Established in 1993, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program was the first intense training program established by a major America orchestra to support talented, young African-American and Latino students, of every orchestral instrument, who desire to pursue classical music. 100 percent of students completing the Talent Development Program graduated from high school and continued to college, many attending leading conservatories, or college or university music departments, including: Oberlin Conservatory of Music, The Juilliard School, Cleveland Institute of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music, among others.
The excellence of the program has been achieved through lessons and chamber instruction — from master teachers — combined with the benefits of the summer music program experiences. TDP students are guided by ASO musicians (or equally qualified instructors) who serve as their private teachers and mentors, and the excellence of the Program is reflected through TDP students becoming finalists in the national Sphinx Competition, featured guests on the NPR’s “From the Top,” as well as solo performers with the ASO in National Black Arts Festival concerts, donor appreciation concerts, and the ASO’s King Celebration concerts. TDP students comprise a significant segment of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra and regularly place in the top All-State ensembles (many in principal positions). In addition, through the Azira G. Hill Scholarship Fund, the Program provides financial assistance to these students to attend leading summer music study programs.
Annually the TDP includes 25 students ranging from 5th to 12th grade, most of whom remain in the program through high school graduation. Cellist and TDP graduate Ismail Akbar recently secured a one-year appointment in the Augusta Symphony Orchestra, the second TDP graduate to secure a position with a professional orchestra. In 2007, bassist and TDP graduate Eric Thompson was appointed to a one-year position at the Charlotte Symphony — he now holds a permanent position there.