UC’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) have selected four outstanding musicians for their next class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows. Born out of a mutual desire to help American orchestras be more inclusive and to better represent the communities they serve, the performance fellowship program was launched in 2015 with a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Through the collaborative program, CCM and the CSO provide graduate level academic study and professional development and performance opportunities for the Diversity Fellows while simultaneously catalyzing a more inclusive environment for underrepresented musicians in the orchestra field. The program’s tagline — “Bravos Without Barriers” — gets to the heart of its mission: eliminating obstacles that can prevent extraordinary musicians from achieving their full potential.

“The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra exists to serve our community. Our entire community.” said CSO President Jonathan Martin. “But how can we authentically serve our entire community if a significant part of that community doesn’t see themselves reflected in our organization? The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship is one of many steps we are taking to address this disparity. By providing professional opportunities to a more diverse group of outstanding musicians, we hope to cultivate—and begin changing —the next generation of American orchestral musicians.”

“The University of Cincinnati’s ‘Next Lives Here initiative is built on the interdisciplinary pillars of innovation, inclusion and impact, and the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program is a perfect example of how those three principles can lead us into a new era,” said CCM Dean Stanley Romanstein. “Our Fellowship is designed to remove the barriers that can prevent talented musicians from pursuing professional carriers in music, but the work to change the face of American orchestras is ongoing. If we’re serious about enhancing racial and ethnic diversity in the arts, orchestras and conservatories have to work together to become more accessible to a diverse population of artists, and we have to do everything possible to help prepare them for long-term success.”

Four exceptional string players will officially join the two-year fellowship program in August 2020, bringing the total number of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows to nine for the 2020-21 academic year and performance season. The new Fellows are:

  • Maalik Glover, violin
  • Amy Nickler, double bass
  • Max Oppeltz-Carroz, cello
  • Javier Otalora, viola

The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program is open to exceptional violin, viola, cello and double bass players coming from historically underrepresented populations in classical music. The program is highly competitive, and each class of Fellows is selected through a rigorous series of auditions. Every year, hundreds of candidates audition for CCM faculty members for admission to the Conservatory. From that pool a select group is then invited back to Cincinnati for Diversity Fellowship auditions with CSO musicians. The program saw its largest finalist group ever during the 2019-20 audition cycle, with 21 applicants invited to the final round of physically distanced auditions on March 14, 2020.

The Diversity Fellows perform the equivalent of five weeks per season with the CSO while enrolled in a two-year Master of Music (MM) or Artist Diploma (AD) graduate degree program at CCM. The program also includes private lessons, mock auditions, professional development and audition travel assistance, career development workshops and mentorship from CSO musicians.

Each Fellow 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.

The program also partners with the Chautauqua Institution which offers Fellows a summer residency with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and professional development opportunities during its nine-week summer season.

Twelve musicians have graduated from the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship to date. The third class of Diversity Fellows, which is comprised of Camellia Aftahi (double bass), Yan Izquierdo (violin), Arman Nasrinpay (violin) and Alexis Shambley (violin), recently completed the program at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. Alumni have gone on to work with orchestras such as the Dallas, National, and Nashville Symphony Orchestras, as well as continuing as freelance artists and educators across the country.

Meet The Fellows

Maalik Glover

Maalik Glover

Maalik Glover

Master of Music (MM) student, Violin

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Maalik Glover has studied the violin since the age of 11. Glover’s first significant accomplishment was his acceptance into the Talent Development Program, an initiative launched by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra that targets gifted African-American and Latino music students to further develop their future careers as accomplished classical musicians. This program allowed him to meet and study with his first teacher, Justin Bruns (associate concertmaster of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), during his adolescence. In 2015, Glover graduated with a Fine Arts Diploma Seal from Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts.

Glover has performed in Italy, Canada and throughout the U.S. He made his first professional orchestra debut in October 2017 when he subbed with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra under the baton of George Del Gobbo. Glover has also spent two summers performing with the Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy in Powell River, British Columbia. While there, he received intense orchestral training from Dennis Kim and Richard Roberts, concertmasters of Pacific Symphony and Montreal Symphony Orchestra, respectively.

In May 2019, Glover graduated summa cum laude from Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music. During his time here, he studied with Boris Abramov, principal second violinist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. While attending the Schwob School of Music, Glover received recognition at competitions such as being awarded an honorable mention in the Schwob School of Music Concerto Competition and was a finalist in Lagrange Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition.


Amy Nickler

Amy Nickler

Amy Nickler

Artist Diploma (AD) student, Double Bass

Born and raised in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Amy Nickler began playing the violin at age six. Six years later she switched to the double bass and has loved it ever since.

In recent years, Nickler has participated as a fellow in several festivals and orchestras such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The Orchestra NOW, Oslo Kammerakademi, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Miami Music Festival. In July 2016, Nickler was a winner of the Concerto Competition honoring Ida Haendel with the opportunity to perform as a soloist in the New World Center with the Miami Music Festival Orchestra. Aside from performing, Nickler enjoys her time as a teaching artist for the Nat King Cole Generation Hope, Inc. and the Volta Music Foundation in Havana, Cuba.

Nickler received her Bachelor of Music at Lynn Conservatory in 2017 with Professor Timothy Cobb and she received her Master of Music at Yale School of Music with Professor Donald Palma in 2019.


Maximiliano Oppeltz-Carroz

Maximiliano Oppeltz-Carroz

Maximiliano Oppeltz-Carroz

Artist Diploma (AD) student, Cello

Max Oppeltz-Carroz started playing the cello at the age of four as a student of El Sistema in Caracas, Venezuela. As a part of the world-renowned music program, Oppeltz-Carroz played in the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the Chacao Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Caracas Municipal Orchestra. He studied with Cesar Noguera, Marek Gajzler and German Marcano. He also participated in numerous master classes with cellists such as Natalia Gutman and Phillip Muller.

In 2014, Oppeltz-Carroz moved to the U.S. to study at the Juilliard School with Professor Richard Aaron. As an undergraduate student, Oppeltz-Carroz participated in several lessons and master classes with cellist Franz Helmerson and studied chamber music with musicians such as Roger Tapping, Sam Rhoades, Sylvia Rosenberg and Jerome Lowenthal. In 2016, Oppeltz-Carroz was fortunate to attend the Music Academy of the West, the highlights of which were taking lessons with Lynn Harrel and performing alongside faculty Warren Jones and Kathleen Winkler.

In 2018, Oppeltz-Carroz moved to Denver to study at the Lamont School of Music as a Newman Graduate Fellow under Matthew Zalkind. While in Denver, he was fortunate to perform alongside faculty both at the University of Denver Lamont School of Music and at the Denver Chamber Music Festival.

Oppeltz-Carroz is extremely grateful to be playing on a 1880 French cello from the Caussin School, generously loaned by the Virtu Foundation.


Javier Otalora

Javier Otalora

Javier Otalora

Artist Diploma (AD) student, Viola

Javier Otalora was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, and began playing violin at age six. In 2018, he graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he studied violin with Gregory Fulkerson and Sibbi Bernhardsson and viola with Kirsten Docter and Peter Slowik. Otalora is also a recent graduate of the University of Michigan where he received his Master of Music in viola performance with Caroline Coade on a full scholarship.

Otalora was an Orchestral Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival in 2019 and has attended summer festivals such as the Meadowmount School, the Red Rocks Chamber Festival, the Dali Chamber Festival and Spoleto Festival USA. Otalora is a passionate orchestra, chamber and contemporary music player. He has performed with musicians and groups such as the Lansing Symphony, the Aspen Conducting Orchestra, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, members of the International Contemporary Ensemble, the University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble and Sibbi Bernhardsson from the Pacifica Quartet.

Otalora is also involved in music education, having taught violin and viola in Panama for two consecutive years through Oberlin’s “Panama Project.” In addition, he has taught violin, viola and chamber music at the Oberlin Community Music School and was also a strings teacher at Mitchell Elementary School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In 2017, Otalora received the Martin L. King Career Grant which allowed him to return to Panama that summer and run his own chamber camp at the University of Panama. In his free time, Otalora  enjoys eating pizza with friends, reading about airplanes, and fixing computers and printers.


About the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

With a rich tradition that dates back 125 years, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is considered one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles. Led by Louis Langrée, the Orchestra’s distinguished roster of past music directors includes Frank van der Stucken, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ysaÿe, Fritz Reiner, Eugene Goossens, Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers, Michael Gielen, Jesús López Cobos, and Paavo Järvi. Matthias Pintscher will be the Orchestra’s Creative Partner beginning with the 2020-21 season, and past Creative Directors include Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Lang Lanag, Philip Glass, Branford Marsalis and Jennifer Higdon. The Orchestra also performs as the Cincinnati Pops, founded by Erich Kunzel in 1977. John Morris Russell has led the Pops since 2010 and Damon Gupton is Principal Guest Conductor.

Since its beginnings, the CSO been a proponent of the music of its time, performing the American premieres of works by important composers including Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Maurice Ravel and Béla Bartók, and commissioning many works that have since become mainstays of the classical repertoire, including two iconic works by Aaron Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man and Lincoln Portrait. The Orchestra continues to commission works, amplifying new voices from a diverse array of backgrounds.

With groundbreaking initiatives including CSO Proof, CSO Look Around, LUMENOCITY and the MusicNOW Festival collaboration, the Orchestra champions innovation. As an ambassador for Cincinnati, the region, and for the U.S., the CSO has toured extensively, most recently to Asia and Europe in 2017. The CSO was the first American orchestra to be featured on a national radio broadcast and continues to reach millions of listeners across the country and around the world through the airwaves, digital streaming and commercial recordings on the CSO’s own Fanfare Cincinnati label.

The Orchestra also performs, records and tours as the Cincinnati Pops and elevates Cincinnati’s vibrant arts scene by serving as the official orchestra for the Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet.

Committed to inclusion and relevance and to enhancing and expanding music education for the children of Greater Cincinnati, the Orchestra works to bring music education, in its many different forms, to as broad a public as possible. Education and outreach programs currently serve more than 80,000 individuals annually. The groundbreaking CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship, a nationally recognized program in partnership with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, provides  Masters degree-level education and professional development and performance opportunities for extraordinary young musicians from  historically underrepresented populations in classical music.

About CCM

Nationally ranked and internationally renowned, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts. The school’s educational roots date back to 1867, and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

CCM offers nine degree types (BA, BM, BFA, MFA, MM, MA, AD, DMA, PhD) in nearly 120 possible majors. The synergy created by housing CCM within a comprehensive public university gives the college its unique character and defines its objective: to educate and inspire the whole artist and scholar for positions on the world stage.

CCM works to bring out the best in its students, faculty and staff by valuing their unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. CCM’s student population hails from 43 different US states and 32 different countries. The school’s roster of eminent faculty members regularly receives distinguished honors for creative and scholarly work, and its alumni have achieved notable success.

For more information about CCM, please visit us online at ccm.uc.edu.


Featured image at top: CCM graduate students Jordan Curry and Magdiell Antequera perform with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows. Photo/Mark Lyons.

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