Boston Conservatory Partners with Boston String Academy and projectSTEP to Bring Music Education to Local Communities
Classical music training has long had a history of exclusivity with regard to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. As part of Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s efforts to break down access barriers and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the performing arts, the school’s Music Division has formally partnered with two local organizations driven by these values: Boston String Academy and projectSTEP.
The two non-profits share a commitment to providing top-quality string training programs to underserved communities in the Greater Boston area. Founded in 2011, Boston String Academy (BSA) is led by sister violinists and Boston Conservatory alums Marielisa Alvarez (G.P.D. '11, M.M. '09, violin) and Mariesther Alvarez (G.P.D. '11, M.M. '09, violin). Modeled after the highly successful El Sistema program in Venezuela and its counterpart in Peru, the academy seeks to eliminate obstacles to classical music training by subsidizing tuition costs, holding programs in accessible locations, and providing private lessons and instrumental rentals to all students. Their programs in Chinatown and Allston currently serve more than 120 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Since 1982, projectSTEP’s String Training Education Program has provided historically underrepresented groups in classical music with instruction working towards their vision of a world in which classical music “reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of our communities.” Their intensive CORE training program, which includes private lessons, chamber music and orchestral instruction, theory training, and performance opportunities, currently has 58 students enrolled. Impressively, 100 percent of CORE program graduates attend college, with 60 percent going on to pursue music in a professional capacity.
As an official partner with these impactful community programs, Boston Conservatory will collaborate on exciting new programming. Once per semester, projectSTEP and BSA students will come to Boston Conservatory’s campus to participate in residency programs focused on performance. As part of this residency program, the Conservatory’s popular String Masters Series will be expanded to include additional master classes geared toward younger students, and Boston Conservatory graduate students and faculty will coteach projectSTEP and BSA students in collaboration with their regular instructors. Finally, the Conservatory will provide additional facilities for lessons, rehearsals, and performances.
The partnerships are beneficial to all involved; not only do they offer projectSTEP and BSA students access to expanded mentorship and unique opportunities to learn from the Conservatory’s student musicians and world-class guest artists, but they also provide Conservatory graduate students an opportunity to develop teaching skills with a diverse group of students as well as an understanding of how to practically address the critical need for diversity and representation in classical music education.
The two partnerships align perfectly with Boston Conservatory’s goal of increasing accessibility within the performing arts and, more specifically, the Music Division’s curricular emphasis on diversity, breadth of perspective, and cultural relevance—values which are exemplified by both projectSTEP and Boston String Academy.