Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Launches New Fellowship
The orchestra’s inaugural fellowship welcomes bass trombone player Jordan Milek Johnson and tuba player Joshua Williams to its first cohort
Designed for emerging musicians, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s (ASO) Orchestral Fellowship is a two-year program, and an extension of the ensemble’s existing educational initiatives providing artists of underrepresented backgrounds in American orchestras platforms to pursue music careers.
Bass trombone player Jordan Milek Johnson of Acworth, Georgia, and tuba player Joshua Williams of Atlanta, Georgia, will both complete a two-year term with the ASO, with Williams starting in September 2023. Johnson’s start date is yet to be announced.
Throughout ASO’s concert seasons, the two musicians will rehearse and perform with the orchestra, receive training from its musicians, and contribute to the Atlanta community in various outreach programs. Additionally, Johnson and Williams will receive a stipend and be provided transportation by the ASO to two orchestral auditions each year of the fellowship.
Applications to the fellowship opened in September 2022 with eligibility extending to all string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instrumentalists. Candidates must have graduated from a college, university, or conservatory program, and be of backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in American symphony orchestras, including Black and Latinx communities.
Johnson began learning trombone with Hollie Pritchard and later studied with Bradley Palmer at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University. There, Johnson co-founded and was president of the Black Schwob Society — a Black student union advocating for Black musicians and serving the community through music.
“I strive to inspire those around me, those that look like me, and those who are involved in music, but at a different capacity,” Johnson said. “So I am very excited for the intersection of myself and this amazing opportunity.”
A graduate of New York’s Juilliard School, Williams studied with Alan Baer, Michael Moore, and Joseph Alessi. Recently, he performed solo with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra and was a featured artist with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He is also a 2018 graduate of ASO’s Talent Development Program (TDP), which for 30 years, has provided Black and Latinx musicians elite training to enter music conservatories and pursue a music career.
“I am incredibly excited to be joining the Atlanta Symphony, my hometown orchestra, as a part of the orchestra fellowship program,” Williams said. “As a former student of [TDP], I have grown up dreaming not only of the opportunity to play in this orchestra, but to change the demographic of the orchestra to be more reflective of my community,” he added. “I hope that my work in the Orchestra will pave the way for both me and other aspiring musicians of color to be onstage well into the future.”
“The ASO is committed to helping change the future face of the American orchestra,” said Jennifer Barlament, ASO’s executive director. “We are uniquely able to provide experiences that will be invaluable to young musicians as they develop at this stage of their careers...Our vision is that Atlanta will be the US city that has the most equitable access to high-level musical training,” Barlament continued. “The fact that both of our new Fellows, who beat stiff competition from conservatories across the country in blind auditions, are proud Georgia natives shows that we’re on the right track.”