A Celebration Of SA HeARTS: The Future Of Orchestral Diversity Starts In San Antonio

By Alex Flores

SAN ANTONIO — The house doors of the Tobin Center’s H-E-B Performance Hall open to an energetic crowd of concert attendees. As they hurriedly locate their seats, young musicians begin to fill the stage. The sounds of musical scales and warm-ups echo throughout the concert hall. 

An evening of musical wonder begins. 

While this performance seems ordinary, changes are happening deep within the heart of the orchestral world. From youth orchestras that propel aspiring musicians into their future journeys to professional orchestras that showcase the pinnacle of musical excellence, steps now being taken will diversify the population of musicians that take the concert stage. 

The future of that change starts here.

Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) provides young musicians of all backgrounds the opportunity to play music together so they can learn, grow and thrive while connecting with the community. YOSA aims to change kids’ lives through music in an environment that is equally accessible to all of them. Programs serve to break down barriers to music education. The YOSA Rising Star Fellows program was created specifically with these objectives in mind.

Each year, the YOSA Rising Star Fellows program selects promising eighth and ninth grade Black, Native American and Latinx musicians each year to join the fellowship. In the 2021/22 school year, a total of 16 Fellows participated in the program, ranging from high school freshmen to seniors. 

Throughout their high school careers, fellows receive comprehensive support, resources and guidance so that they may be able to maximize their musical potential. When they complete the program upon graduation, these young musicians are equipped to continue their journey towards a professional music career – if they choose to – and enter top conservatories and university music programs.

“Historically, classical music in America has been performed by mostly white musicians. In recent decades, more Asian-American musicians have joined American orchestras, but other BIPOC musicians are still underrepresented,” shared YOSA Music Director Troy Peters. “YOSA Rising Star Fellows is part of a national movement to foster opportunity and access for Black, Native American, and Latinx musicians, so that over time, American orchestras can look more like the communities they perform for and represent.”

That future for American orchestras starts right here in San Antonio. YOSA DEI Programs Manager Sara Vicinaiz coordinates the program’s day-to-day operations and works closely with the fellows as they navigate private lessons, musical opportunities and plan for college. 

“We want orchestral organizations to reflect the diverse populations in their respective regions,” Vicinaiz said. “San Antonio, with 64 percent of the population being Hispanic/Latinx, is a great example of that diversity and can lead as an example for other youth orchestras in the country.”

YOSA looks forward to the continued growth of the Rising Star Fellows program. The waves it sets into motion will be groundbreaking and it begins with each musician’s success.

 “As our first class of Rising Star Fellows prepares to graduate in 2022, YOSA already sees the concrete results of lives transformed and enriched by their experiences in the program,” Peters said.

Through a community of generous grant makers and philanthropists, YOSA provides life-changing opportunities to young musicians. The San Antonio Area Foundation has been as steadfast supporter of YOSA and empowered the organization during the pandemic to thrive and come out on the other side stronger. 

YOSA is honored to be part of Celebrationa collaboration between arts and culture organizations in San Antonio. We are thankful for the sustained support from the San Antonio Area Foundation that made Celebration possible.

Alex Flores has served as Marketing Manager for YOSA since 2019.

About YOSA: 

YOSA has been changing kids’ lives through music since 1949. Each year, YOSA reaches more than 2,500 young people, representing 130 schools throughout greater San Antonio. A resident company of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, YOSA was one of only six youth orchestras nationally to receive a 2020 League of American Orchestras’ Futures Fund award for innovative programming. YOSA’s orchestras, summer camp, and school partnerships foster equity and inclusion for young musicians of diverse backgrounds.