The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA) has teamed up with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) and USC’s Thornton School of music to give four young musicians the opportunity of a lifetime.
They are going to groom them, during a very intensive two-year program, at a cost of $140K per student, very generously funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, to be able to win an audition and ultimately a seat in an American orchestra.
The Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship is a comprehensive post-graduate program designed to increase diversity in American orchestras. In a phone interview with ICYOLA Founder and Executive Director Charles Dickerson, I learned that although African-Americans compromise 13% of the American population, we represent only 1.8% of those in American orchestras. Latinos fair minimally better, making up 2.5%, while also representing 13% of the American population. Mr. Dickerson explained the numbers are low because African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans do not do well in auditions. The fellowship was created to address the inequity in the numbers by better preparing the fellows for auditions.
The Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship Program is being led by ICYOLA, and is the only program of its’ kind being predominantly led by an African American organization. Mr. Dickerson shared that ICYOLA approached the Andrew Mellon Foundation with the fellowship proposal. Although the Mellon Foundation liked the idea, they told him that he needed to partner up with a larger organization and partner up he did. ICYOLA teamed with LACO and USC’s Thornton School of Music to launch a three-tiered approach: education (USC), practical experience (LACO) and mentoring (ICYOLA).
In order to be accepted into the program, the applicants had to be a college graduate, submit a tape and have a subsequent audition. Thirty people auditioned for the inaugural Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship Program and Mr. Dickerson is extremely pleased with the four individuals selected.
Mr. Dickerson, with his legal background (attorney), his former position as the conductor of the Southeast Symphony, his current position as Musical Director of Rowland Hills Church, as well as his other achievements, makes him and ICYOLA immensely qualified to undertake the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship Program project.
In addition to interviewing Charles Dickerson, I also spent some time interviewing Boston born violinist Sydney Adedamola and Houston born violist Bradley Parrimore, the two African American fellows, who both shared how very excited they are to be a part of the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship Program.