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Ensemble Connect: Making Connections for 10 Years

It’s been 10 years in the making. First known as The Academy, whose performing arm was Ensemble ACJW, the recently renamed Ensemble Connect is a two-year fellowship program that continues to attract the finest young professional classical musicians in the United States, preparing them for careers that combine musical excellence with teaching, community engagement, advocacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Now with the seventh class of fellows carrying the torch through the 10th anniversary year, alums and long-time partner teachers from New York City public schools reflect on the connections that have been forged as a result of Ensemble Connect.

“Ensemble Connect has undoubtedly changed the direction my musical life has taken and will continue to guide my career and purpose. Perhaps that is the most beautiful aspect of the program: There are no limits to what you may be inspired to do. Before joining Ensemble Connect, the thought of creating Musicambia—a non-profit organization to help heal the bloated incarceration system of America—never crossed my mind. Nor would I have ever thought that it was possible to do that while also discovering the greatest works of art the world has known through the medium of a professional string quartet [Attacca Quartet]. Every day my life is more fulfilled knowing that whenever inspiration strikes, I will have the invaluable tools of Ensemble Connect to make those inspirations a reality.”

—Nathan Schram, 2012 alum

101 alumni + 18 current fellows = 119 musicians

“Upon graduating from a dual-degree program in international relations and viola performance in 2007, I dreamed of a professional life that would combine my passions for music and social impact, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. Ensemble Connect provided me with serendipitous answers. It was the creative playground I needed to forge my own path, providing a community of like-minded individuals and a home to develop skills that use music as a tool for social impact. Most of all, the fellowship challenged me to deftly navigate being both a leader and a team player, while helping me transfer my musical skills into the wider world of entrepreneurship. Since completing the fellowship, I co-founded Decoda, a chamber music ensemble made up entirely of Ensemble Connect alumni with a mission to bring creative musical experiences to concert halls and also to places where music is rarely heard. And my most recent venture, Reveler, is an online platform that curates arts and culture experiences in San Francisco with a focus on engaging millennials.”

—Meena Bhasin, 2010 alum

Ensemble Connect 10 years: Meena Bhasin
Meena Bhasin (Photography: Christopher Smith)

“Over the course of four years, I have had the pleasure of having Ensemble Connect at my school in Queens. I have watched the students evolve from being timid about music to being true musical forces. One of my favorite things about having Ensemble Connect is that our music community feels like it is part of something amazing and bigger than just a high school program. The Ensemble Connect fellows have shown these students that there is a possibility to not only be performers, but also to realize your dreams no matter how big or small.”

—Laurel Hornick, partner teacher, Grover Cleveland High School

25,000 hours coaching, mentoring, and co-teaching

“Being a partner teacher with Ensemble Connect has changed who I am as a teacher, a performer, and even as a person. I have been gently pushed outside of my comfort zone to experience new ideas and methods to teach my students. I have collaborated with fellow teachers, musicians, and many others in the music field who have enriched my teaching practice. Through this program, I have been able to bring my students and their families to Carnegie Hall to watch brilliant concerts, and to Juilliard to perform as they celebrate their work with other fellows from Ensemble Connect. I have been challenged to become a better musician and “practice what I preach,” which is to play more, to expand my listening repertoire, and to become immersed in the music. Because of this program, I have raised my expectations for myself and for my students.”

—Audrey Mullen, partner teacher, PS 21 Edward Hart

Ensemble Connect 10 years: Nathan Schram
Nathan Schram (Photography: Nan Melville)

“My time in Ensemble Connect not only opened my eyes and ears to new musical experiences, but introduced me to future possibilities in the arts that I didn’t even know existed. The opportunity to work alongside passionate music educators and to collaborate with innovative arts leaders led me to pursue a career as a teaching artist. Several years later, my ongoing work with the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, and The Juilliard School allows me to continue to bring meaningful musical experiences to students and audiences in NYC and beyond.”

—Stephen Dunn, 2008 alum

50,000 students in 78 public schools

“As a brass player who teaches two orchestras and several bands, I have been delighted to have had two cellists (Yves Dharamraj and Caleb van der Swaagh) and two violinists (Michelle Ross and Becky Anderson) as my Ensemble Connect partners. They have helped me develop my knowledge of string technique and made me a better strings teacher. The fellows have shared their knowledge and love of music with all of my musical groups. For my students, having these fine musicians “up close and personal” has been invaluable. They have had many opportunities to hear Ensemble Connect perform at Carnegie Hall, where the Ensemble Connect musicians make a fuss over them. Quite a few of my students have pursued music in college in hopes of becoming professional musicians or music teachers. The Ensemble Connect program has been a godsend for both my students and me.”

—John Scandone, partner teacher, Brooklyn High School of the Arts

Learn more about Ensemble Connect.

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