The mission of Project STEP is to address the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in professional classical music by preparing them to compete and succeed in that world. The program is open to Black, Latinx and other racial and ethnic minority children underrepresented in classical music. Project STEP accepts students from Boston and the surrounding areas and provides instruction on classical string instruments only: violin, viola, cello and double bass.
There are 2 ways to enter Project STEP:
Each Project STEP student receives:
There are usually between one and five students in each grade in Project STEP. While many students come into Project STEP after FOCUS and remain through their senior year in high school, each year STEP students must pass an exam in order to remain in the program. In general we have about 60 students in grades 1 through 12, and over 100 students in FOCUS.
Most weekly training occurs on Saturdays during the academic year in practice rooms at Symphony Hall or at NEC, and in teachers’ private studios throughout the greater Boston area.
Parents are required to attend classes during the first two years in Project STEP, for students in first and second grade. After that, attendance is optional; note that some teachers may request that parents wait outside during lessons. Additionally, it is highly recommended that parents of younger students sit in with their child while they complete their daily practice. All parents are encouraged to attend monthly Parents’ Council meetings and regularly scheduled student workshops and recitals.
That is often the case. The Project STEP programming staff works with parents on how they can support their students’ music program effectively and make themselves available when parents need assistance. Additionally, families have the support system of other parents in the program; Project STEP offers a Buddy Mentoring program for new families and the Parents’ Council holds meetings monthly to discuss topics such as how to practice, summer camp auditions, and time management.
88% of the cost of the program is raised from generous individual donations and foundation and government grants. In addition, STEP benefits from its affiliations with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New England Conservatory, and Boston University through their in-kind donations of office and classroom space.
Families of Project STEP do pay an annual fee, which makes up about 3% of our annual operating budget.
Yes. Project STEP has actively consulted with programs throughout the country that have replicated our successful model. Atlanta, Dallas, Buffalo, and Baltimore have developed or are developing programs that offer comprehensive music education to talented minority students. Two Project STEP alumni have started their own programs modeled on Project STEP: Music Haven, in New Haven, was started by Colin Benn, and SOUNDS, in Mesa, Arizona, was launched by Kirk Johnson.
There is a practical reason: Stringed instruments make up the largest sections of orchestras by a significant percentage, and therefore provide the greatest opportunity for aspiring musicians. We want to focus our efforts on what will ultimately give our students the greatest prospects for playing in orchestras, should they decide to make that their goal.