Classical orchestras lack diversity. For 40 years, Project STEP — short for String Training Education Program — has been working to change that.
The Boston-based nonprofit, which provides classical music training and educational support to underrepresented students, will celebrate four decades with a gala at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
“It’s sort of a come one, come all. Let’s get together, play some music, and have some fun,” said Project STEP’s executive director, Josué Gonzalez of the June 7 event.
The evening will include performances from current STEP students and faculty, acclaimed alumni, and guest artist-activist, Zakiyyah. Mass Cultural Council executive director Michael Bobbitt will deliver the keynote speech.
The event’s goal, Gonzalez explained, is to bring past and present members together to recognize the legacy of Project STEP. Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra founded the program in 1982. Since, it’s introduced more than 2,000 local students to classical music and provided them with tools to perform including instruments, audition prep, and scholarships.
“A lot of other organizations are just now kind of waking up to this issue of accessibility,” Gonzalez said, who explained that the classical music genre has historically and systematically disregarded BIPOC. “We have been fighting for it for the past 40 years.”
Gonzalez said that Project STEP hopes to be a model for the institutions trying to do similar work. The program’s small size, at any given time it has around 50 students in grades K-12, makes it so every child gets personal and undivided attention.
“We hope that our students will really feel the love,” Gonzalez said. “I want them to see all of the people who are supporting them and are excited about what they’re doing here. Once the music starts, everything will just fall into place.”
PROJECT STEP 40TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT & CELEBRATION
At The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point. $200. June 7, 4:30-7 p.m., projectstep.org