Following a rigorous application and audition process, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) have selected five outstanding string musicians for the inaugural class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows. Born out of a mutual desire to make American orchestras more inclusive, this groundbreaking fellowship program is made possible by a generous $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The inaugural CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows are: Emilio Carlo, 21 (viola); Diana Flores, 26 (cello); Blake-Anthony Johnson, 25 (cello); Vijeta Sathyaraj, 27 (violin); and Maurice Todd, 37 (double bass). The Fellows were selected through a rigorous series of auditions, which saw more than 100 talented musicians audition for CCM faculty members. Twelve string players were invited back to Cincinnati for a final round of auditions for CSO musicians on March 14, 2016.
“For this inaugural class, we have selected a cohort of astonishingly talented musicians, who come to us from a wide variety of backgrounds,” said CCM Dean Peter Landgren. “Our Fellows hail from New York, Georgia, Kentucky, Costa Rica and Hong Kong, and represent the future of American orchestras. Working in close collaboration with our partners at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, we will prepare these Fellows for long and fruitful artistic careers, while challenging the status quo of our industry.”
With this innovative Fellowship program, CCM and the CSO are providing new opportunities for underrepresented musicians, while simultaneously fostering a more inclusive environment in the world of professional orchestras. According to the League of American Orchestras, just over four percent of orchestra musicians are African-American or Latino. With that statistic in mind, the CSO and CCM want to foster an environment that promotes greater diversity on the stages of American orchestras. The program’s tagline – Bravos Without Barriers – gets to the heart of this mission.
This new two-year program, that is already garnering attention among leaders throughout the music world, consists of frequent performances with the CSO, focused mentorship by professional CSO musicians, and simultaneous instruction by CCM’s illustrious faculty.
“The level of musicianship on display during our final round of auditions is a testament to the merit of this program,” said CSO President Trey Devey. “Through our partnership with CCM and with the extraordinary support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we can provide a truly transformative experience for these exceptional performers at a crucial time in their careers. We look forward to welcoming our inaugural Fellows to Cincinnati this fall and we can’t wait to share their talents with the Greater Cincinnati community.”
How the Fellowship works
The inaugural class of Diversity Fellows will officially arrive in Cincinnati this August. CCM and the CSO will welcome a second class of five Diversity Fellows in the fall of 2017, bringing the number of Fellows in the program to ten during the 2017-18 academic year and orchestra season.
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. They will perform the equivalent of five weeks per season with the CSO in a progressive sequence of concert weeks based on program difficulty, with one week focused on community engagement and educational activities.
This unique educational opportunity is the first of its kind to pair a major conservatory with a major orchestra, bridging the pre-professional gap while also fostering a more inclusive environment within professional orchestras. The Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, will serve as an external evaluator and advisor.
Along with the professional performance experience, Fellows will receive focused mentorship from CSO musicians on top of regular instruction and guidance from CCM’s illustrious faculty. Their mentorship includes coaching sessions before each rehearsal cycle, ongoing stand partner coaching and post-performance feedback. There will also be non- performance related career counseling to prepare the Fellows for their future.
When asked about what made this new program so distinctive, incoming Fellow Emilio Carlo commented:
“Being raised in the Bronx, I would’ve never thought my future would involve classical music. When I attend orchestra concerts, there aren’t many musicians of color seen on stage. In fact, it’s always an ‘aha’ moment when I see a Latino or African American musician playing in a symphony. I knew the Fellowship was my top choice as soon as I read their mission statement: ‘We want to change the face of the American symphony.’”
Meet the Fellows
Emilio Carlo, Artist Diploma Viola
Emilio Carlo is a native of the Bronx, New York, and currently resides in Washington D.C. He is a first-year Artist Diploma student at CCM and recently graduated from the conservatory with a Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance. He previously studied with Catharine Carroll-Lees and Masao Kawasaki and is currently under the tutelage of Jan Grüning of the Ariel Quartet.
In previous years, he has attended the Aspen Music Festival and Japan’s Pacific Music Festival. He was also appointed as Principal Viola for a concert tour under the direction of Maestro Yutaka Sado. Outside of music, his hobbies include attending jazz concerts, cooking and exercising.
Carlo is a 2012 recipient of the Brewster Award for young artists from the John. F Kennedy Center for the performing arts. He is honored to be a member of the inaugural class of the Diversity Fellowship, which he feels will prepare him to win a professional orchestra audition in the near future.
Diana Flores, Artist Diploma Cello
Cellist Diana Flores has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Brazil, China and her home country of Costa Rica. At age nine, she started playing cello at the Instituto Nacional de Musica in San José. Ten years later, Flores moved to Boston to complete her undergraduate studies at the Longy School of Music, where she studied under Mihail Jojatu.
During her years in Boston she performed with the Boston Pops and Boston Philharmonic Orchestras. She was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summers of 2012 and 2013 and is a former member of Youth Orchestra of the Americas. She also traveled to Japan to participate in the Pacific Music Festival.
After moving to Chicago in 2013, she became a member of the Civic Orchestra, a two-year training program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While there, she joined the MusiCorps String Quartet, a music education and advocacy program in which she performed in many Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park Districts. Flores is finishing her Masters Degree at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, studying under Richard Hirschl.
Blake-Anthony Johnson, Artist Diploma Cello
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Blake-Anthony Johnson began playing cello at age 12 and was self-taught until the age of 18. He has performed and recorded works by Richard Danielpour, Claudio Gabriele, Adam Schoenberg and Poul Ruders. As a soloist and guest Principal cellist, he has worked with conductors across the United States including JoAnn Falletta, David S. Wiley and Carl Topilow. Passionate about chamber music, Johnson is a founding member and former cellist in the Läc Quartet. As the recipient of the Vanderbilt Music Académie grant, the quartet received commissions and residency in Festival d’Aix held in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Additional performances include both orchestral and chamber music at the Spoleto Music Festival, Lev Aronson Legacy Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, National Music Festival and Brevard Music Festival. He is the former chair and founding member of the Music Education and Youth Initiative, which served underprivileged children in the greater Metropolitan area of Nashville, Tennessee. Johnson was a prizewinner in the MTNA Young Artist Competition, the World Competition; the Daniel Rains, and Brevard Music Festival Concerto competitions.
Johnson received his Bachelor of Music degree under Felix Wang and Kathryn Plummer at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University and later studied under Bryan Dumm and Alan Harrell of the Cleveland Orchestra for his Master of Music diploma. His most recent education was in the prestigious Orchestral Program at the Manhattan School of Music studying with Alan Stepansky with additional studies under David Geber and Wolfram Koessel.
Vijeta Sathyaraj, Artist Diploma Violin
Born in Macau, China, Vijeta Sathyaraj began violin studies in the Philippines at the age of 3. By age 6, she was featured on the Philippine National Broadcast and was studying with Basilio Manalo. She went on to study with Fan Ting at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, and later took lessons from Dennis Kim. Sathyaraj graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy, where she studied with Vesna Gruppman. She later earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory and her Master of Music degree from Lynn Conservatory.
Sathyaraj has performed solo recitals in Denmark, India, Hong Kong and the United States. In 2001, she was featured in a CNN broadcast, and in 2004, she organized and performed in a piano trio to raise $3,000 for development work in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has performed in the Idyllwild Arts Festival Orchestra and she joined the Oberlin Symphony for a performance in Carnegie Hall under Robert Spano in 2007. She has attended the Meadowmount School of Music, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival.
Sathyaraj recently completed her Professional Performance Certificate at Lynn University where she studies under Carol Cole. Former mentors include Milan Vitek, Andrew Jennings, Sally Thomas, Ann Setzer, and Midori. Sathyaraj’s commitment to outreach and diversifying audiences to Western classical music led her to apply to CCM.
Maurice Todd, Artist Diploma Double Bass
Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Maurice Todd received his Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance from CCM. He is a current section bassist in the Lexington Philharmonic. In addition to being a seven-time Aspen Fellowship recipient, Todd previously won the Dayton Philharmonic Minority Fellowship, was the low string winner of the CCM concerto competition, earned the National Symphony Orchestra League Scholarship and was a fellowship recipient in the Spoleto Italy Opera Festival. Most recently, he received the distinguished Excellence in Teaching Award from the UC Graduate School.
Todd has performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, Grand Rapids Symphony, Richmond Symphony and Kentucky Symphony. He has been a soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, Seven Hills Sinfonietta, Wired and the CCM Concert Orchestra.
This year, Todd will graduate from CCM with a Master’s Degree in Double Bass Performance, where he serves as the graduate assistant for the double bass studio under the tutelage of Professor Albert Laszlo. His former mentors include Owen Lee, Edgar Meyer, Chris Hanulik, Bruce Bransby, Rob Oppelt, Eugene Levinson and Hal Robinson.