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Alvin Hough, Jr.: Creating Diversity in the Music Departments of the Theater Industry

Alvin Hough, Jr.: Creating Diversity in the Music Departments of the Theater Industry


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Alvin Hough Jr., member of the executive committee of MUSE (Musicians United for Social Equity). Let’s learn what’s happening there and how Alvin is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Alvin, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through MUSE (Musicians United for Social Equity)?

Alvin: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! MUSE’s mission is to create diversity within the music departments of the theater industry by providing access, internships, mentorships, and support to historically marginalized people of color. Access is the main barrier, as opportunities are often handed to those who are "in the room where it happens." MUSE wants to invite more people in so that more are aware of what it takes to develop a theatrical production. 

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Alvin: Since our inception in 2020 during the pandemic, we've encountered some pushback from people who feel that MUSE is "coming for their jobs." This is absolutely false. MUSE wasn't created to tick a box or to be some short-term fad. We want to build a pipeline of qualified people of color who otherwise may not have been able to have a seat at the table. We're not about skipping lines; we're about developing talent that will be the next generation of theater musicians, both on Broadway and nationwide. I keep going because I want to see more people who look like me doing what I'm doing long after I've retired.

Spiffy: I love that! Can you further elaborate on the impact of your work?

Alvin: Sure. Our work benefits those who may not otherwise have a voice. Believe it or not, members of Broadway orchestras are not hired through an audition process. Instead, people are often chosen based on who knows whom. MUSE is aiming to make the process less insular, to broaden the inner circle of people who continually keep getting hired. It's very simple to hire your friends or close colleagues to do show after show. It's not as simple to make new friends. If the people who make hiring decisions were introduced to more talented musicians, the pits on Broadway could look a little more like the diverse city that is New York.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience and community?

Alvin: We're currently in the middle of our third year of MUSE One-On-One, a six-month mentorship program that pairs successful theater musicians with mentees who are looking to learn more about the business. Through this program (of which I am the head), relationships have been cultivated and career paths have taken off. It's been absolutely wonderful to watch the success stories roll in, and I'm excited to see how much of a positive impact MUSE can continue to have over the years.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Alvin—it’s been an honor!

Alvin Hough, Jr. is currently the associate music supervisor of Merrily We Roll Along, featuring Daniel Radcliffe. Classically trained from the age of five, Alvin has had the privilege of performing at the Kennedy Center, the Capitol, and the White House while growing up in Washington, DC. Even though he’s currently not using them, Alvin has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in Earth and Planetary Sciences and a master’s degree in meteorology from Georgia Tech. (First published on the Ladderworks website on October 16, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.