This September, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra welcomes its sixth Fellow for the EQT Orchestra Training Program for African American Musicians (OTPAAM), percussionist Torrell Moss.
EQT OTPAAM is a pre-professional, two-year program designed to mentor one young African-American musician in pursuit of an orchestral career. The selected musician spends two seasons immersed in the working environment of the PSO and studies with members of the orchestra to train and prepare for professional auditions and performance opportunities. Training includes mock auditions, coaching sessions, and opportunities to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony. The fellow receives a stipend and financial assistance for audition expenses, and s/he also has the opportunity to participate in education and community engagement events.
The fellow is selected through a formal audition process and interview. In addition to playing at a very high level, the ideal fellow is also able to speak to audiences of all backgrounds and ages, eager to grow as a musician and to help others learn, and a good networker.
Our 2011–2013 EQT OTPAAM fellow, Ryan Murphy, a cellist, won a position with the San Antonio Symphony in 2012. The winner of the 2013–2015 fellowship was Adedeji Ogunfolu, a horn player, who also won a position with the San Antonio Symphony during his first year of the fellowship. The continued success of the program is contingent upon organization-wide commitment from musicians and staff. Everyone plays an important role in the fellow’s musical and professional development.
Here are some quotes from past fellows that illustrate the value of the program:
- It set a high bar for playing that at first was a stretch but soon became my new standard of what was acceptable.
- The level of playing was so high, I really wanted to make sure I was contributing at that level all of the time.
- The range of dynamics and the level of expression on either end of the spectrum was something I hadn’t experienced before.
- I really appreciated the level of commitment that this group has toward getting a message across.
- It accelerated my growth technically and musically.
- My playing matured a lot just by experiencing a high level of music-making on a day to day basis.
- Everything I picked up [in playing with the PSO] translates directly to my new job.
Before Adedeji and Ryan, previous fellows were Chris Davis, bass trombone; James Stroup, double bass; and Geoffrey Johnson, oboe.
We are heartened by the success of all of our fellows and hope this will encourage other orchestras to establish equally successful initiatives.