Chicago Sinfonietta announces Project Inclusion Fellows for 2016-17 Season

Chicago Sinfonietta’s industry leading professional development program Project Inclusion introduces its 2016-2017 class of orchestra and conducting Freeman Fellows. This year, the program will mentor nearly a dozen diverse, emerging, professionals from all over the country, adding to an already remarkable number of fellows served by the program since 2008—more than all other similar fellowship programs in the country combined according to a 2016 League of American Orchestras study.

Sinfonietta Executive Director Jim Hirsch noted, “It’s well known that less than 5% of classical musicians performing in American orchestras are from African American and Latino backgrounds. As orchestras struggle with relevance and community engagement, diversity is being cited more and more as a critical piece of the puzzle. We are proud of the success of a number of our ‘graduates’ who have made it on to the stage of professional orchestras across the country.”

Kalena Bovell, returning Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor for the 2016-17 Season.

Kalena Bovell, returning Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor for the 2016-17 Season.

This year’s new conducting cohort of fellows include Kellen Gray(Atlanta, Georgia), Alejandro Gómez Guillén (Bloomington, Indiana), and auditor Kedrick Armstrong (Wheaton, Illinois). New orchestra fellows include Chauntee Ross (violinist, Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and Danielle Taylor (violist, Chicago, Illinois) who will be joining returning fellows Titilayo Ayangade (cellist, Chicago, Illinois) and Kyle Dickson(violinist, Detroit, Michigan).

Additionally, in a field where gender equity on the podium is still a rarity, the Sinfonietta takes a stand in its 29th season when three women appear on the Sinfonietta’s podium over the course of the year, including two returning Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellows, Kalena Bovell and Deanna Tham, who have been appointed by Maestro Chen as Assistant Conductors for the 2016-17 Season.

“Growing up, music never seemed like an option for me,” said Bovell. “However, being a Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellow last season was confirmation that anything was possible through hard work and determination. Being back as an Assistant Conductor this season feels like I have taken one giant step towards a dream that I have been chasing since I was a little girl.”

The women will join Maestro Chen throughout the orchestra’s 2016-17 Season and each will lead the orchestra on specific repertoire twice during the year.

“Chicago Sinfonietta truly cares about giving its Project Inclusion Freeman Fellows the best chance of success, even beyond the fellowship itself,” said Tham. “I am in awe and so excited to assist Maestro Mei-Ann Chen this year. Thanks to her, seeing a woman on the podium may soon become ‘the new normal’.”

About the Sinfonietta

Entering its 29th season, Chicago Sinfonietta has pushed artistic boundaries to provide an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra and is dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion, racial and cultural equity in the arts. Each concert experience blends inventive new works with classical masterworks, each from a diverse array of voices, to entertain, transform and inspire. In 2016, Chicago Sinfonietta was the proud recipient of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI). This award recognizes exceptional organizations that are key contributors in their fields. Learn more at

The Sinfonietta thanks it’s 2016-17 Season sponsors including the MacArthur Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Alphawood Foundation, Pritzker Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Cedar Concepts, Southwest Airlines, the Fairmont Hotel, Hotel Arista, NBC-5, Chicago Magazine, Naperville Magazine, WXRT, Chicago Reader, PWC, and Macy’s.