Passionate about education and diversity and inclusion in the arts, German-based African American conductor Roderick Cox began awarding scholarship funds to youth from unrepresented communities in 2018, allowing them to pay for instruments, music lessons, and summer camps. The award grants each recipient the opportunity to participate in instrumental instruction at MacPhail.
Marley studies cello with MacPhail teaching artist Joe Kaiser and is a founding member of the MacPhail Northside Youth Orchestra, which was launched in 2016. Since beginning cello five years ago as a 4th grader through MacPhail’s Ascension Catholic School partnership, Marley has grown from a squirrely and rambunctious nine-year-old to a mature young man with poise and a genuine interest in music and the cello. “It’s looking more and more like I’m going to be a musician,” says Marley.
But Marley will still enter a field where most classical music professionals in major symphony orchestras around the country are white, according to the League of American Orchestras. As a result, America’s orchestras aren't as diverse as the cities they serve. African-Americans only make up 1.8 percent of orchestras nationwide, according to an industry-wide study.
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and the MacPhail Center for Music provide equity and access to opportunities to eliminate the achievement gap. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, part of the nationwide Cristo Rey Network®, provides a quality, Catholic, college preparatory education to diverse, young people in the Twin Cities with limited educational options. The MacPhail Center for Music’s School Partnership Department creates sustainable, sequential music education programs customized to meet the unique needs of partner schools. A subset of these programs focuses on delivering intensive instrumental instruction to students with limited access to music education.
While most students would have selected a high school where they could pursue their interests, Marley knowingly chose to attend Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a high school with NO orchestra or band program, because of its success in supporting 100% of its graduates to be admitted to college, many with generous financial aid packages. According to Marley, “I knew they didn’t have an orchestra, but I also knew they could prepare me to get into college. And if you already have people helping you get into college and you have the cello too? Then that’s a sweet deal. I’m doing something I love and have people to push me towards what I love!”
When students are college and career ready, it increases their chances of earning college degrees. This translates to narrowing the alarming gaps for people of color across various industries. With our partners, Cristo Rey is increasing the number of students of color with high school diplomas, college degrees, and work experience, such that they can maximize their potential to participate in industries and careers, such as the performing arts.
Marley is excited to continue to pave the way for black musicians in orchestra!