CCM Flute student advocates for diversity in the arts as NOI+F Orchestral Futurist Fellow

Chaz Salazar employs classical music as a catalyst for social justice for marginalized communities

UC College-Conservatory of Music AD flute student Chaz Salazar is the 2020 Orchestral Futurist Fellow at the National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F). Offered by the NOI+F in partnership with the Sphinx Organization, the Fellowship aims to further advance the power of diversity in the arts.

The Fellowship provides a launching pad to talented Black and Latinx musicians and combines work in administration, orchestral performance, festival curation and community engagement. During the 13-month Fellowship, Salazar will serve as a leader in the NOI+F Philharmonic as a principal in his section while working on his Fellowship project, which addresses the future of the symphony orchestra as an institution. Salazar says that his project puts youth and the community at the center.

“I feel it is my responsibility as a person of color (POC) to employ classical music as a catalyst for social justice for peoples of marginalized communities,” Salazar says. “This also means finding ways to dismantle systemic racism and oppression within institutions. It is the plan that by catalyzing bold change within the National Orchestral Institute + Festival by celebrating BIPOC artists (past and present), other legacy institutions will follow suit.”

A headshot of Chaz Salazar with his flute

Chaz Salazar. Photo/Provided.

Salazar’s Fellowship duties began July 1, 2020, and includes participation in the NOI+F for two consecutive summers. The in-person programming for this year’s summer festival was cancelled due to COVID-19, so he participated in NOI+F at Home, which was all virtual. He participated in master classes, creative workshops and panel discussions. Most recently, he was a panelist on the Futurist Fellows discussion about systemic racism in classical music and the future of the symphony orchestra.

This isn’t Salazar’s first time working with the Sphinx Organization, which is a Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. In 2018, he applied for an audition grant through the National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS), an initiative of Sphinx that provides financial support and audition training for Black and Latinx musicians to catalyze diversity in American orchestras. He has also been a participant in the Sphinx Orchestral Partner Auditions (SOPA) and attended the organization’s annual convention in Detroit as a SphinxConnect Fellow. Salazar is also a participant in the NAAS Online Audition Intensive, which runs May 29-July 17, 2020.

The Sphinx Organization also serves as an external evaluator and advisor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and CCM’s joint Diversity Fellowship program, which recently announced its 2020-22 class of musicians.

As a CCM student, Salazar is mentored by Professor Demarre McGill, principal flutist at the Seattle Symphony and winner of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence as well as an Avery Fisher Career Grant. “We are lucky to work with him and CCM is lucky to have him on faculty,” Salazar says. He has also coached with CCM Instructor Heather Verbeck, Professor Ixi Chen and Professor James Tocco.

“The administrators and staff at CCM have also been a huge support system for me including Anne Cushing-Reid, Amy Dennison and John Martin, all of the CCM Preparatory and Community Engagement department,” he adds. “All of these people have made my time at CCM fruitful!”

Outside of his performance studies, Salazar has enjoyed learning from CCM Arts Administration Professor Rebecca Bromels. Her Current Issues Forum course brought in guest speakers to every class to talk about issues in all types of arts organizations, he says. “This was a very useful class for me and spurred on my interest in arts administration as well,” he adds.

Additionally, Salazar is a flute instructor for CCM Preparatory and Community Engagement. He doesn’t have any students right now, but he does teach private lessons remotely via video. Interested flutists can connect with him by first inquiring about lessons through CCM Prep.

Salazar is also recording short performances at home over the summer and shares them on his YouTube channel. Viewers can enjoy his recent performance of Debussy’s Syrinx on CCM’s YouTube channel.

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About Chaz Salazar

Mexican-American flutist Chaz Salazar employs “classical” music as a catalyst for social justice as an orchestral musician, teaching artist and musical activist.  He works to ensure that students who are part of marginalized communities, specifically those of socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and people of color, have equitable exposure and access to music and music education. 

In his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, he has served as the flute instructor for Harmony Project Phoenix, an El Sistema-inspired program. Salazar received his early formal musical training from a similar program called Rosie’s House: A Music Academy for Children which provides free music lessons to under-resourced youth. 

As a performer, Salazar was a founding member of the in-home chamber music series, An Evening of Music, where he made appearances on over 30 concerts. Along with performances at churches, community centers and retirement homes, Salazar has also performed with the Phoenix Symphony as a substitute musician.

Currently, he is attending CCM in the Artist Diploma program under the mentorship of Demarre McGill (Principal Flutist, Seattle Symphony). There, Salazar is part of the CCM@Mercy partnership which affords him the opportunity to perform in area hospitals for patients, families, physicians and staff. He is also the flute instructor for CCM Preparatory and Community Engagement. More recently, Salazar was awarded the National Orchestral Institute Sphinx Futurist Fellowship; it is a unique artistic and performance fellowship available for Black and Latinx musicians that combines administration, orchestral performance, festival curation and community engagement. As the fellow, Salazar will work with the Director of the NOI+F on the planning, recruitment and execution of the festival over a 13-month period to advance his career as an orchestral musician and provide a creative platform for shaping the orchestra of the future.

In his advocacy and social justice efforts, Salazar serves on the board for Quinteto Latino and concert:nova and he is a consultant for Voices Unheard. He is also an ambassador for the Samuel Vargas International Music Foundation.

A first-generation college graduate, he earned both his BM and MM degrees in Flute Performance from Arizona State University, the latter degree as a Reach for the Stars Fellow. In addition to Demarre McGill, Salazar’s other influential teachers include Judy Conrad, Brian Gordon, Elizabeth Buck and Marco Granados.