Virginia Symphony Orchestra

About the African American Fellowship Program

In Collaboration with Old Dominion University

Now accepting applications for Trumpet, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, & Bass


The Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s African American Fellowship Program for up to 4 early-career orchestral musicians is intended to advance the goal of increased diversity of orchestral musicians nationwide. This initiative is a continuation of the VSO’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Fellows will perform as part of the VSO in over 100 services throughout eastern Virginia and engage in public school residencies and educational performances. Professional development opportunities, including private lessons and mentorship, will better equip Fellows to achieve in their careers as performers and educators. Through these activities, Fellows will receive 12 university-level course credits from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, according to each Fellow’s degree level: undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate course credit. For those Fellows at a post-graduate level, these 12 credits culminate in a Graduate Certificate in Music Performance.

“…the Fellows seamlessly became a part of our community. They have been inspirational for our students as they watch the Fellows move professionally from rehearsals and classes on campus to performances with the VSO to teaching and performing at schools throughout the Hampton Roads community.”

Dr. Emily Ondracek-Peterson

Executive Director & Associate Professor, Diehn School at Old Dominion University

“The Fellows program at the VSO is something I am so excited about and continue to be inspired by. It is truly an honor to get to welcome Fellows into our VSO family each year and share experiences with them, both on and off the stage. Our first year was such a success and a great learning opportunity, and we’re really looking forward to continuing the momentum as we embrace our new class of Fellows!”

Eric Jacobsen

Music Director, Virginia Symphony Orchestra

“To me, this fellowship is ultimately not about assimilating black musicians into an orchestral culture. Rather, it is a step toward making our orchestras better reflect the actual communities we serve. It is a means of getting younger kids to come to an orchestra concert, to be inspired by people who look like them, and to say to themselves, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Dr. Paul Sanho Kim

Associate Professor and Director, Orchestral Studies at Old Dominion University

“It’s been a blast! The musicians and VSO staff are awesome. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another experience like this for a long time. The VSO is a great orchestra; it feels like a true family and there’s no other orchestra that is like this.”
Zacherie Small

2022/23 Fellow, Virginia Symphony Orchestra

We are excited about the many ways this program will impact our field and our community.

  • The classical music industry benefits from investment in the pipeline for more aspiring African American musicians to receive the training they need to become successful professionals.
  • Local public school music students and their teachers benefit from building individual relationships with these accomplished African American musician role models and coaches.
  • The Fellows benefit from the experience of playing with a full-time professional symphony and the opportunity to receive regular coaching from VSO players.
“This program is a Godsend and has been missing from our field for decades. I am thrilled for these young artists. No amount of practicing, or observing can compare to actual hands on real time rehearsal and performance. I remain proud of the VSO musicians and staff, for their courage and dedication to actionable dream making.”
Thomas Wilkins

Principal Guest Conductor, Virginia Symphony Orchestra