You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a 125-plus chorus sing Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony backed by a world-class orchestra. It’s really quite thrilling.
However, what made it even more exciting was that majestic moment was in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., as part of the Chicago Sinfonietta’s annual tribute to the well-known orator and civil rights icon.
To be perfectly honost, when I was invited to attend this concert, I was a little unclear as to why this ensemble has an annual tribute to MLK. The link wasn’t apparent to me. However, in researching the group a bit more, I learned that the Sinfonietta is one of the most diverse professional orchestras in the nation — if not the most diverse.
And, to help promote diversity in professional classical music, the Chicago Sinfonietta, in partnership with the Northwestern University School of Music, the DePaul School of Music, and the Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University, has an ongoing diversity initiative in place: Project Inclusion.
From press materials:
Data gathered and analyzed in a 2007 study by Professor Earl L. Carter of the Julliard School revealed that less than 3 percent of orchestra musicians performing with the top 1,000 orchestras were people of color. Supported by this data, Project Inclusion was created to address increasing the number of minority musicians playing in orchestras across the United States. Project Inclusion provides an opportunity for young musicians of color to receive apprentice experience with a professional orchestra.
Furthermore, this great initiative has been expanded to include not only their long-standing Project Inclusion Orchestra Fellows, which brings together a handful of talented musicians of color to play with the Sinfonietta following a rigorous audition process, but also the recently developed Project Inclusion Ensemble Fellows, a group of equally talented musicians who form smaller groups and perform three to four concerts a month. In both groups, these young musicians work with mentors who are part of the Sinfonietta.
Honoring MLK with this unique and passionate ensemble was a perfect way to conclude a Monday.