Old Dominion University and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO) are partnering on a new fellowship program to address the lack of diversity in classical music.
Fewer than 2% of musicians in American orchestras are African American, according to a 2014 study by the American League of Orchestras.
The VSO will select four early career African American orchestral string musicians to participate in the program, which begins in fall 2022.
The program is open to any violinists, violists, cellists and bassists in the country who self-identify as Black.
Selected fellows will receive free tuition for nine course credits from ODU's F. Ludwig Diehn School of Music, which they could use toward a Masters of Music Education degree either at ODU or another university.
For fellows who already hold a master's degree, the coursework will culminate in a Performer's Certificate from ODU.
Nancy Klein, director of the Diehn School of Music, said the certificate program, much like a performance degree, designates the recipient as a highly trained artist and performer on their given instrument.
"This is a tremendous and unique program, and I have not seen it happening anywhere else," Klein said. "I am so proud to be part of a University that values diversity, and has done so for decades. We are well suited to support these four fellowship recipients and look forward to them joining our classes."
In addition to their coursework at ODU, the fellows will perform with the VSO in more than 100 rehearsals and shows throughout the region.
They will also engage in public school residencies and participate in educational performances, serving as mentors for middle and high school students.
"To be truly excellent the VSO must be diverse," said Karen Philion, president and CEO for the VSO. "This program is really a game-changer for the VSO and will open up opportunities for not only the fellows, but for everyone who comes in contact with the orchestra."
Fellows will receive a stipend for the orchestra services and education work they perform, housing with a local host family and a monthly health insurance stipend.
The program was funded by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation with assistance from the Goode Family Foundation.
Interested musicians can apply and learn more about the fellowship here.
Application materials are due March 21.