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Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and CCM Announce 2018-20 Class of Diversity Fellows


Four outstanding string players have been selected for the next class of the prestigious diversity fellowship program.

Date: 6/4/2018 12:00:00 AM
By: Becky Butts
Phone: (513) 556-2675
Other Contact: Curt Whitacre
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-2683

UC ingot    The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) have selected four outstanding musicians for the next class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows. Born out of a mutual desire to make American orchestras more inclusive, this prestigious performance fellowship program launched in 2015 with a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Foundation approved a renewal grant of $850,000 in 2017, providing funding for the innovative program through June 2021.

CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows Anita Graef and Diana Flores performing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows Anita Graef and Diana Flores performing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

With this collaborative Fellowship program, CCM and the CSO hope to provide new opportunities for under-served musicians, while simultaneously fostering a more inclusive environment in the orchestral industry.

“Orchestras must better reflect the communities they serve, and this program exemplifies our commitment,” said CSO President Jonathan Martin. “We welcome the new class of Fellows, look forward to the artistic contributions of the continuing class, and congratulate the inaugural Fellows who are now graduating.”

The incoming class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows is Camellia Aftahi, 22 (double bass), Yan Izquierdo, 33 (violin), Arman Nasrinpay, 23 (violin) and Alexis Shambley, 22 (violin).

“Thanks to the generosity and support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we can continue to recruit highly qualified CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows candidates,” said CCM Interim Dean bruce mcclung. “In turn, these outstanding early-career musicians are helping inspire the next generation of multicultural young artists, which will allow us to continue making American orchestras better reflect the variety of their communities.”

These four exceptional string players will officially join the two-year fellowship program in August 2018 bringing the total number of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows to eight for the 2018-19 academic year and performance season.

The inaugural class of Diversity Fellows, which is comprised of Emilio Carlo, Diana Flores, Vijeta Sathyaraj and Maurice Todd, have recently graduated.

“I have gained valuable experience through my work with the CSO and my graduate work with CCM,” said Flores. “This has been a wonderful experience, and I am excited for what lies ahead.”

“This program positions musicians for a bright future and wish them every success as their careers advance,” said Martin.

“It is a testament to the program’s success that the inaugural class of Diversity Fellows is moving on to next-step career opportunities,” said mcclung.

HOW THE FELLOWSHIP WORKS
The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program is open to exceptional violin, viola, cello and double bass players coming from historically underrepresented populations in classical music.

The program’s tagline — “Bravos Without Barriers” — gets to the heart of its mission: eliminating obstacles that can prevent extraordinary musicians from achieving their full potential.


Fellows perform the equivalent of five weeks per season with the CSO while enrolled in a two-year Master of Music (MM) or Artist Diploma (AD) graduate degree program at CCM. Each class of Fellows is selected through a rigorous series of auditions, which saw hundreds of graduate-level musicians audition for CCM faculty members. Nineteen string players were invited back to Cincinnati for a final round of auditions judged by CSO musicians at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium on March 24, 2018.

Each Fellow receives full tuition scholarship support from CCM, in addition to a $10,000 per year graduate stipend and a one-time Graduate School Dean’s Excellence Award of $3,000. Each Fellow also receives compensation of $8,000 per season while performing with the CSO.

MEET THE INCOMING FELLOWS

Camellia Aftahi

Camellia Aftahi, Master of Music, Double Bass
For incoming San Diego participant, Camellia Aftahi, it was the Diversity Fellowship’s aspiration that was part of the appeal. “What drove me to apply for the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship was not only my desire to perform with and learn from a group of high caliber musicians but also to have an opportunity to bring representation to minority groups on stage,” said Aftahi.

Aftahi began playing double bass at the age of 12. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance at San Diego State University where she studied with Jeremy Kurtz-Harris and Jory Herman.

An avid freelancer, Aftahi has performed with many groups in Southern California, including the San Diego City Ballet, the Opera NEO workshop, the BRAVO Festival and the La Jolla Symphony under the direction of Steve Schick. Aftahi also takes enjoyment in teaching and maintains an active private studio in addition to coaching at local public schools.

Aftahi will begin her master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where she will study with CSO Principal Bass and CCM Adjunct Assistant Professor Owen Lee. She hopes that her studies at CCM will allow her to fuse her love for performance and scholarship with her commitment to civic and educational outreach.

Outside of performing music, Aftahi’s interests include reading 20th-century fiction and poetry, going to museums, eating vegetarian food, studying music and its various intersections with social issues, and playing board games.

Yan Izquierdo

Yan Izquierdo, Master of Music, Violin
Born in Havana, Cuba, violinist Yan Izquierdo enjoys an interdisciplinary, cross-genre music career. He has extensive performance experience throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Spain. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the College of Charleston Orchestra. In 2010, he played the national anthem for the NCAA NIT College Basketball Finals game at Madison Square Garden. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival and performed at Spoleto USA with members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. He was the winner of the 2004 South Carolina MTNA Young Artist Performance Competition in the strings category.

As an orchestral musician, he has performed with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of New York, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas and Symphony in C, with notable appearances at Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall, Kimmel Center, Kennedy Center and Meyerson Symphony Center. He participated in the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas’ “Music Without Borders” North American concert tour, which included educational outreach programs with youth symphonies in Mexico City, culminating in a joint concert televised by the Televisa network.

Equally, at home in non-classical genres, Izquierdo has appeared with Grammy Award-winning Bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, as well as Clay Aiken and Anne Murray. He was a founding member of Shayna and the Catch, acting as a songwriter, violinist, mandolinist and backing vocalist. The band toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada, including appearances at SXSW, CMJ Music Marathon, Summerfest and Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration. His songs have been featured in TV and film, including an international Ford Edge commercial campaign.

Izquierdo began violin studies at the age of seven in Madrid, Spain. At the age of 14, he received a full scholarship to attend the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where he studied with Todor Pelev. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Charleston, studying with Lee-Chin Siow. Additional mentors include Almita Vamos, Herbert Greenberg, and Garrett Fischbach. He currently resides in New York City.

Izquierdo will begin his master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where he will study with Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, the Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Classical Violin.

Arman Nasrinpay

Arman Nasrinpay, Master of Music, Violin
Arman Nasrinpay began playing the violin at the age of 10 through the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra Program. He has since performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center Hall and Millennium Stage, Strathmore Music Center, the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the Shakespeare Theatre for Performing Arts.

He has held many prestigious positions in orchestras, including assistant concertmaster of the McLean Youth Orchestra, assistant principal second violinist of the American Youth Philharmonic, Principal Second of the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Principal Second of the Aspen Philharmonic and Assistant Concertmaster of Indiana University’s Concert Orchestra, among others.

“Since I was a kid, I have always dreamed of playing violin in a professional orchestra, and I couldn’t think of a better way to pursue this than the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship program,” said Nasrinpay.

Nasrinpay has frequently performed — and to great acclaim — in the greater Washington, DC area, and gained recognition by winning top prizes and honors in numerous competitions. Among these are such prestigious contests as the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Feder Competition, the United States Army Young Artists Competition, the Lions of VA Bland Music Competition, the Asian American International Competition and the Gretchen Hood String Competition, among others.

Along with competitions, Nasrinpay has performed in master classes given by Aaron Rosand, Zino Bogachek, Karina Canellakis, Dmitri Berlinsky, Victor Danchenko, Itzhak Rashkovsky and Ani Schnarch.

“In my first year, I hope to continue to improve my craft and successfully compete in several auditions and competitions. I will strive to learn as much as possible and represent the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship honorably every day. I am also hoping to meet many new people, musicians and otherwise, and engage with them and the community as much as possible.”

During the summer, Nasrinpay has participated in various music programs. These have included the Indiana University Summer String Academy, the Summit Music Festival, Kent Blossom Music Festival, Chautauqua Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival and School, as well as the Bowdoin International Music Festival where he received instruction from Almita and Roland Vamos, Victor Danchenko, Itzhak Rashkovsky, David Halen and Cyrus Forough. Most recently, he studied at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as a Premiere Young Artist under pedagogue Simin Ganatra of the Pacifica Quartet.

Nasrinpay will begin his master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where he will study with CSO Concertmaster and CCM Adjunct Professor of Violin Timothy Lees.

Alexis Shambley

Alexis Shambley, Master of Music, Violin
A native of Dallas, Texas, Alexis Shambley recently received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from CCM under the tutelage of String Department Chair Won-Bin Yim. Shambley started violin at age four and studied primarily with her mother, Xiao-mei Pelletier of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

She has previously attended the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival and The National Orchestral Institute and Festival as well as performed with local orchestras including Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. An avid chamber musician, she enjoys doing outreach performances and participating in chamber music competitions, most recently placing second in CCM’s Annual Chamber Music Competition with her then sextet in 2016.

Shambley will begin her master’s degree at CCM in the Fall of 2018 where she will study with String Department Chair Won-Bin Yim.

“I am so honored to be a CCM/CSO Diversity Fellow and believe the program will help me achieve my goal of winning orchestral auditions,” Shambley said. “This opportunity is also particularly important to me because I aspire to one day create a studio aimed at providing music education to underrepresented youth.”

ENHANCING AND EXPANDING THE EXPERIENCE
Earlier this year, the CSO and CCM expanded the opportunities available to the Diversity Fellowship participants through a new partnership with the Chautauqua Institution of New York. Through this new partnership, as many as five CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows will be selected annually to participate in an eight-week summer residency with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, with frequent performance opportunities in the Institution’s 4,000-seat open-air Amphitheater.

The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows will be mentored by the orchestra’s professional musicians, who come to Chautauqua each summer from a variety of home ensembles around the world. Also, the Fellows will mentor minority student musicians in Chautauqua’s Music School Festival Orchestra, and offer performances designed to engage the broader Chautauqua community. Chautauqua Diversity Fellows will be provided housing and receive a stipend to offset their expenses.

For several members of the CSO and CCM’s graduating class of Diversity Fellows, a residency at Chautauqua during the summer of 2018 will be the next valuable step in their performing careers. Carlo, Flores, and Sathyaraj will spend the summer of 2018 embedded at Chautauqua, along with current Fellows Ian Saunders and Weiyi Shao.

“Inclusiveness — of race, gender, sexuality, ideas — is the Chautauqua ideal. We aim to be a leading force in evolving the field of symphony orchestras by diversifying the makeup of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and investing in inclusion,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts at Chautauqua Institution. “By making it a priority to help musicians from underrepresented communities early in their careers, the Institution hopes to be instrumental in their ability to compete for and win jobs in American orchestras. Diversity in the Arts changes lives not only for the artist but also for audiences.”

JOIN OUR NEXT CLASS OF CSO/CCM DIVERSITY FELLOWS
On Sept. 1, CCM and the CSO will begin accepting applications for the 2019-21 class of Fellows. The application deadline is Dec. 1, 2018.

Live auditions with CCM faculty will be held Jan. 18-19, Jan. 25-26 and Feb. 15-16 of 2019.

Finalists will audition for the CSO in Cincinnati in March of 2019.

Download the Informational Flyer (590.8 KB)

Learn more about the application process by visiting ccm.uc.edu/admissions/application.

About the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which also performs as the Cincinnati Pops, is one of America’s finest and most versatile ensembles. With a determination for greatness and a rich tradition that dates back 123 years, the internationally acclaimed CSO has performed the American premieres of works by the likes of Debussy, Mahler, Ravel and Bartók, and commissioned important compositions that have since become mainstays of the classical repertoire including Aaron Copland’s iconic Fanfare for the Common Man. With new commissions and groundbreaking initiatives
like the Pelléas Trilogy, LUMENOCITY, and One City, the Orchestra is committed to being a place of experimentation. As Cincinnati’s ambassador, the Orchestra has toured extensively, most recently to Asia and Europe in 2017, and sold millions of recordings around the globe. As Cincinnati’s own, the Orchestra elevates the City’s vibrant cultural scene not only through CSO and Cincinnati Pops performances, but also through an array of education and community engagement programs and by serving as the official orchestra for the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati May Festival, and Cincinnati Opera.

About the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Nationally ranked and internationally renowned, CCM is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts. CCM’s educational roots date back to 1867, and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time. The synergy created by housing CCM within a comprehensive public university gives the college its unique character and defines its objective: to educate and inspire the whole artist and scholar for positions on the world’s stage.

CCM’s faculty and staff and its state-of-the-art facilities make possible the professional training and exceptional education on which CCM believes the future of the arts relies. The school’s roster of eminent faculty regularly receives distinguished honors for creative and scholarly work, and its alumni have achieved notable success in the performing and media arts. More than 150 internationally recognized faculty members work with students from around the world, specializing in the areas of Composition, Musicology, and Theory; Electronic Media; Ensembles and Conducting; Keyboard Studies; Music Education; Performance Studies and Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration.

The largest single source of performing arts events in the state of Ohio, CCM presents nearly 1,000 major public performances each year, ranging from faculty and guest artist concerts to fully supported acting, dance, musical theatre and opera productions. CCM is an accredited institution of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST), as well as a member of the University/ Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA).