Diversity in the Key of Opportunity

Stanford Thompson performing the Hummel Trumpet Concerto with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra - Michael Morgan, conducting.

Since the age of twelve, I have known that I wanted to be a professional musician. The sound of brass playing really caught my ear; it was versatile - bold, articulate, sweet, and mournful - and the trombone in classical and jazz contexts possessed all of those qualities. Like all seven year olds, my arms weren't long enough to reach all seven positions and my father started me on trumpet instead. The plan was to switch to trombone when my arms were longer, but the years went by and the trumpet still fed my interests. I was different than … [Read more...]

Orchestra’s Coda to Diversity: Draggin’ a Bit…

TDP Alumni Orchestra

In 2007, the music critic of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin, wrote a sobering article about the lack of minorities on stage, throughout the audience, back in the administrative offices, and in the board room of America's top orchestras. He described a valiant effort the orchestra made over twenty years ago to tackle these issues, but it was not nearly enough to fill the gaps. When Peter posed the question "What has been standing between the orchestra and progress all these years?", the answers came from all over: they were … [Read more...]

The Symphony Orchestra’s Gold Mine: Part III

I got up on the other side of the bed yesterday, and everything that could go wrong did! The National Endowment for the Arts released recent data about what the decline of arts education means for arts participation, and the picture they paint isn’t pretty. The NEA research revealed that there was steady growth in access to music education from the 1930s to the 1970s which helped to create, nurture and sustain the audiences who would shape the cultural landscape of America. During the 1960s, the hunger for artistic growth in orchestras took … [Read more...]

The Symphony Orchestra’s Gold Mine: Part II

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Over the past decades, a few commentators in the musical world have spoken and written about the decline of symphony orchestras, locating the cause in a single factor. The majority, however, attribute the dwindling numbers to a combination of factors, such as: musician unions, increasing pension obligations, fewer charitable donations, the effects of the changing economy, technology, deteriorating relationships between administration and musicians, and lack of … [Read more...]

The Symphony Orchestra’s Gold Mine: Part I

In a large family of seven siblings, headed by parents who were music educators in the public school system in Atlanta, my future as a musician was pretty much inevitable. Everyone in my house played an instrument and we were all pretty good at it! I began my musical training at age 8 and received private lessons and exposure to classical music through the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Talent Development Program. With the guidance of my teachers and support of my parents, I earned a spot at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, where I … [Read more...]

American Orchestras: Make No Little Plans

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big." - Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect. (1846-1912) This is a post for everyone who … [Read more...]

Adjusting the Sails

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails. - John Maxwell I look back on my relationship with classical music and the years it took me to get hooked: years of trumpet lessons with a mentor that I looked up to, years of attending Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performances and developing the curiosity to stay awake for an entire performance, years of opportunities of playing in ensembles and performing throughout the metro-Atlanta area and the pride my family had for my accomplishments. … [Read more...]

Empty Forest. Tree Falls. Was It Heard Or Felt?

Blog Post for ArtsJournal.com's "Lead or Follow" Discussion - "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" How would the City of ______ be damaged if the ______ Symphony Orchestra / Opera Company / Ballet Company / Theater Troop / Art Museum were to disappear tomorrow? How would the City of ______ be damaged if the all arts education programs were to disappear tomorrow? Recent data from the Americans for the Arts Economic Impact reports that there are $63.1 billion in total expenditures from arts … [Read more...]

Popz’ Advice

Let what comes out of the bell speak for itself... My father (Popz) would tell me this all of the time and I use to only attribute this advice to my trumpet playing. I started playing when I was eight years old and I always found myself in musical situations where everyone else were many years older than me. I was obsessed with doing my best and proving that I could handle the challenge in front of me. Well, the obsession of tackling big problems and proving they could work hasn't stopped. Four years ago I met with one of the principal's of … [Read more...]

Play On, Philly!


After a year of serving the 80 children and families at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia through the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra's Tune Up Philly program, I am very excited to share with you the news that I continue to serve the same children and community under a new banner - Play On, Philly! (POP). Two weeks ago, we launched POP for 110 children at St. Francis, engaging the 80 children from last season while increasing our enrollment this season. There are 17 professional Teaching Artists that work with these children every … [Read more...]