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Students from Boston classical musical program to be featured on ‘Kelly Clarkson Show’

A Boston nonprofit offering free classical music training to students will be featured on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" on Wednesday.NBCUniversal/Associated Press

A Boston nonprofit is striking a chord.

Students from Project STEP, which provides classical music training for K-12 children in Boston, will perform Wednesday on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” The organization offers free instruments and music lessons to children who are members of groups historically underrepresented in orchestras, according to Artistic Director Ian Saunders.

“The kids were incredibly excited the whole time,” Saunders said. “For the longest time, Project STEP was the best-kept secret of Boston. But it shouldn’t be.”

The nonprofit’s advanced orchestra will be featured on the talk show’s “Good Neighbors” segment, which highlights “folks from across the country who are stepping up in big ways for their local communities and neighbors,” according to the show’s Facebook page.


Saunders spoke to Clarkson and an in-studio audience in Los Angeles, while the student orchestra’s performance was live streamed from Futura Productions in Roslindale.

“It was great just to see all that hard work that they put into it manifest. It was a great crowd ... [Clarkson] even teared up a little bit,” Saunders said.

Project STEP — short for String Training Education Program — was founded 40 years ago by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The nonprofit offers classical music classes in violin, viola, cello, and double bass, Saunders said.

During the school year, the ensembles rehearse Saturdays in Symphony Hall, and many Boston Symphony Orchestra performers are also teachers for Project STEP, Saunders said.

The organization has partnered with Boston schools to reach Black and brown students and other groups historically underrepresented in classical musical. Only about 3 percent of people in orchestras across the US are African American, Saunders said.

“There are a lot of barriers of entry for classical music,” Saunders said. “What’s different from guitar, or some of the other genres, is that with classical music, there are a lot of things you need in order to be successful.”


Instruments and lessons are particularly expensive, making them inaccessible for many lower-income families, Saunders said.

“I think in college my double bass was $20,000,” he said. “Families want to support their kids, they just don’t know where to start.”

About 60 percent of Project STEP graduates pursue careers in music, and 100 percent attend college or conservatories, according to the program’s website. Fifty-two students are currently in the program, and most participate for several years, Saunders said.

After their performance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” the students got a special surprise — and it’s worth tuning in to see it, Saunders said.

“I think it’s a great surprise,” Saunders said. “It definitely caught us off guard too, because, they kept that card close to the vest on that one.”

The segment will air Wednesday at 3 p.m. on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” on NBC.

Kate Armanini can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini.