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Houston Symphony And Rice University Partner To Establish New Brown Foundation Community-Embedded Musician Fellowship

The fellowship provides one apprentice the opportunity to develop community engagement skills.

Houston Symphony And Rice University Partner To Establish New Brown Foundation Community-Embedded Musician Fellowship

The Houston Symphony and Rice University's Shepherd School of Music have joined forces to create the new pilot program: The Shepherd School-Houston Symphony Brown Foundation Community-Embedded Musician Fellowship.

Providing one apprentice the opportunity to develop community engagement skills under the guidance of the Symphony's Community-Embedded Musicians (CEMs) and Education and Community Engagement staff, the Fellowship goes annually to a Rice Graduate student, who then learns to work with children and other populations from Houston's underserved communities. This exciting partnership aligns with the mission of the Shepherd School's newly established taskforce, MUSE (Musicians United for Social Equality), which in part aims to engage with young musicians from underrepresented groups.

"This joint effort between the Shepherd School and Houston Symphony aims to expose young, underserved minority students to the richness of music education," said Rice University Shepherd School of Music Dean Robert Yekovich. "Our organizations consider this to be among the most important responsibilities we have."

"We were very excited when the Shepherd School approached us about this joint initiative," said Houston Symphony Executive Director, CEO, and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. "It was great to know that the MUSE taskforce viewed our CEM program as a model for engaging with underserved communities in Greater Houston, and that they wanted to partner with us in this pilot program. It will allow both institutions to broaden and deepen the impact of this critical work."

Commencing in April 2021, the Brown Foundation Community-Embedded Musician Fellowship extends through December 2021, at which point the Fellowship will be evaluated before moving forward with choosing the next Fellow.

The inaugural CEM Fellow is double bassist Joseph Nuñez. Having studied at the University of North Texas and the Colburn Conservatory before attending the Shepherd School where he studies with former Houston Symphony Principal Bass Timothy Pitts, Nuñez has played with the New World Symphony and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, as well as participating in the Aspen Music Festival. Nuñez was selected through an interview and audition process that included musician and staff representatives from the Houston Symphony alongside colleagues from the Shepherd School.

The CEM Fellowship initiative builds on a longstanding partnership between the Symphony and the Shepherd School, that most recently brought the expertise of Rice scientists to bear on an exhaustive research study of the air flow created by wind instruments and singers, using high-speed imaging to investigate proper social-distancing protocols for rehearsal and performance.

The Houston Symphony's ground-breaking CEM initiative began in 2015, allowing the Symphony to expand its education and community engagement individual and small-group activities from approximately 200 to 1,000 per year. In hospitals, schools, community centers and myriad other venues, the Symphony's CEMs educate, engage, and inspire thousands of children and adults through their interactions in underserved areas of Houston. In addition, the CEMs have up to 40 opportunities each year to perform onstage with members of the orchestra. The Brown Foundation CEM Fellowship gives the Symphony the opportunity to send more musicians out into the orchestra world with a passion to continue to do community engagement work, while giving the Shepherd School the opportunity to mold truly complete musicians, fully prepared with all of the skills demanded of a full-time musician in an American orchestra.

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