CSO+ UC CCM Announce Next Class of Diversity Fellows


Four outstanding string players have been selected for the next class of the prestigious performance fellowship program.

The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) have selected four outstanding musicians for the next class of the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship. Born out of a mutual desire to make American orchestras more inclusive, this groundbreaking fellowship program launched in 2015 with a generous $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The next class of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows are Anita Graef, 22 (cello); Ian Saunders, 30 (double bass); Weiyi Shao, 24 (violin); and Dan Wang, 31 (viola). These four exceptional string players will officially join the two-year fellowship program in August 2017, bringing the total number of CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows to eight for the 2017–18 academic year and performance season. The inaugural class of Diversity Fellows — comprised of Emilio Carlo, Diana Flores, Vijeta Sathyaraj and Maurice Todd — will complete the second year of the program in April 2018. An additional Fellow from the inaugural class, Blake-Anthony Johnson, just accepted a cello position with the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida, and credits the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship with the next step in his professional career:

“As a Fellow I received valuable guidance and support from not only my peers participating in the Fellowship but also from the CSO and CCM conductors, musicians and administrative staff members. The resources and opportunities available to me as a Fellow were crucial in my musical career development, and I couldn't be happier to be a part of this great network of people who became family in such short time.”

The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program is open to exceptional violin, viola, cello and double bass players coming from populations that are historically underrepresented in classical music. The program utilizes a broad definition of diversity that encompasses race and culture while also including underrepresented populations like first-generation college students and individuals who took non-traditional pathways to higher education. The program’s tagline — “Bravos Without Barriers” — gets to the heart of its mission: eliminating obstacles that can prevent extraordinary musicians from achieving their full potential.

“Thanks to the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Diversity Fellowship Program allows us to provide outstanding early-career musicians with access to the combined resources and expertise of the CSO and CCM,” said CCM Interim Dean bruce mcclung. “The result is an unparalleled experience-based education that will empower these musicians and prepare them to succeed in their chosen fields. Our hope is that this program will also inspire the next generation of diverse young artists, which will allow us to continue making American orchestras better reflect the diversity of their communities.”



Fellows perform the equivalent of five weeks per season with the CSO while enrolled in a two-year Master of Music (MM) or Artist Diploma (AD) degree program at CCM. Each class of Fellows is selected through a rigorous series of auditions, which saw hundreds of graduate-level musicians audition for CCM faculty members. Fifteen string players were invited back to Cincinnati for a final round of auditions judged by CSO musicians at the Taft Theatre on March 11, 2017.

Each Fellow receives full tuition scholarship support from CCM, in addition to a $10,000 per year graduate stipend and a one-time Graduate School Dean’s Excellence Award of $3,000. Each Fellow also receives compensation of $8,000 per season while performing with the CSO.

With this collaborative Fellowship program, CCM and the CSO hope to provide new opportunities for underrepresented musicians, while simultaneously fostering a more inclusive environment in the orchestral industry. This mission is part of the appeal for Fellowship participant Anita Graef. “I believe that adaptability and diversification are crucial to the modern landscape of classical music, and the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship is a pioneering opportunity in that field,” said Graef. “I am excited to further my education and to uphold the standards of this prestigious orchestra. I hope that my work will inspire others and show that when we embrace musicians from all walks of life, we enrich the meaning and purpose of making music.”

“The Diversity Fellowship presents students like me with not only a first-rate education from a great institution like the UC College-Conservatory of Music but also real life on-the-job training with the fantastic Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra,” said Diversity Fellow Weiyi Shao. “I am very grateful that this program offers a generous scholarship, which makes it possible for me to attend. I feel very honored and humbled to be one of the participants.”

“The inaugural class of Fellows played an important role with the Orchestra throughout the 2016–17 season, and not only are we looking forward to their continued artistic contributions, but also we are seeing a very promising future for the next class starting this fall,” said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Vice President and General Manager Robert McGrath. “Through our partnership with CCM and with the extraordinary support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we will continue to provide all of our Fellows with guidance and transformative experiences that ultimately help them achieve their goals as professional musicians.”


Driven by a mutual desire to create a more inclusive environment in the orchestral industry, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) have embarked on the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program. The Fellowship provides an opportunity for graduate level musicians from underrepresented populations to participate in a specialized two-year program with the aim of filling the pre-professional gap by moving the needle of diversity in American symphony orchestras on a national scale. This educational opportunity consists of frequent performances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, focused mentorship by professional musicians, and simultaneous enrollment in a Master of Music (MM) or Artist Diploma (AD) degree program. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funds the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program.

Program Components:

  • Enrollment in CCM as full-time MM or AD student with full tuition scholarship.

  • Perform the equivalent of five weeks per season in a progressive sequence of concerts with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

  • Community engagement opportunities.

  • CSO musician mentors to provide intensive guidance in preparation and performance as well as overall mentorship.

  • Eight monthly career development seminars to be held each year of the Fellowship.

  • Annual mock audition seminars.

In addition to an unparalleled training experience each Fellow receives significant financial support:

  • Full scholarship tuition and fees for CCM coverage totaling $27,500 per year.

  • $10,000 per year as a Fellowship stipend/graduate assistantship.

  • One-time Graduate Dean’s Excellence Award of $3,000.

  • $8,000 compensation for services with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.


Program eligibility includes string players coming from populations that are historically underrepresented in classical music, first-generation college students, those who have followed non-traditional pathways to college and have demonstrated a commitment to including and applying diverse background and perspectives to learning, scholarship, service and civic leadership.  String musicians who meet the admissions standards of CCM and are accepted into the program by CSO musicians are flown to Cincinnati for the final Fellowship audition.

Applications for the 2017-2018 class opens open on August 1, 2016.