In Conversation with Ariadne Lih

Schulich’s first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator Ariadne Lih helps Schulich chart a course for purposeful transformation.
Image by Life by Selena Photography.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, Schulich’s first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator was hired. This position was created as part of the ongoing work that the School is doing towards addressing inequities and discrimination.  
Queer feminist soprano and alumna Ariadne Lih (MMus’21) began as EDI Coordinator this past March. Living within the intersection of her love for performance and her passion for equality and representation in music, she has embraced the role with open arms.  

Founded on the promotion of diversity, inclusion and accessibility at the Schulich School of Music, the role of EDI Coordinator works within the School and McGill University at large to foster a climate of understanding and mutual respect, preventing barriers for all members of the Schulich Community. The position is an exciting addition to the Student Services team and its positive presence has already been felt. We look forward to the ways the Schulich Community will continue to engage with the challenges presented by the evolving role of music in society in the 21st century.  

We connected with Ariadne over email to learn more about her, some of the EDI work going on at the school, as well as resources available and initiatives to keep an eye out for!

To start us off — what does Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) mean? 

Super reasonable question! The truth is that EDI has no fixed definition, and you could think of it as just another buzzword, another acronym. But it points to something much bigger. Here’s how I like to think of it: 

Do you want Schulich to be a welcoming community for anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge and experience of music? Do you want students to leave Schulich feeling inspired, supported, and hopeful about their future? Do you want students to expand their mind and their perspectives here? Probably – almost everyone at Schulich does. 

Then, can you acknowledge that despite an abundance of good intentions, many people do not feel welcome at Schulich, and many students leave feeling excluded, drained, and discouraged? Can you see how some people pass through Schulich without ever having to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, while others have to fight for a place to stand? The point of equity, diversity and inclusion work is to bridge the gap between this reality and the aspirations that we have for our school and our community. 

The work can take many different forms, and not everyone thinks about it in the same way. Understanding our reality and shaping our aspirations is part of it, although the work can’t end there. For me, the best outcome would be actively addressing and fighting the systemic injustices that have shaped our institutions for so long.   

What sort of things do you work on as an EDI coordinator? 

Some of the “coordination” is planning and operating programs such as our new Peer Mentorship program, as well as other events and workshops. Some of it involves data gathering, like our Undergraduate Student Survey. Some of it involves identifying problems and suggesting ways forward, or writing up reports and recommendations. You know, office stuff. 

What I enjoy most are my conversations with faculty, staff and students inside and outside Schulich about our community’s needs and how we can best meet them. My goal is to call attention to equity issues consistently and continuously, while listening compassionately to everyone involved. 

What are some of the areas of growth you have seen this year? Can you share some of the initiatives that have been implemented or that are in development?   

Two things I’d really like you to know about are the Undergraduate Student Survey and the Peer Mentorship program starting in fall 2022. 

The Student Survey is Schulich’s first large-scale, structured attempt to collect hard data about the student experience and student opinions. We’re trying to go beyond anecdotal evidence when addressing problems such as lack of diversity and student overwhelm, so the more honest answers we receive, the better. Please consider taking the survey now if you haven’t yet! 

Peer mentorship is going to be great, and you can apply to be a mentor now! We’re hiring a cohort of returning Schulich undergraduates to help their peers with everything from the nuts and bolts of student life (email, accessing resources, registering for classes) to the big questions, like how to make friends, practice, and build a life here at Schulich and beyond. 

Mentors will have drop-in hours and an email address in the fall, and anyone can request to be paired with a mentor one-on-one for the winter semester. You can learn more on the Peer Mentorship page. Please reach out if you have any questions! 

What EDI tools and resources are available for students and faculty to use?  

Listen, I love a workshop. I encourage students to attend the anti-oppression offerings from Teaching and Learning Services (TLS). Faculty and staff should keep an eye on Equity Education programming. On the Indigenous Initiatives website, there’s also really important information about the land we’re on, McGill’s colonial history, and Indigenous-led initiatives happening right now. 

Ultimately, though, punctual events and resources have to become part of an ongoing practice to be really meaningful. So talk to your colleagues and peers! Ask yourself continuously what incremental changes you can make! Be honest about what you don’t know and seek out knowledge! And most of all, seek opportunities for collective action.   

What has the response been to the work that you and the team at Student Services have undertaken?   

It really depends. When we talk about people’s experiences of harm, and when we talk about profoundly changing the way we do things, deep-seated hurt and frustration often arise. It’s very important to hold real space for that, but at the same, many parts of this work can be exciting and fun — learning things, connecting with people, increasing representation — and I think many people at McGill feel that excitement. 

Where should students look to find out more about EDI and its initiatives at the School — and how to get involved? 

As I said above, EDI isn’t just one thing, so figure out what kind of work is meaningful to you and then find people to do it with. Get involved with MUSA, MEdUSA, unions, and student groups. Talk to each other. And don’t be afraid to look outside of Schulich — McGill has a huge student body with an incredibly wide array of identities and interests. 

Oh, also, I’d love it if you ariadne.lih [at] (dropped me an email)! I’m down to meet up and talk anytime.

What do you hope students leave Schulich knowing?  

Just because something feels like the status quo doesn’t mean it needs to be upheld. You can love and respect your mentors, but recognize that your values, your aspirations, and the things you’re willing to put up with are not the same. This is our community to build now. We look out for us. 

What advice would you give to your starting-at-university self?  

When you’re tired, just rest. And there’s no use sacrificing your well-being in the present for hypothetical gigs in the future. 

If you had a mantra/philosophy/phrase for where you are right now, what would it be? 

Not everything needs to “build character.” I’m slowly convincing myself that it’s okay to just exist. 

Are there unique ways that music and EDI intersect? 

Tons. There are some grim ones — for instance, in my experience, various forms of harassment and exclusion are more normalized in musical circles than in others.   

But I also think that music has the power to make “EDI” work — the work of understanding others’ experiences, the work of resisting, the work of serving those in need — more beautiful, inspiring, and joyful. At its best, music eases our suffering, tells our stories, and binds our lives together. We need that — for everyone — if we are going to build a better world. 

More about Ariadne
Queer feminist soprano Ariadne Lih sings opera, oratorio and chamber music from the earliest notations to the present day. She appears as a soloist with ensembles in both Québec and the United States, often premiering works by women and reviving pieces by overlooked women composers from years past. In addition to performing, she co-directs The Uncommon Music Festival, where she does her best to make feminist chamber music rooted in land and community, and maintains an active career as a writer and translator. She has a B.A. in music from Yale University and a master’s degree in opera from the Schulich School of Music.

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