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Diversifying Orchestras: New Alliance Provides Audition Support to Minority Musicians

Brandon Giesbrecht
Sheet music

The National Alliance for Audition Support is celebrating its first birthday this month. The alliance was formed to make major orchestras look more like the cities in which they're located. 

"In 2014, black and Latinx musicians only make up 5% of U.S. orchestras, and black and Latinx represent 30% of the U.S. population. So, the people on stage does not reflect the people on the street outside the concert hall," says Johnnia Stigall, project manager for the National Alliance for Audition Support at the Sphinx Organization. Latinx is the gender-neutral term to describe a person who has cultural ties to Latin America.

The Sphinx Organization is just one of three organizations that have partnered to create the NAAS alongside the New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy, and the League of American Orchestras. 

Thiago Ancelmo de Souza is originally from Brazil and studying currently at the University of Iowa. He attended a NAAS workshop in December. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, he and Stigall talk with host Charity Nebbe. 

Ancelmo de Souza learned to play clarinet when he was just a boy in church because his father had also played the instrument. He says that the work NAAS is doing to provide financial support for musicians who would like to spend time preparing for a major audition is invaluable. 

"When I went to Sphinx Connect, it was the first time I'd seen a symphony full of black and Latinx musicians. And I thought, 'wow.''

Lindsey Moon served as IPR's Senior Digital Producer - Music and the Executive Producer of IPR Studio One's All Access program. Moon started as a talk show producer with Iowa Public Radio in May of 2014. She came to IPR by way of Illinois Public Media, an NPR/PBS dual licensee in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Wisconsin Public Radio, where she worked as a producer and a general assignment reporter.
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa