‘Bravos without Barriers’—
The Orchestra Welcomes the Incoming Class of Diversity Fellows


“Bravos without Barriers” is the motto for the collaborative two-year Diversity Fellowship program between the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), funded with a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Patricia Kisker Foundation.

The heart of the Fellowship’s mission is to eliminate obstacles that can prevent extraordinary musicians from achieving their full potential.

Through this collaboration, the CSO and CCM provide new opportunities for violinists, violists, cellists and double bass players from historically underrepresented and underserved populations, while simultaneously fostering a more inclusive environment in the orchestral field.

The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship recently welcomed the 2020 class (read more about these four outstanding musicians in the article at right), and they join the current five Fellows who are entering their second year.

The Fellowship experience is meaningful on many levels. Fellows perform with the CSO and Cincinnati Pops for the equivalent of five weeks per season with the Orchestra, while enrolled in a two-year Master of Music (MM) or Artist Diploma (AD) graduate degree program at CCM. It is also highly competitive. Each class of Fellows is selected through a rigorous series of auditions, which annually sees hundreds of graduate-level musicians audition for CCM faculty members and CSO musicians.

Covid-19 has caused the CSO to reimagine the current season and the program is adapting. For example, the Fellows will be an important part of the reduced string sections used for the livestream performances. But, unlike in the past when each Fellow was paired with a CSO stand partner, this year the Fellows will be on their own in the sections. In addition to on-stage activities, Fellows are also working with CSO musicians in various chamber ensembles. These smaller ensembles will be featured in digitally shared performances, and some of the performances will be a part of supplemental material available to schools through Musicians in Schools, a program offered through the CSO Education initiative.

Fellows are mentored by CSO musicians and also receive training through career development seminars and mock auditions. Many orchestras have suspended live auditions and, in response, the program is ramping up audition preparation for the Fellows. Fellows participate in four mock auditions each season. In addition to written comments from the audition panel, they also receive feedback from CSO Music Director Louis Langrée. Follow-up sessions will include verbal feedback and the opportunity to discuss their mock audition performances with CSO musicians. The goal is to prepare the Fellows for resuming professional auditions even stronger than before.

Career Development Workshops scheduled for the season have included an array of outstanding guests, including Christian Colberg, CSO Principal Viola; Mark Kosower, Principal Cello of The Cleveland Orchestra; and Joseph Conyers, Assistant Principal Bass of The Philadelphia Orchestra. These workshops range from audition preparation, to masterclasses, to private lessons.

Connecting the Fellows with members of earlier Fellowship classes is also an important goal of the program, and alumni Dr. Ian Saunders (Fellowship 2017–19) and Blake Anthony Johnson (Fellow 2016–17) will also present Career Development Workshops for the current Fellows. Dr. Saunders was recently appointed Assistant Dean for Artistic and Social Change at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, MA, and Blake Anthony Johnson (Fellow 2016–17) is the CEO of the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Each Fellow also receives full tuition scholarship support from CCM, in addition to a $10,000 per year graduate stipend and a one-time Graduate School Dean’s Excellence Award of $3,000. Each Fellow also receives compensation of $8,000 per season while performing with the CSO and opportunities to perform at the Chautauqua Institution in the summer.