As a freshman, Basil Bratha is already performing at the highest level at the John J. Cali Music School. As a member of his prestigious Wind Symphony, he plays the silver-plated clarinet himself.
However, thanks to Montclair State University’s commitment to diversifying the musical field, as a music education major for the Cali Pathways Project, which identifies talented musicians while in high school and provides funding to purchase instruments and more. Bratha is reaching his potential. .
Just in its second year, Cali Pathways is on track. Approximately 40 high school musicians receive instruments and training while in high school, and an initial freshman cohort of 10 Pathway “alumni” sing and perform on campus, preparing them for careers as professional musicians and music educators. doing.
Funded by grants and private donations, Montclair is now launching a campaign to expand the initiative. The Name-A-Seat campaign allows donors to name one or more of her 180 permanent seats in her Leshowitz recital hall. The goal is to raise $100,000 to support scholarships for talented student musicians from underrepresented backgrounds.
“The students we are trying to reach are students who are very passionate about music, who are musically gifted, who have attended music programs in public schools, but who do not have the resources to take the next step. ”said the Cali Pathways project coordinator. Tomoko Fujita. “We seek to overcome these barriers so that students can reach their full potential in music rather than making life choices based on the limited opportunities in front of them.”
Freshman music education major Victoria Ortega learned about the program from her teacher while helping set up a band room at her high school in Staten Island, New York. “They can give you lessons, provide you with instruments, help with tuition,” Ortega recalls the conversation. She “had to submit a video of herself performing, so I used a clip of her soloing on the euphonium.”
She remembers the day in Montclair when she was given her euphonium. “It’s basically a tuba, but it sounds like a trombone,” says Ortega. “I didn’t have my own instrument because it cost $5,000. And it wasn’t something we could afford.” I didn’t want to stop.”
Victoria Ortega, a first-year music education major, opens a case and plays a new euphonium purchased with Cali Pathways program funds.
Across the country, multiple efforts are underway to increase access to music education for underrepresented young talent. “But we haven’t really changed demographics that much,” says Fujita, noting that about 3% of musicians in professional orchestras are musicians of color.
“The interesting thing about Cali Pathways is that we are not only looking to diversify our orchestral musicians, but we are also working to develop music educators. If we can do that, we will be able to inspire and connect with more young students of color, and that can have a huge impact,” says Fujita.
Bratha aspires to teach in high school, and pauses while he talks about his goals to remember (and thank) his teachers at Bayonne High School for inspiring him. . “If I could do it for just one student, if I could be what she was to me, my life is made. I found.”
Cali Pathways is modeled after an existing non-profit program and Montclair is the first university in the country to work directly with public schools to recruit and train high school students and track and guide admission to music schools. Montclair will offer full scholarships to students who pass auditions and are admitted to the John J. Curry School of Music, says director Anthony Mazzocchi.
“Every student has very different stories and very different needs,” says Mazzocchi.
Students say that the encouragement from Kali School is transformative, as many are new to college in their families. “This program represents hope,” says Tamar Garrington, a trumpeter and senior high school student from Staten Island, New York.
“It gives me more confidence because when I’m with my peers, I get constant feedback like, ‘Wow, you’re doing great.'” , you may be better than you thought,” says Garlington. “Because if you asked me a year and a half ago if I was going to college to study music or if I was going to get an instrument, I would be here to perform on campus. People, I never did.” would not have thought
Maria Taveras, a high school senior clarinetist from the Bronx, New York, adds: I’m not the only Hispanic who enjoys classical and jazz music and wants to focus on it, so that makes me happy. ”
Story by staff writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren.photo and video Rob Davidson.
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