Musical Diversity

The number of minorities in classical orchestras is shockingly low. Project Step hopes to change that.

"In classical American orchestras, only five percent of its population is black or Latino," said Gabriella Sanna, Project Step's executive director. "That number does not represent the society we live in."

The Boston-based organization recruits black and Latino students from the Greater Boston area in kindergarten and mentors them in string instruments through their high school graduation.

"The average cost per student is over $10,000 a year, and yet students only pay $350 a year" to be a part of Project Step, Sanna said.

The organization also can cover that cost if students prove need.

These students spend every Saturday practicing in the basement of Boston's Symphony Hall. It's an intensive program, with fantastic results. The organization says 100 percent of its students go on to prestigious colleges, and that 60 percent pursue music as a career.

For 17-year-old Noah Kelly, it's a place to belong.

"I was adopted from Ecuador," Kelly said. "To be around people who look like me, and are amazing companions, it's an honor to be here."

Kelly says his peers push him to do better. That's a sentiment Boston Latin junior Jehan Diaz agrees with.

"With Project Step, I feel more committed to my instrument," Diaz said. "I just want to practice more so I can impress everyone who's here."

Diaz also noted how special it is to practice in Symphony Hall.

"It's crazy. There's a bunch talented musicians who are as dedicated as me upstairs rehearsing at the same time as me," he said. "Sometimes we hear announcements: 'All BSO members, get to your rehearsal,' and I'm just like, 'Oh, maybe one day, I'll get to be there too.'"

That is exactly the goal Project Step hopes to realize.

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