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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Boston nonprofit opens doors for minority students through music |

Follow on Twitter as @kristindakota
"Project STEP teaches black and Latino students classic music, along with so much more." notes Kristin Toussaint.
Ajani Boyd performs at a Project STEP celebration. 
 Photo: Courtesy of Project STEP
At 13 years old, Ajani Boyd has already been to the White House, performed in front of 1,000 people at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, played double bass with the Boston Pops and is now preparing to travel to Spain for a tour with the Conservancy’s Youth Symphony.

It’s all thanks to a Boston non-profit, the Dorchester ninth grader said.

“When you're a little kid learning how to play an instrument, you don't see all of this coming in the future,” Ajani said. “You don’t see any of this at all.”

When Project STEP first started, less than 3 percent of classical musicians were black or Latino, said Gabriella Sanna, the nonprofit’s executive director.

“We want to provide an opportunity for this underrepresented community because the obstacles to becoming a professional musician are not only financial but social,” Sanna said.

Ajani has been with Project STEP (Strings Training and Education Program) since kindergarten—Project STEP works with kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade. His music teacher recommended the program to him, and once Ajani went through the first few stages, which introduce the little kids to general music classes before recruiting only a handful to start the program, Ajani began playing cello.

“It’s kind of funny, I said ‘I don’t want to stand up all the time to play,” he said.

After playing cello for two years, his music teachers asked if he’d like to play the bass. Project STEP provides music classes during the school year, taught by former students and musicians, and Ajani was his bass teacher’s first student.

“My dad and grandfather, they love jazz, so they have a love for the bass, too. It’s an amazing instrument” Ajani said. “I was [Chris Johnson’s] first student and he was my first teacher, and still, whenever he comes into town… He stops by and gives me lessons and works with me through music.”
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