Our Commitment to Inclusion


To nurture and celebrate a passion for piano music.


The Gilmore is committed to developing a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) throughout all facets of the organization.


The Gilmore takes seriously its responsibility as a community partner to foster a sense of welcome to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, age, religion, and socioeconomic status and background.


A multi-year Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion assessment was completed in 2020. Results of the evaluation were delivered to the Board of Trustees on April 21, 2021. The Assessment provided initial recommendations for implementing programmatic, audience, and organizational changes.

As a result of the assessment, a DEIB Committee consisting of staff and Trustees was created to lead efforts to ensure that The Gilmore creates an inclusive and welcoming environment. The Committee meets regularly and is actively recommending modifications to The Gilmore’s work on a number of levels.


The DEIB Committee created a four-year (2021-2024) strategy to direct the multiple goals to be achieved across all facts of the organization.

The plan sets a direction for evaluating all activities and programs to ensure they achieve DEIB goals.

Priorities include diversifying staff, board, committee and volunteer positions, and providing baseline DEIB training to all.
A key example of The Gilmore’s adherence to this plan is reflected in our programming.

Our Executive and Artistic Director, Pierre van der Westhuizen, grew up in South Africa during apartheid. His experiences greatly shaped his perspectives and are reflected in his commitment to increase artist and audience inclusion since his arrival at The Gilmore in 2018. The Gilmore’s DEIB assessment was launched under his leadership.

Dr. van der Westhuizen has directed Rising Stars to perform at least one work by composers who are from historically excluded communities, including but not limited to, women; Black and Asian American people of varied ethnicities; and people of Spanish and Portuguese descent.

Nearly 40% of the artists presented at the 2022 Gilmore Piano Festival were from historically excluded communities; in 2024, the number will be 50%.

Job descriptions for potential new employees were modified to enhance a sense of encouragement and welcome to potential applicants.

The Gilmore website was enhanced (see additions in the paragraph referencing ADA) to enable greater access for disabled persons.

The Community and Student Ticket Program by Stryker was expanded. The program provides free or discounted tickets to students and free tickets to partner community service organizations.


The Gilmore Piano Lab program is one of the most vigorous music education programs in the region. The Labs provide in-school music instruction for students in Kalamazoo every day throughout the school year. Instructors lead twice weekly 30-minute group piano lessons for students at sites populated with low-income families: Woods Lake (84%) and Spring Valley Elementary Schools (90%), and Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home (79%).

Adults and students outside of grades 2-5 enroll at the Community Piano Lab at the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo.

The success of The Piano Lab program led to its expansion into neighboring Calhoun County. In addition to providing the program at the Ann J. Kellogg elementary schools, there is now a Lab at the Burma Center, which serves the Center’s Burmese population, as well as the public at large. The Labs are also available at Voces, a community center for the Spanish-speaking community. Staff interact with students and families in Spanish when necessary.

All Piano Labs based in Battle Creek are funded in their entirety by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, The Education Department established a pay-what-you-can fee policy with a maximum amount of $25 for the entire year.

The Education Department discovered at the outset of the pandemic that students lacked home pianos for daily practice. The Department launched an initiative with the help of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to loan every student a Casio keyboard while they’re enrolled in The Labs. That initiative is ongoing. This program was sponsored by the Hugh and Marian Beattie Family Fund at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.


We recognize that traditional piano lessons often focus on the music of European composers. We created the African American Composers Project, an initiative to create beginner and intermediate piano music based on compositions by African American composers to address their works’ lack of exposure.

Research was undertaken to identify lost or forgotten compositions, arranging the music to an appropriate skill level for the students. The music sheet includes a photograph and bio of the composer.

With this project, we have cataloged historically overlooked or forgotten Black composers and provided students with an inclusive music history.


The Education Department produces a Piano Labs program with weekly piano instruction at Kalamazoo-RESA’s Young Adult Program, where all of the enrolled participants have developmental and/or physical disabilities. Music therapy provided by Gilmore-employed certified music therapists specifically addresses many needs of the participants by helping to develop cognitive skills, physical coordination, communication, social skills, and emotional expression and control.

The Gilmore staff has undergone training provided by the Southwest Michigan Disability Network on interacting with disabled patrons. A training video was created to inform future volunteers and employees.

The Gilmore does not own a performance venue; all program facilities are rented. However, all public performances take place in ADA accessible venues. ADA access is overseen by the Operations Department. In addition to making disability parking available at the multiple venues utilized by The Gilmore, further accommodations are made for people who need assistance entering, exiting, and moving through the venues.

All venues used by The Gilmore offer wheelchair accessible seating. Accessible seats can be purchased online or by phone at 269.250.6984. Assistive listening devices are available at all Rising Stars and Festival venues with a request in advance.

Every page of The Gilmore’s website has an Accessibility Adjustment button. With a click, a viewer is provided with a menu of options that provides different ways of experiencing the site depending on one’s disability.

In conclusion, The Gilmore recognizes that addressing the many ways it can foster a greater sense of welcome and belonging to everyone will require a persistent commitment to change, but as well, time to implement these changes. The Trustees and staff are dedicated to making this endeavor genuine and ongoing.

All content © 2024 Irving S. Gilmore International Piano Festival