A few days before the next political chapter of our polarized era officially begins, we will be honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the assassinated civil rights pioneer and man of peace, on the 88th anniversary of his birth. As part of the Monday, January 16th observance, Project STEP, the string training and education program founded in the 1980s for musically talented local minority children, presents its annual MLK Jr. celebration, at Symphony Hall at 1pm.
Consisting of ensemble performances by all Project STEP students, this free event lets the surrounding community join with STEP families, staff, faculty, board, and friends to commemorate King’s life and legacy. It includes an annual panel featuring students, teachers, and local musicians of color discussing the intersection of classical music and race. And new this year, Project STEP students will present their submissions for a poster and essay contest.
The performances and panel discussion are open to the public and will take place in Symphony Hall’s Higginson Hall (entrance through the Cohen Wing door), at 1pm Monday Jan 16th. A reception will follow.
Project STEP recognizes that racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in classical music. To address this imbalance entails identifying musically talented children from insufficiently represented area communities and providing them with comprehensive music and string instrument instruction. This includes setting high standards for students, providing mentoring and performance opportunities, and creating a network of support for them, their families, and their communities.
Every single STEP graduate has gone on to college or conservatory: 100%.
In the early 1980s members of the BSO community began discussing the makeup and likely future of classical music. Why were so few orchestral musicians of color? How can classical music grow its audience without attempting to include more of the populations of color in the communities that surround its great halls? What can be done to give access to those students of color with musical potential and get them the training needed to become participants?
William Moyer, BSO orchestra personnel manager at the time, was charged with finding musicians of color to audition for open spots in the orchestra. Countrywide, he could not find any who had had the extensive training required, and concluded, “If we’re serious about this, we must start a program.” With initial support from the Boston Symphony and others in the area, he helped design and launch Project STEP to provide that comprehensive and longterm training with a lasting connection to the surrounding community.
The program opened its doors in 1982 with seven students, and graduated its first two students six years later. Since then, the program has introduced 1500 children to music through our FOCUS on the public schools and core programs. Thirty years later, Project STEP kids know no limits.
More Project STEP News here.
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