Mrs. Azira G. Hill, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Board Life Director, founded the Talent Development Program™ in 1993 as a pilot program with ten African American students from within the Atlanta and Fulton County Public School systems. Mrs. Hill was a regular at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's concerts and believed that diversity on the stage would result in diversity in the audience as well. She knew the process of change had to begin with young people, and she set out to affect that vision. The program was originally called the Black Talent Development Program; however in 2003 the program was expanded to include Latino students since Latino musicians were also under represented in professional orchestras. At that time the program established itself as the Talent Development Program™ of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Bassist Eric Thompson was the very first TDP graduate to attend a conservatory. Mr. Thompson graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in the spring of 2007 and has since moved on to the professional stage; he is now playing as a full-time bassist in the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Since that time, graduates have continued to successfully enter the nation’s top institutions such as: Cleveland Institute of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, The Julliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory and Peabody Conservatory, among others.
Currently, the Talent Development Program™ maintains a class size of 25 African American and Latino students from several metro-area public and private schools. Over the years, more than 100 students have benefited from the Orchestra’s long-term commitment to increasing diversity on the American orchestral stage.