Context — Folded Map Project)
  • offered heritage month programming
  • updated our official songbook to eliminate songs that may reflect bias and to diversify the school’s core content
  • drafted DEI-related activities for each department for 2024

Reporting Concerns

Whom should I contact if I observe inappropriate behavior at OTSFM?
We do not tolerate behavior that creates a hostile or unwelcoming environment for our staff, faculty, students, volunteers, performers, concertgoers, or guests.

These behaviors include, but are not limited to: harassment, discrimination, demeaning comments or “jokes,” threats, physical violence, inappropriate physical contact, stalking, bullying, abusive behavior, disruptive behavior, and other disrespectful conduct.

If you feel that you have experienced or witnessed any of the behaviors listed above, please contact reporting@oldtownschool.org.

OTSFM prohibits retaliation and encourages prompt reporting of any concerns around potentially inappropriate behavior.

What happens when a concern is reported?
We take all concerns seriously and will promptly investigate and respond to the reported concerns. The safety of our community is extremely important to us. To the extent possible, we will work with the person who makes the complaint towards finding a resolution.

Whom should I contact if I have questions about this?
Please contact reporting@oldtownschool.org.