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CSO Assistant Principal Cellist Norman E. Johns and CSO/CCM Diversity Fellow Blake-Anthony Johnson. Photography by Andrew Higley.

CSO Assistant Principal Cellist Norman E. Johns and CSO/CCM Diversity Fellow Blake-Anthony Johnson.

Diversity Fellows Make Their Concert Debut with the CSO

When the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra takes the stage to perform Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony on Sept. 8 and 10, there will be five new faces within the celebrated ensemble.

CCM graduate students Emilio Carlo (viola), Diana Flores (cello), Blake-Anthony Johnson (cello), Vijeta Sathyaraj (violin) and Maurice Todd (double bass) will make their debut appearances as CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows during the CSO’s season-opening program with internationally acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax. Four of the five Fellows will then join the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for a concert of action and adventure movie music on Sept. 16, 17 and 18.

During these performances, Cincinnati audiences will get their first glimpse of a new collaborative program that is already garnering national attention. Often referred to as the “Bravos Without Barriers” program, the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship is a four-year pilot program designed to foster an environment that promotes greater diversity on the stages of American orchestras. The Fellowship program is made possible by a $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

For the next two academic years and concert seasons, Carlo, Flores, Johnson, Sathyaraj and Todd will balance conservatory training with CSO rehearsals and performances. They will be joined by a second class of up to five Fellows in the fall of 2017, bringing the total number of Fellows in the program to 10 for 2017-18.

Along with the professional performance experience, Fellows will receive focused mentorship from CSO musicians on top of regular instruction and guidance from CCM’s illustrious faculty. Their mentorship includes coaching sessions before each rehearsal cycle, ongoing stand partner coaching and post-performance feedback. There will also be non-performance related career counseling to prepare the Fellows for their future.

Each Fellow receives full tuition scholarship support from CCM, in addition to a $10,000 per year graduate stipend and a one-time Graduate School Dean’s Excellence Award of $3,000. Each Fellow also receives compensation of $8,000 per season while performing with the CSO. They will perform the equivalent of five weeks per season with the CSO in a progressive sequence of concert weeks based on program difficulty, with one week focused on community engagement and educational activities.

This unique educational opportunity is the first of its kind to pair a major conservatory with a major orchestra, bridging the pre-professional gap while also fostering a more inclusive environment within professional orchestras. The Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, will serve as an external evaluator and advisor.

Vijeta Sathyaraj, Artist Diploma Violin

Vijeta Sathyaraj, a member of the inaugural class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows.

For their part, the Fellows are very hopeful about the longterm impact of this unique program. "Music can build bridges that transcend divisions of politics, language and ethnicity," Sathyaraj suggests. "The Diversity Fellowship provides me with the opportunity to further hone my skills and expand my knowledge."

What Sathyaraj plans to do with that knowledge is nothing less than transformational. She explains,

"I hope that increased diversity in orchestras will lead to broadening audiences. I hope to connect with audiences who are unfamiliar with classical music. I hope to bring music to people in areas outside of well-known cities, venues and programs with established instruction and support. I believe that orchestras provide a vehicle for musicians to reach people of all backgrounds."

Learn more about the inaugural class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows by visiting


Tickets and Additional Information

Emanuel Ax plays Beethoven's 'Emperor.'

The CSO opens its season at Cincinnati's Art Deco jewel, the Taft Theatre, on Sept. 8 and 10. Piano legend Emanuel Ax will perform Beethoven’s grand and magnificent Emperor Concerto. Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, written as a humorous, determined and confident response to his critics, completes this opening-weekend program.

Learn more at

Hollywood Action and Adventure

Join the Cincinnati Pops for an electrifying concert of action and adventure movie music Sept. 16-18. The program includes favorites from Star Trek, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Mission Impossible. The Academy Award-nominated actor Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver) narrates this musical thrill ride.

Learn more at