VSO African American Fellowship Program
In Collaboration with Old Dominion University

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra has created a new African American Fellowship Program for four early-career orchestral string musicians 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 from September 2020 to May 2021 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 a graduate certificate from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

“As an African American musician with the Virginia Symphony for over 38 years, I can say I am very excited about our fellowships for next season and look forward to wonderful music making with them.”

Beverly Kane Baker
Principal Viola, Virginia Symphony Orchestra

“As a person of color, it is of utmost importance to me that I am able to nurture the diverse artists of tomorrow. As our Symphony turns 100, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our future and build our arts community!”

Ismar Gomes
Cello, 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 aspiring African American musicians to receive the training they need to become successful professionals.
  • Public school music students and their teachers benefit from building individual relationships with accomplished African American musician role models and string instrument 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.

Eligibility & Requirements

*Due to the circumstances regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, the launch of the African American Fellowship Program may be altered or delayed. Please check back here for updates.

Video and application deadline: May 24, 2020
Dates of employment: September 1, 2020 – May 9, 2021

VSO Fellows will participate in the breadth of work performed by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, including:
  • Classics and Regional Classics
  • Pops
  • Peanut Butter & Jam family concerts
  • Young People’s Concerts
  • Outdoor community concerts
  • Chamber music
  • Small ensemble educational concerts for elementary school students
  • Mentorship and coaching for middle and high school students
  • Coaching college students
  • $16,000 stipend for orchestra services and education work performed
  • Free housing with host family
  • $200/month Health Insurance Stipend
  • Full scholarship for Old Dominion University’s Graduate Certificate program
  • Graduate work or degree preferred. Exceptional performers with a bachelor’s degree also encouraged to apply.
  • Applicants must be string players
  • Candidates must self-identify as Black / African American
Application process:
  • Submit 1-page Resume and 3 References
  • Submit Personal Statement (500 words) describing your interests in the program and in community service and civic engagement.
  • Submit transcript(s)
  • Submit video recording of the audition repertoire for your instrument, linked below. Video should have high definition audio quality. The solo repertoire should be performed unaccompanied, and each selection must be performed without editing. Please submit video either via a link (such as YouTube or Vimeo) or cloud file sharing service (such as Dropbox or Google Drive).

“I’m so pleased that we are starting this program. I look forward to identifying and encouraging talented young musicians— a win-win-win for them, for our orchestra and for our community.”

Vahn Armstrong
Concertmaster, Virginia Symphony Orchestra

“I am excited that the Virginia Symphony Orchestra will launch this program next season while we celebrate its 100th birthday, and I am looking forward to making music with these talented young African American musicians across the Hampton Roads as VSO continue it’s equity, diversity and inclusion commitment to the society.”

Yun Zhang,
Associate Concertmaster, Virginia Symphony Orchestra

Repertoire Lists

Please submit materials and direct all questions to:
Dr. Christy Havens
150 Boush St, Suite 201
Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 213-1421

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