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CSO/CCM Program Designed to Increase Minorities in Orchestras

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Jul 18, 2015 - 4:00:57 PM in news_2015

Despite their distinguished presence in other areas of music, it is a fact that African-American and Latino artists are under-represented in the nation’s symphony orchestras.

Now, thanks to a $900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music plan to do something about that.

According to a joint release Friday by the CSO and CCM, the grant will be used “to pilot a groundbreaking collaborative fellowship program aimed at developing young, graduate-level musicians from under-represented populations and preparing them for the professional orchestra world.”

“We looked at the data and saw that only four percent of American orchestra musicians were African-American or Latino,” said CSO president Trey Devey. “The CSO and CCM felt it essential to address this issue head-on.”

Beginning in 2016, the two-year CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program will consist of performance with the CSO, mentorship by CSO musicians and simultaneous enrollment in a master’s or artist diploma degree program at CCM. The program will graduate two classes of up to five Fellows each through June, 2019.

According to the release, each class will include two violins and one each of viola, cello and double bass. Fellows will perform five weeks with the CSO per season in a “progressive sequence of concert weeks based on program difficulty, with one week focused on community engagement and educational activities.” Fellows will be provided with “a unique support system built on intensive professional mentorship.” This will include “focused mentorship by CSO musicians, advance coaching sessions prior to a rehearsal cycle, ongoing stand partner coaching throughout rehearsal weeks and post-performance feedback.” Career counseling and audition preparation will be a part of the program as well.

“There are many fine programs designed to address underrepresentation in our industry, but none that include both a major American symphony orchestra and a major conservatory,” said CCM dean Peter Landgren, an alumnus of the school. “As a student at CCM, I had the rare privilege of performing as an extra musician with the CSO. That transformative learning experience led to my 29-year career as a musician with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. When I returned to CCM as the Dean, developing a program to provide similar opportunities for tomorrow’s professional musicians became a driving priority.

“CCM and the CSO are perfectly positioned for this initiative,” said Landgren. “Our organizations’ recent partnership with the Cincinnati World Piano Competition, our joint Conducting Fellowship, as well as the large number of CSO musicians who are CCM alumni and serve as CCM faculty, speak to the deep connections between our two institutions.”

Fellows will receive a CCM Fellowship Stipend and one-time Graduate Dean’s Excellence Award. There will be opportunities for additional performing and non-performing community engagement activities through CCM, career development seminars including mock auditions, and full tuition scholarships.

“I think I speak for all the musicians of the CSO, and particularly those of us who will be deeply involved in mentoring, that in seeking to identify and prepare more under-represented musicians for orchestral auditions, we will be helping make American orchestras richer,” said CSO violinist Stacey Woolley. “There is such a varied career path available to musicians in every facet of professional music. Fostering this awareness with the next generation will continue to serve orchestras and communities for decades to come.”

Application procedures and deadlines will be announced at a later date.