UNCSA and the Winston-Salem Symphony to launch fellowship

UNCSA and the Winston-Salem Symphony have joined together to launch a two-year, graduate-level Orchestral Fellowship beginning fall 2024. The UNCSA/Winston-Salem Symphony Strings Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for students to perform multiple weeks in concert with the professional orchestra, as well as to receive mentorship by Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director Michelle Merrill and symphony musicians, and to participate in the symphony’s P.L.A.Y. (Piedmont Learning Academy for Youth) Music program for underserved youth. 

Each year, the program will enroll five string players with a demonstrated passion for community engagement. They will receive a full scholarship and stipend while enrolled in a two-year Master of Music (M.M.) program at UNCSA, studying with the university’s renowned strings faculty. Fellows will study and perform together, both with the Winston-Salem Symphony and as an ensemble, and will also have the opportunity for administrative internship roles with the symphony. 

Fellowships are available for outstanding violinists, violists, cellist and double bass players from the U.S. and abroad. The application deadline is Jan. 18, 2024; visit uncsa.edu/wsso-fellowship for more information and to apply.

“This collaboration between the Winston-Salem Symphony and UNCSA marks a pivotal moment in realizing our vision of a community where live music connects people from all walks of life,” said Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director Merrill. “By welcoming a talented cohort of fellows, we are not just adding chairs to our ensemble; we are adding unique perspectives, fresh ideas, and a vibrant energy that will enrich our performances. This program has the power to enhance the caliber of our orchestra while training the next generation of professional musicians to become torchbearers of both artistic excellence and meaningful community engagement.”

Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director Michelle Merrill

Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director Michelle Merrill

Funded by an anonymous donor, the fellowship also reinforces vital components of “UNCSA Forward,” the university’s current strategic plan, which includes enhancing industry relevance and promoting institutional sustainability. 

“We are thrilled about this fellowship, and are deeply grateful to our donors and to our partners at the Winston-Salem Symphony for making it happen,” said UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole. “The remarkable emerging artists at UNCSA will gain a great deal of firsthand experience about life in a professional symphony orchestra, which will be crucial after they leave campus and forge careers as working artists. This fellowship also provides an opportunity for two vibrant local arts organizations to actively work together to make this City of Arts and Innovation an even more beautiful and interesting place to live.”

The Orchestral Fellowship is the most recent example of a long history of collaboration and partnership between the university and the symphony. A number of current and former UNCSA faculty and staff members and alumni are also members of the Winston-Salem Symphony, including UNCSA School of Music Dean Saxton Rose, who serves as the orchestra’s principal bassoonist.  

UNCSA Symphony / Photo: Wayne Reich

UNCSA Symphony / Photo: Wayne Reich

“This is an exceptional opportunity to provide professional performance experience and real-world training in arts administration and leadership to our students in the School of Music,” said Dean Rose. “These skills will position the Orchestral Fellows to easily transition to professional life after graduating and to be the creative, forward-looking arts leaders of the future. I’m also incredibly excited about the ways in which these students will engage with the local community and inspire the next generation of talented North Carolina musicians.”

About the School of Music

The School of Music at UNCSA combines intensive individual study under artist faculty with a variety of performance opportunities, presenting more than 200 recitals, concerts and opera productions each year, including collaborations with other UNCSA arts schools and a guest artist series. In addition to its undergraduate and graduate programs, it houses one of the nation’s only four-year residential arts high school programs. The School of Music is also home to the renowned A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute, a tuition-free, graduate-level professional training ground for exceptional young vocalists. 

UNCSA School of Music alumni have gone on to perform with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Nero String Quartet, Giannini Brass, Camel City Jazz Orchestra, and Metropolitan and Chicago Lyric operas, among many others. Prominent alumni include: violist Richard O'Neill, member of the renowned Takács Quartet; acclaimed tenor René Barbera; Broadway veteran T. Oliver Reid; Lachezar Kostov, associate principal cello of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Broadway music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell; New York Philharmonic violinist Lisa Kim; violinist and Beyoncé collaborator Jessica McJunkins; Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center; jazz vocalist and composer Becca Stevens; saxophonist Eddie Barbash, formerly with the house band for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”; Nia Imani Franklin, composer and Miss America 2019; and the Dan River Girls (Fiona Burdette, cello; Ellie Burdette, double bass and voice; and Jessie Burdette, viola).

About the Winston-Salem Symphony 

Proud to be one of the Southeast's most highly regarded regional orchestras, the Winston-Salem Symphony recently named Michelle Merrill as its Music Director, making her the first female principal conductor of a professional orchestra in North Carolina. Now in its 77th season, the Symphony seeks to fulfill its mission to "Bring Music to Life" by inspiring listeners of all ages throughout North Carolina's Piedmont Triad with various concerts, education programs, and community engagement initiatives each year. The Symphony’s education arm includes four youth orchestra ensembles and the P.L.A.Y. (Piedmont Learning Academy for Youth) Music program, an El-Sistema-inspired initiative dedicated to offering instrumental music instruction primarily to underserved elementary school students. Visit www.wssymphony.org for more information.

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November 15, 2023