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Young and diverse musicians take center stage at first-of-its-kind Chicago Symphony Orchestra event

CHICAGO (CBS) — In a first-of-its-kind concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Monday night, the spotlight was on gifted young musicians from backgrounds often underrepresented in classical music.

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the sounds the swelled at Symphony Center Monday night were polished and mellifluous. They were led by none other than Maestro Riccardo Muti.

“Playing for Maestro Muti is also an experience I’ve definitely never had before – so I’m excited about that,” said Anika Veda, who also admitted to being a little nervous.

Veda is a high school senior from Palatine. On Monday night, she played playing flute alongside professional members of the orchestra who can call themselves some of the best in the world.

It is all part of the 2022 Chicago Youth in Music Festival.

“There are so many great musicians of color, but you never see them all in one room playing in same room at once,” Veda said.

Veda is just one of the 50 gifted young musicians from 10 different states who spent the weekend at the Symphony Center for a summit of diverse performers – and also to learn from the best.

The Festival Orchestra held a rehearsal that was open to the public Monday night.

“This is the first time I’ve been in orchestra where everybody is the same background as me or looks like me,” Veda said. “It’s just an incredibly diverse array of musicians.”

For the young, talented musicians playing, there was power in the diversity of this particular orchestra.

“I think I came to of this as a young trumpet player growing up in Atlanta when the Chicago Symphony hired their first Black musician in 2002,” said Stanford Thompson,

Thompson never got the opportunity the Youth in Music Festival Orchestra did. He is now the board chair of the National Instrumentalist Mentoring and Advancement Network.

“I think it kind of sends the signal that they aren’t alone; that they are on this journey with others that are trying to progress musically and trying to become professional musicians,” Thompson said.

While the Monday night rehearsal may be the first act on a long journey to inclusion and representation in classical music, the finale has yet to be heard.

“For us, this is also the beginning of a journey,” Thompson said.

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