The mission of Project STEP is to address the under-representation 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, Latino and other racial and ethnic minority children under-represented 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:
- FOCUS program, for children in Kindergarten
- By audition, for grades 1-11
- If your child is 5 years old and currently enrolled in Kindergarten, they can apply for our FOCUS program in December of their Kindergarten year.
- If your child is 6 years old or older and already plays a string instrument, they can sign up to audition for Project STEP every May. Please click here for entry requirements and, if your child can meet them, contact the office for details.
- If your child is 6 years old or older and does not already play a string instrument, then you can click here for a list of other area music schools and programs where you can register your child to begin music lessons. They can then sign up to audition at a later date when they can meet the entry requirements.
STEP students receive a full and intense program
of music study that consists of:
- Weekly private instruction on stringed instruments
- Use of a good, properly sized instrument
- Weekly ear training and theory classes
- Weekly piano instruction on fundamentals
All students also have opportunities to perform throughout the year in community concerts, master classes and recitals, and to attend Boston area concerts free of charge through our enrichment program. The costs of the program are covered by Project STEP. Families pay a program fee each year, and there is financial aid available as needed.
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 45 students in grades 1 through 12, and up to 100 students in FOCUS.
Each student is assigned a teacher from the STEP faculty
, and most instruction takes place at his/her teacher’s studio. In many cases, the teacher is on the faculty of the New England Conservatory or another conservatory, in which case the student will be taught in a classroom at the conservatory. Theory classes take place at a room in Symphony Hall for grades one through three, and for older students at the New England Conservatory.
Parents are required to attend classes during the first two years in Project STEP. After that, attendance is optional, and some teachers request that parents wait outside during lessons.
That is often the case. Parents will be aware of their students’ studies and practice needs during the first two years of the program by attending the classes. Later, the Parents Council devotes one or two meetings to explaining how parents can help students practice, and other issues related to practicing. STEP Co-Artistic Directors Javier Caballero and Mariana Green-Hill will work with parents on how they can support their students’ music program effectively and will be available when parents need assistance.
82% of the cost of the program is raised from generous individual donations and foundation and government support
. 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. An endowment also supports the program, and STEP parents pay an annual fee.
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.