The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here is how you attract African-American and Latino students to classical music. | August 22, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Attracting African-American and Latino students – and audiences – to classical music has been a difficult problem across the nation for a long time.

But thanks to Project STEP in Boston, which started in 1982 and is run through the Boston Symphony Orchestra, progress is being made. STEP recruits children from kindergarten and trains them through graduation from high school. Full parental involvement is required.

Project STEP

In Madison, groups such as the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and Madison Music Makers, as well as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, have tackled the same problem.

Perhaps the Boston program — which was recently featured on the PBS NewsHour — holds clues to a successful outcome. It certainly is inspiring to see and hear Project STEP’s success stories. 

Project STEP 2

Here is a YouTube link to the story:



  1. Fascinating video; Steve’s right.

    At the same time, I wonder about the color parameters of this program. To me, it seems the real problem here is one of social class/poverty which is a deeper seated problem than that of just race (as deep as that problem is).

    As evidence for this: 1) see the video and the young black girl at Yale’s comment that during the project, her family was “living out of a car”. That’s economic poverty and it is not confined to any one race. Poverty has horrible effects on everyone. 2) look at the large numbers (probably out of all proportion) of Asians in classical music. Asians do really well economically in our society (and others). So, a different racial makeup from white is not the key problem this seems to suggest. The real problem is economic inequality.

    What can we take from this? First, how about a Project step (perhaps a local one) that identifies and assists people of ALL colors? Secondly, how about funding the teaching of music at early levels at a much higher level (which would have something of the same impact but perhaps bring a “bigger punch” and have a broader impact. Sad that the Project Impact takes only 3 out of a pre-screened 100 students!). That means MORE money for musical education and for bands and musical groups in elementary, middle and high schools.

    Comment by fflambeau — August 22, 2015 @ 9:58 pm

  2. Watch the video.

    Comment by Steve Rankin — August 22, 2015 @ 6:43 am

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