It all started around 1980, when members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra community began asking questions about the make-up and future of classical music:
Why are there so few musicians of color in orchestras?
How will classical music continue to attract audience members to its concert halls if it does not include the burgeoning populations of color in the communities that surround its great halls?
What can we do to give access to those students of color with potential in music so they may get the training needed to become participants in this world?
With initial support from the Boston Symphony and others in the Boston area, William Moyer, then-Orchestra Personnel Manager of the BSO, helped design and launch Project STEP (String Training Education Program) to provide a comprehensive and long-term training program that would help build a lasting connection to the surrounding community.
“Along with making beautiful music and showing these students the way to a better life, I think of Project STEP as a way of fighting for social justice through music,” said Project STEP Executive Director Gabriella Sanna. “One hundred percent of the students who complete this program have gone on to college, while 60% had gone on to have a successful career in music. They aren’t all performers – some are teachers and educators – but some are sitting in chairs with the best orchestras in the world.”
Sanna, a classically trained pianist who in her former career performed extensively in Europe and in the USA as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles, has been with STEP since 2016 concentrating on sustaining and growing the program’s financial strength and public presence to continue to provide the finest opportunities for Project STEP students. “The program requires an enormous commitment from the student, the family, the teachers and the staff, but the results are inspiring,” she said. “My first year hear, we traveled to Washington, DC to play before President Obama at The White House. That kind of honor doesn’t come to a lot of people and getting there is a tribute to the hard work and success of all the people at STEP.”
After reading about a program like STEP and hearing how enthusiastic Sanna is about her job and the program, the best thing a prospective student/ family (or potential financial supporter) can do is head to the STEP website to read more about this fascinating music initiative. Once you’ve read the facts, why not head out and hear what STEP is all about for yourself.
Project STEP will be hosting an evening of music and discussion with “A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on January 15 at Hibernian Hall. Several Project STEP students will be performing, followed by a discussion with several prominent community members about the impact of Dr. King’s work. Project STEP students will also be performing at the MLK Breakfast in the morning at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the nation’s longest-running event dedicated to honor the legacy of Dr. King. A second performance will follow the breakfast at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of their MLK Day Open House, where Project STEP will be introduced by Mayor Marty Walsh.
For more information: www.projectstep.org