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Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras Teaching Artists Make an Impact on the Arts

FAIRFIELD, CT – April 28, 2022 – Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras Teaching Artists Alexander Davis and Polina Nazaykinskaya made an impact on the New York City music scene in April.

Mr. Davis made history as bassoonist with the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra, the first all-Black classical symphony orchestra ever to perform on the main stage at Carnegie Hall. The orchestra performed the world premiere of “I Can” by Jon Batiste in addition to other pieces.

“As an artist who has centered my practice on creating community and space for black and brown musicians, this has been such a beautiful representation of what that can look like after years of hard work,” said Mr. Davis. “Gateways Music Festival is a group that centers on connecting and supporting professional classical musicians of African descent and enlightens and inspires communities through the power of performance. It’s incredible to work with this group and manifest this energy in my own music series, Sugar Hill Salon, and my position at GCTYO. Representation matters and is the sole reason I am where I am today. It’s a large part of why I chose to be a part of GCTYO, knowing my presence brings representation to our community. It’s important for us to be able to see that black and brown bodies belong in every single space.”

Mr. Davis is the conductor of GCTYO’s Woodwinds Orchestra for younger, less experienced musicians and the Principal Orchestra Woodwinds Coach.

Ms. Nazaykinskaya is a profilic composer whose works have been performed by the San Francisco Ballet and Minnesota Orchestra, among many others. Her symphonic poem, “Fenix,” premiered by The Albany Symphony and programmed for multiple performances during the 2021-22 season, will be performed next season by Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras in Manhattan in collaboration with Site-Specific Dances and Michael Spencer Phillips. Her newest ballet, “Encounters,” was performed in April by MorDance in Symphony Space in New York City. She is currently working on an opera, commissioned by Opera Mississippi to commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary, which will premiere in 2023.

Ms. Nazaykinskaya is the conductor of GCTYO’s Philharmonic Orchestra and the Principal Orchestra Violin Coach.

Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras (GCTYO) brings over 300 young musicians together to achieve the highest standard of music performance in a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment. Its holistic approach to education fosters growth, learning, confidence, and both social and emotional awareness, which prepares students for a full and balanced life. The study and performance of great music in an ensemble setting can be a transformative experience for young musicians, and the skills they learn as part of a GCTYO ensemble—teamwork, perseverance, and responsibility—carry over into all areas of their lives.

For more information, visit gctyo.org or contact the Executive Director.

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Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras Receives $75,000 Grant from League of American Orchestras

One of 20 U.S. Orchestras, and One of Only 4 Youth Orchestras, to be Chosen

Three-Year Grant Seeks to Accelerate Organizational Change and Field-Wide Learning in Pursuit of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

(Fairfield, CT) – March 24, 2022 – The League of American Orchestras has awarded a $75,000 grant to Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras to help create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible organizational culture through collaborative, peer-driven learning opportunities and work with an arts-sector consulting firm. Given to just twenty orchestras nationwide, and only four youth orchestras, the three-year grants are made possible by a $2.1 million leadership grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation. The Catalyst Fund Incubator drives change by incorporating models from high-tech incubators, such as creating strong peer communities for brainstorming and strategizing and developing new ideas through mentorships. An important element of the program focuses on building capacity to attract new resources, including funding and partnerships, for the orchestras’ equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) work. A primary driver for the program is the awareness that systemic change requires a sustained effort over time.

“We are honored and humbled to receive this grant from the League of American Orchestras,” said Beth Ulman, GCTYO’s Executive Director. “We are proud of the work we’ve done so far in transforming our organization into one in which all young musicians and their families, as well as our teaching artists, are comfortable, supported, and valued. We realize there is more work to be done, and we look forward to continuing the work with colleagues, staff, students, families, and the community around us to achieve the equity and inclusion we seek.”

“We’re so grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their vision and years of support, and to the 49 orchestras in the initial Catalyst Fund pilot program who have infused the field with insights and helped the entire field begin to effect change,” said Simon Woods, the League’s President and CEO. “The new Incubator program accelerates and deepens this work, inspiring orchestras to nurture and sustain inclusive organizational cultures over the long term.”

The Catalyst Grant will allow GCTYO to work with professional facilitators toward becoming a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization by setting and executing EDI goals and activities, including data collection and analysis, educational trainings, and self-evaluation. It will also support programming that brings a diverse selection of artistic voices to GCTYO performances. 

About Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras

Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras (GCTYO) brings over 300 young musicians together to achieve the highest standard of music performance in a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment. Our holistic approach to education fosters growth, learning, confidence, and both social and emotional awareness, which prepares students for a full and balanced life. The study and performance of great music in an ensemble setting can be a transformative experience for young musicians, and the skills they learn as part of a GCTYO ensemble—teamwork, perseverance, and responsibility—carry over into all areas of their lives.

About The Catalyst Fund Incubator

Community building is a strong component of the Incubator. During the three-year grant period, participating orchestras will take part in five convenings each grant year—three curricular sessions and two peer learning convenings. Informal and facilitated discussion via online communication platforms will connect participants with the wider Catalyst Fund community of previous grantees. To encourage stakeholder engagement, administrative, educational, and artistic staff, board members, and musicians from each orchestra will participate. 

The grants will enable orchestras to work directly with professional EDI consultants. The consultants’ work is multifaceted: helping orchestras clarify, map and measure equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, and offering guidance on a wide array of issues, such as avoiding common pitfalls when doing EDI work; mediating conflict around differences of opinion on approach and strategy; and best practices for including a multitude of voices and perspectives, among others.

Incubator grantees were required to demonstrate strength of vision, institutional commitment, and readiness. The 20 orchestras were selected via an independent panel of EDI experts and practitioners in the arts and orchestral fields. 

About Catalyst

Launched in 2019 and preceding the Incubator, The Catalyst Fund pilot program made a strong impact on the field, with several orchestras receiving multiple grants over three years to sustain their work. 76 Catalyst Fund grants were awarded to 49 orchestras of all sizes and types, each demonstrating a strong commitment and dedication to EDI work and an increased awareness that systemic change requires a sustained effort over time. More than 80% of first-year grantees reported making either policy or programming changes as a result of their funded work, with most engaging board and musicians alongside staff.

2022 Catalyst Fund Incubator Grant Recipients

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Charleston Symphony Orchestra

Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras

Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra

Jacksonville Symphony

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Minnesota Orchestra

Napa Valley Youth Symphony

New Jersey Symphony

San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory

South Dakota Symphony Orchestra

Stamford Symphony

Symphony Tacoma

Chicago Philharmonic

Louisville Orchestra

Walla Walla Symphony

Winston-Salem Symphony

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA)

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GREATER CONNECTICUT YOUTH ORCHESTRAS

STATEMENT OF DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION

Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras (GCTYO) is grounded in the conviction that music education is a vital part of the education and development of young people and of communities as a whole. Accordingly, our music programs develop and support young musicians with an understanding that they are also part of a much larger world that is both diverse and historically complex. With this larger global context in mind, GCTYO recognizes that delivery of a robust and meaningful music education must begin with an acknowledgement of the historical inequity, exclusion and disparity of access to resources that shape the landscape in which we live. Euro-centricity, hetero-normative gender expectations, colonial conquest, and anti-Black racism have shaped the history of classical and symphonic music and continue to determine access to and success in the field. Given the systemic racism,  anti-LGBTQ bias, gender bias, and white privilege that dominates the orchestral world, our organization commits to creating opportunities for the meaningful inclusion of historically under-represented voices, particularly those from Black and Brown communities. These efforts will include (but are not limited to) equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist pedagogical and performance practices, diversifying our musical repertoire to include musicians and composers of color, and hiring staff that is diverse and reflective of our student community and the global community in which we live. In an effort toward accountability for these goals, we pledge to regularly engage our student musicians, parents, and GCTYO community by conducting annual assessments and inviting comments and suggestions about our progress. Our hope is that students emerge from the GCTYO music program as strong musicians with a deep commitment to social justice and an understanding of how music can play a part in achieving unity and equity for all.

AAPI Statement of Support

Spring 2021

GCTYO stands with the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community who have been targeted, harassed and endured violent discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic. We recognize the valuable contributions of the AAPI community to our orchestras and to society as a whole. Racism against AAPIs has a long history in our nation that has been unaddressed and GCTYO takes an actively anti-racist stance against this bias.

Statement of Unity

Summer 2020

Dear GCTYO Family,

It is times like these when we truly miss the community that an organization like GCTYO provides. A sense of togetherness and unity can be lost when we are forced to be at a distance.

We are committed to being allies of our black and brown families. We recognize that they are living with deep pain and fear, subjected to the threat of police violence and ongoing oppression in a racist society.

As a youth organization, we worry most about our children. They are trying to find a sense of belonging and their own niche in this crazy world. When news of racism and senseless loss occurs, it creates fear, confusion, and unsettledness.

Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras prides itself on providing a safe and inclusive environment, where students can come and express themselves without fear of judgment or ridicule. Students of all colors sit together and create music and connections. And through that creation, we send a clear message of peace and humanity.

We want to reassure everyone in our community that despite the recent distance and the fact that we are ending our season for the summer, GCTYO is still here. We are here for your children, and we stand side by side with our black and brown families and with those who seek justice, equality, and harmony.

Sincerely,

Chris Hisey, Music Director

Beth Ulman, Executive Director

Sara Seaburg, President, Board of Directors