Conductor Starts Orchestra for Young Musicians of Color

A conductor has started a youth orchestra on Chicago's South Side to serve many young musicians of color who had to commute long distances to take part in music programs downtown or in the city's northern suburbs.

Cellist Sajdah Muhammad joined the South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra recently. Before joining, Muhammad said she had to travel long distances to play in orchestras.

The goal of the South Side Chicago Youth Orchestra is to eventually fill more chairs in orchestras across the country with musicians and conductors of color.

"I'm a black, Muslim woman cellist, so that adds a lot more," Muhammad said. "I haven't seen a lot of people just like me."

"Less than 5% of the orchestra industry has employees who are African American or Latino," said Charles Dickerson, who formed the youth orchestra. "So the numbers are terrible and they're even worse when they come to conducting."
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