“Music is my heart. When I play my cello I feel like I’m breathing. I used to think playing in an orchestra was only about music ability and skill level, but now I think…a deeper connection with the individuals that you breathe and create music with is much more important…Nurturing those relationships helps make more beautiful music.”

-Jessica Victoria Steele, Spelman College Alumna, Cellist

As the largest consortium of Black institutions of higher learning in the world, the Atlanta University Center pulsates with Black excellence.

It has been the incubator of many of the giants in our era, and is ripe to nurture more. The Atlanta University Center-wide Symphony Orchestra is an unparalleled opportunity to join other students in musical mentorship that is framed by a critical cultural awareness. Students do not need to be music majors or minors to participate, and it is open by audition to all students in the Atlanta University Center.

Playing with the AUCSO takes students beyond learning technique and mechanics. They learn the art of developing a career in music by working with professional musicians. They learn the significance of opening a classical concert with the Black National Anthem beside classmates with varying heritage. They learn about the buried works of Black composers and erect them in performance alongside emerging Black composers, educators, artists, musicians, scholars of all types. 

Ultimately, students will learn how to shape their instruments into passports that take them to the destinations they choose.

“I’ve been on six continents because of music. I’m really passionate now about showing…the younger generations of musicians how powerful this tool…this instrument is. I’ve been on six continents because. The instrument really is the passport.”

Ryan Kilgore, Clark Atlanta Alumnus, Saxophonist

The student experience in AUCSO is a blend of five complementary activities

AUCSO recognizes and celebrates that students are multi-hyphenated and have a range of interests beyond classical music. Students are encouraged to set expansive goals for themselves and to co-design holistic learning plans with influential people in their lives.

Practice is designed to emulate the professional classical world while giving room for the struggle of learning new techniques and material. In addition, meticulous instruction, community agreements, and historical framing round out the rehearsal time.

Students learn to play in a large ensemble before live audiences. Typically there will be about two performances a school year in which students can mature their stage presence.

Some things take more one-on-one focus. Students are assisted in finding private teachers within the AUCSO network to sharpen their technique and to learn how to care for their instruments.

The starving artist is a trope not embraced at AUCSO. Instead, students are mentored to be flourishing artists who know how to network, acquire paying opportunities, negotiate rates, travel, market themselves, navigate the music industry and establish themselves as career musicians.

Learn more about joining the AUCSO and the academic requirements for each school

Clark Atlanta University

Reisha Jones

Administrative Secretary

Morehouse College

Stephanie Whitaker

Sr. Admin Specialist Division of Creative & Performing Arts

Spelman College

Dawn Garvin

Sr. Admin Asst. Events & Concert/Performance Coordinator, Dept. of Music
404-270-5476 direct
404-270-5484 fax

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