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How Annapolis symphony addressed diversity

Reading Dean Fred Bronstein’s “Diversity critical to the survival of classical music field,” (March 1), we recognized the echoes of conversations at the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra three years ago. Our orchestra, like others nationwide, has struggled to attract more diverse audiences, especially when people of color were not seeing themselves reflected on stage. We also aspired to demonstrate that the symphony is not just entertainment and that we can deliver social value. And public school music teachers were telling us that gifted students struggled to find private lessons and those lessons were out of financial reach for many families.

In response, the two of us proposed an idea, a culturally diverse after-school program to identify and nurture talent in youth regardless of ability to pay. Lessons would be taught by the orchestra’s musicians. Saturday ensemble training and workshops would build camaraderie and group development. Each semester would culminate with a performance under the direction of the symphony’s music director, José-Luis Novo.

With the support of generous founding donors, the Annapolis Symphony Academy launched its first semester in September 2018 with 22 students. By design, half are African American or Latino and half (regardless of ethnicity) met the family income criteria to receive full tuition scholarships.The academy seeks to model today the diversity we wish to see in the orchestras — and audiences — of tomorrow.

In its second semester, the Annapolis Symphony Academy has doubled enrollment to 45 middle and high school students, with the goal of 100 students in 5 years.The hands-on involvement and accessibility of Annapolis Symphony musicians helps our students envision the possibility of a career in music and discover the pathway. In their achievement, we see our future.

Bravo to the Peabody Institute and others who join us in recognizing this opportunity to cultivate a vibrant, thriving, diverse community of classical music.

Patrick J. Nugent and Netanel Draiblate, Annapolis

The writers are executive director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Concertmaster of the symphony and founding director of the Annapolis Symphony Academy.

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