***This program is intentionally designed for the marching arts (DCI, DCA, WGI), but our intention is grow our consulting and partnership programs for all performing arts. If your organization is not in the marching arts but you are interested in this initiative, please email us at marching-diversity@paisoc.org and we would happy to discuss how we can still help you.***

The Performing Arts Initiative for Students of Color (PAISOC) formed in 2017 to address the increasing lack of racial diversity noticed by concerned drum and bugle corps (drum corps) and marching arts alumni. Over three years, PAISOC has received over 150 scholarship applications, fundraised and distributed scholarships up to $1000, and provided leadership training catered to the experiences of students of color in organizations such as the Bluecoats and Spirit of Atlanta. Interest and applications for the scholarship and leadership program continue to grow which demonstrates the role race plays in the marching arts and leadership opportunities.

PAISOC provides just one solution to increase racial diversity and inclusivity in the marching arts, but this issue cannot be solved alone. Our Marching Arts Diversity Initiative provides long-term consultation using informed community-based solutions to organizations that earnestly wish to improve diversity and inclusion. Created by drum corps alumni of color who are professionals in multiple fields, this program takes a top-down approach to analyze how organizational actions, policies, and programs affect inclusive experiences and community-building relevant to its mission. We provide detailed reports, actionable plans, virtual seminars for staff, student leadership training, and mentoring opportunities with the intention of providing complete and long-term institutional change.

With us, organizations can pledge to actively review and improve diversity and inclusion in their leadership, instruction, programs, and participation to help to improve the overall marching arts experience and community.


Diversity is the active daily practice of providing equality, accessibility, and representation for people of many different backgrounds. Students of color are individuals from historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups. The idea that performing with people in intimate settings creates opportunities to learn about life experiences that are different from ours fundamentally informs PAISOC’s mission. These opportunities can increase awareness of the challenges others face and help us to develop into informed global citizens who actively support and pursue social change — values that reflect many lessons learned in the marching arts.


In the marching arts, diversity fundamentally shapes the experiences of performers. The close and consistent setting in which young people interact, sharing in the demanding process that entails developing incredible performances, means that youth are reflecting and bettering an American experience. In this micro version of American society, marching arts youths consciously and subconsciously experience race, gender, sexuality, and class in their personal lives and in how they understand and interact with the experiences of others. As the United States becomes more demographically diverse, marching arts organizations must foster diverse and inclusive experiences to remain forward-thinking, relevant, accessibility, and to ensure longevity.


Our approach believes in top-down organizational changes because diversity and inclusion are not created by including more people of color, but by leaders who create opportunities and make active decisions that consider diversity and inclusion. Change is dependent on leaderships’ efforts to create equal opportunities and equitable accessibility. A top-down approach, however, draws knowledge from the bottom-up. This means that the inputs from students, alumni, staff, and members of the community – learning from the outside looking inwards – can build informed and complete solutions that benefit people and improves every level of involvement in the organization. Some of these are listed below.


  • Access to scholarships and programming designed for students of color;
  • Building relationships with other students outside of their organization;
  • Learning how to support others and be supported as individuals with different life experiences;
  • Focusing on performing rather than on their efforts to enter performing arts spaces;
  • Developing practical leadership and interpersonal skills specifically for students of color;
  • Overcoming imposter syndrome by interacting with more individuals with similar backgrounds;
  • Feel a sense of belonging when represented by repertoire, staff, and leadership.

Administrative & Instructional Staff

  • Visible commitments to creating a more inclusive environment; 
  • Organizational and individual accountability for actions, policies, and culture;
  • Creating and supporting a communal learning environment that uses culturally aware pedagogy;
  • Sharing informed and effective teaching techniques, team building, and other educational practices;
  • Accessing a diverse network of colleagues and mentors; 
  • Becoming outstanding role models for current and future students.

Parents, Volunteers, & the Community

  • Broadening community outreach that attracts a more diverse community of students, volunteers, donors, and supporters;
  • Maintaining an organization that is representative of its local community;
  • Bringing comfort that students are in an activity that provides performing arts education within a space that encourages inclusivity, interpersonal skill growth, and safety.


All of our partners must commit to this pledge:

We, Organization Name, pledge to create an actionable plan that increases diversity and inclusion in our organization by:

  • diversifying racial representation in our Board of Directors and leadership, administrative and instructional staffs, design teams, and students;
  • actively developing an inclusive environment by addressing issues of race and taking part in relevant educational opportunities;
  • implementing a diverse repertoire that includes art created by brown and womyn composers;
  • offering scholarship and leadership training opportunities to students of color;
  • directing focus to our local community;
  • and including an anonymous tool for ethics complaints concerning any experiences of racial discrimination.


By entering a partnership with PAISOC, your organization joins communities that combat racism and vow to increase diversity and inclusivity together. After your organization signs the pledge and consulting contract, PAISOC will provide the following for one year:


PAISOC uses a team of consultants with relevant knowledge and experience in the performing arts and the humanities, including individuals whose backgrounds can provide insight into diversity, inclusivity, and racial representations. Rather than an individual, a consulting team means friction between analyses and ideas that result in better solutions. In partnership with our team, we will ask for or help to collect data on the following:

  • Mission Statements.
  • Organizational size and demographics.
  • Geographic demographic data.
  • Budget information, including:
    • Tuition and fees;
    • Budget allocations;
    • Other forms of income and expenses.
  • Repertoire lists.
  • Leadership Program Materials.
  • Scholarship/Fundraising Opportunities.
  • Schedules.

Additionally, we will provide a survey for your community to see how diversity and inclusion are perceived in your organization. We will never ask for or disclose information that personally identifies individuals, but the results of the survey may be used for larger analytical purposes that will not identify your organization. 

After a thorough and critical review, our consultants will provide a written report and review it with your organization. The report will recognize strengths and areas of improvement, with suggestions for improvement that includes a customized plan to increase diversity and inclusion in your organization.


Mentoring Community

PAISOC will maintain a volunteer community of drum corps and marching arts alumni of color to mentor scholarship recipients and staff members. Studies find that people of color often experience imposter syndrome when they feel disconnected from the experiences or perspectives of others, which can affect their mental and emotional health. Each student’s mentor will receive their Growth Plan, and they will be responsible for monitoring each recipient’s progress according to their plans, but will also be a supportive resource that students can relate to and learn from.


Every mentor must complete a background check and is provided with resources and training on how to mentor effectively.


We believe that establishing a strong mentoring community is an important step that provides benefits to more than the student. The Mentoring Program will create a network for the future that may increase the retention of alumni of color within the drum corps and marching arts community. This has the potential to increase the donor pool for your organization, scholarship donations for this program, and develop a network in which more people of color become involved as volunteers, instructional staff, administrators, or board members for the performing arts.




Community Leader Discussions

This program takes a top-down approach to implement change. A student of color is not responsible for facilitating inclusive improvements. Rather, diversity and inclusion are ultimately determined by leadership. We will moderate discussions among industry leaders to discuss, share, and take action that uplifts the entire community and not just individual organizations. Some necessary changes are difficult to accomplish alone, and we want to ensure that organizations do not have to act alone.

Diversity Plan

After evaluating all materials, PAISOC will create a customized improvement plan for your organization. We know that every organization is different and must prioritize individual goals, and we know that change does not come quickly. Our plans suggest feasible goals that fall within the timeframe of our partnership and recognize goals they may occur further out. In the end, it is always up to your organization to prioritize and decide what is most important, so the suggested plan is adaptable. Our investment in your plan does not stop after the final report. PAISOC representatives will routinely check-in to ask about progress and provide additional help when possible.


Scholarship and Leadership Program

As part of the pledge, we require that your organization must provide at least one annual scholarship opportunity for students of color, as well as leadership training for the recipient(s). If your organization lacks a scholarship and leadership program, it may use one of PAISOC’s platforms to fundraise within your organization’s networks. 100% of donations made in your organization’s name will be provided to scholarship recipients, and representatives from the organization will be asked to select the recipients and decide how to award the appropriate funds.


If using our scholarship platform, we require that:

  • Scholarship recipients must be a person of color;
  • Applicants do not have to be in a specific leadership role;
  • Applicants use PAISOC’s scholarship application – organizations may customize applications with additional questions;
  • Applications are reviewed blindly (no personally identifiable information);
  • At least one representative from your organization and one representative from PAISOC are on the selection committee;
  • Selections are made using PAISOC’s scoring rubric for individual review, and after an open discussion for a collective decision.
  • All PAISOC scholarship recipients participate in our leadership training program.

If your organization has its own scholarship and/or leadership training program, recipients will not be required to attend our leadership program. They are however invited to the final meeting, which is exclusively for leaders of color. Our leadership training program consists of four virtual meetings led by members of PAISOC’s Board of Directors. Each meeting is supplemented with required short readings:


  1. Becoming a Reflective Leader (accountability and learning from your actions)
  2. Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution 
  3. Leading Your Way / Ready. Set. Action! (identifying your call-to-action and becoming action-oriented)
  4. Leaders of Color and Creating a Plan (imposter syndrome, challenges, and developing a Personal Growth Plan)


Virtual Development Seminars

PAISOC will fund at least two virtual seminars a year. The seminars focus on teaching techniques, show design, and other topics related to creating a more diverse and inclusive environment. Seminars will feature professionals in the marching arts, the broader performing arts community, or outside consultants. Your organization will be required to send at least one administrative staff member and one instructional staff member, as applicable, to each seminar who are in positions to share knowledge with the rest of the organization.


We encourage your organization to sign a multi-year partnership because meaningful and effective institutional change does not happen quickly. Our planning can be more effective when considering a three-year period, for example, rather than focusing on what could be reasonably accomplished within one year. Everything offered in the first year is offered in all subsequent years, however, with a plan already in place, the price goes down since we can reduce the amount of time it takes to review your programs. In subsequent years, the focus will shift to include conversations regarding accomplishments and challenges experienced in the first year, and finding solutions for years to come.


PAISOC believes in paying, as often as possible, a professional labor rate for employees and contractors. Studies have shown that underrepresented or marginalized people tend to volunteer their professional services more for their communities, but PAISOC strives to move away from that narrative. As a non-profit organization that also believes in transparency, our competitive pricing for our services covers the cost of professional labor and overhead, while a smaller percentage benefits the development of other scholarships and performing arts programming. 

Annual pricing is contingent upon the size of your organization, student tuition and fees, and recent 990 tax forms. This program is not offered “a la carte.” We firmly believe in complete solutions, and each component of our consultation and partnership is connected to delivering informed and smart solutions and plans. We recommend a three-year partnership since institutional change of this nature does not happen quickly. 

***If your organization’s individual student tuitions and fees in the last fiscal year are relatively low for your activity, we will offer a significant discount. Payment plans are negotiable. All organizations that immediately sign up for two or more years will be offered an additional 10% total cost reduction.


To schedule an initial consultation regarding your organization’s needs, our services, and to receive a quote, please use the link below link and fill out your organization’s information. If you have questions or want to be involved, please email marching-diversity@paisoc.org.

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