Black History Month: African American musicians encouraged to apply for Pittsburgh Symphony fellowship | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Black History Month: African American musicians encouraged to apply for Pittsburgh Symphony fellowship

The deadline for applying to the EQT Orchestra Training Program is Mon., Feb. 11.

Part of Pittsburgh City Paper's month-long celebration of Black History Month
Many symphony orchestras have spent years modernizing their programming for younger audiences as some of classic music's longtime fans have been, well, literally dying of old age. Here in Pittsburgh, we've seen more contemporary programs with pop-culture favorites like Home Alone, Harry Potter, and Back to the Future paired up with the classical musicians to bring in younger fans and families. Popular singers have made their way on stage too. Last year brought Ben Folds and Hanson to Heinz Hall. On Sat., Feb. 9, R&B singer Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds will join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

But, take a look at many orchestras around the country and there's another thing that's hard to miss: an overwhelming number of white faces behind the instruments. A 2016 report from the League of American Orchestras, based on data from over 500 orchestras, showed that the number of musicians from non-white backgrounds did increase from 1980 to 2014, but they still made up less than 15%.

click to enlarge Joshua Jones
Joshua Jones
Locally, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is working on programs to bring more people of color to the stage.  The PSO belongs to the National Alliance for Audition Support, a national initiative to increase diversity in American orchestras. And, just in time for Black History Month, the PSO is currently seeking applicants for its EQT Orchestra Training Program for African American Musicians, a two-year program giving one young musician a chance to train with a professional orchestra.

Know a young college graduate looking for their big break?  In addition to getting the chance to play with an established symphony on stage in Pittsburgh, the fellowship can also lead to employment after the training is complete. Previous success stories include Joshua Jones, the PSO's 2017-2019 fellowship winner, who studied and played drums with the symphony before being named the Principal Percussionist with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Adedeji Ogunfolu, the PSO's 2013-2015 fellow, now plays second horn with Pacific Symphony in Orange County, California.

Application deadline for this year's fellowship is Mon., Feb. 11. Interested applicants can find more info and apply here, but must meet the following criteria:

• Be of African-American descent
• Be between the ages of 18 and 30 on Sept. 2, 2019
• Have obtained a Bachelor's Degree
• Be eligible for employment in the United States
• Play a standard orchestral instrument (excluding keyboard and harp)

Good luck to all applicants. We can't wait to cheer you on under the lights at Heinz Hall next year. 

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