Harmony Fellowship for Underrepresented Musicians

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About the Fellowship

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s Harmony Fellowship for Underrepresented Musicians is a two-year Fellowship program for promising, diverse violinists, violists, and cellists pursuing an orchestral career. The NHSO strongly encourages applicants from diverse backgrounds including but not limited to, diverse racial, ethnic, socio-economic and geographic backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in orchestras. Fellows will rehearse and perform with the orchestra and receive other career development benefits including mentoring and audition preparation, as well as Education/Community Engagement training with supervised experiences.

Fellowship Benefits:

  • Fellows will be offered 30 services to rehearse and play with the full Orchestra on their 8-concert Classics Series, as well as rehearse and perform on the 4-concert Young People’s Concerts.
  • Fellows will gain valuable Education and Community Engagement training by collaborating with the NHSO’s Education Director on two new Ed programs:
    • A string quartet (made up of two fellows and two rostered musicians) that visits upper elementary classrooms and teaches conflict management while making music.
    • A songwriting project  in area high schools that teaches non-musicians how to write a string quartet.
  • Fellows will be paid the NHSO’s section rate per service ($114.50), as well as travel costs (up to $35/day).
  • Fellows will receive career development services throughout the program.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Currently pursuing or possessing a Graduate degree in Music Performance
  • Interested in pursuing an orchestral career
  • Passionate about Education and Community Engagement
  • Flexible availability:
    • To be scheduled in tandem with the Project Manager:
      • Daytime rehearsals
      • School visits
    • NHSO regularly scheduled rehearsals/concerts:
      • 30 services will be offered, 15 must be accepted
      • Evening rehearsals/concerts (7:30 – 10pm)
      • Weekday and Weekend concerts

Application Process

Audition Information

Applications for the Harmony Fellowship are now on a rolling basis until the class of 2021’s two positions (violin and viola) are filled.

Click Here for the Application


Meet the Fellows

Kelsee Vandervall, cello
Harmony Fellow Class of 2020

Kelsee Vandervall is a Chicago based cellist, teacher and arranger. A typical day for this cellist ranges from recording sessions to orchestral performances.

Kelsee received a dual Master’s of Music Degree in Cello Performance and Chamber Music at the University of Michigan in 2018, studying with Anthony Elliott. She was a awarded a fellowship for her 2 years, having the opportunity to train with world-renown faculty and artists such as the Calidore and Takács string quartet.

Most recently, Kelsee  can also be seen performing with groups such as the River Raisin Ragtime Revue, ecletic band Glad Rags, and on episodes of the FOX show Empire. Kelsee spent part of 2018 performing with J. Cole on his KOD tour.

An alum of Columbia College Chicago, Kelsee spent 4 years under the instruction of Jill Kaeding and had the opportunity to perform with many artists including; Grammy award winning artist Paula Cole, Todd Rundgren, smooth jazz artist Brian Culbertson, gypsy jazz guitarist Samuel Strouk, Charlie Sexton, record with singer/ songwriter Yoshi Breen, guitarist Kevin Eubanks and Darmon Meader. Previous teachers include Jocelyn Butler of the New Music School and Lincoln Smelser, faculty of Northern Illinois University.

Kelsee has been playing the cello for 19 years. Over those years she has been a private teacher to students ranging from grade school to high school, conducted student orchestras in her high school district’s summer camps, and currently teaches at Music House in Chicago.


James Keene, violin
Harmony Fellow Class of 2019

James Keene is a versatile soloist, chamber musician, orchestral violinist, and music pedagogue. After attending Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, he received his B.M. from Rutgers University, and later studied at San Francisco Conservatory. Starting in high school, he has played solo, chamber, and orchestral performances for audiences throughout China, Italy, Spain, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and the USA.

Currently, as founder of Classical Revolution NJ, he schedules chamber music performances throughout the central NJ area. He travels frequently between the east and west coast for performances in the Bay Area. Also, as a faculty member of Newark School of the Arts, he instructs the Carollo Scholarship violin students there. His principal teachers have been Todd Phillips, Carmit Zori, Lenuta Ciulei, and Wei-He.

Most recently, James placed 1st place Russel Johnson String Competition in Philadelphia and shared the Carnegie Hall main stage with Dionne Warwick.

Read James' interview on Acceptd

Aurora Mendez, violin
Harmony Fellow Class of 2020

Violinist born and raised in New York City. Aurora began her musical studies at the age of four with Prof. Alexander Rees (Russia) at the Bronx House School of Music. After relocating to Santiago, Chile with her family, Aurora formed part of the National Youth Orchestra Foundation of Chile for six years serving as concertmaster for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra, and the Orquesta de Camara del Teatro Municipal, as well as substitute violinist for the Chilean National Symphony, USACH, and other professional ensembles. Aurora has performed live with popular artists such as Incubus, Americo, Natalino, Mana, Marco Antonio Solis, and others.

International tours and festivals include performances with the Chilean National Youth Orchestra, Orchestra of The Americas, Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra, Marrowstone Music Festival and the Cali Camerata. Most recently, Aurora was selected as a violin fellow by the Montclair Orchestra under the direction of David Chan (MET OperaOrchestra) as well as the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

She has performed in master classes for Rachel Barton-Pine, Markus Stockhausen, Ingrid Zur, Pavo Jaarvi, Ida and Ani Kavafian, Martin Chalifour, Dale Clevenger and many more.

Solo engagements include the New York City premiere of Transparencia – Sonata for Violin and Piano by Jeff Scott at the Imani Winds Festival – Manhattan School of Music, and the New Jersey premiere of A Great Light by Martin Sedek with the Choral Arts Society of New Jersey.

An avid chamber musician, Aurora is a founding member of violin duo VioliNYC and the Littman Quartet; quartet in residence at NJIT. Aurora was recently featuredalongside David Chan, Quan Yuan, Dov Scheindlin, Julia Bruskin, and others for aperformance of Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet, Op.11. Aurora is also a rostered artist with Music Under New York.

A passionate advocate for music education, Aurora is a former Orchestra of the Americas Global Leader. Currently, she is on faculty at the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, Robert Treat Academy, and guest violin coach for the New Jersey Youth Symphony.

Aurora holds a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance and a Performer’s Certificate from the Cali School of Music under the tutelage of Prof. Mary Ann Mumm (MET Opera Orchestra)

Gabrielle Skinner, viola
Harmony Fellow Class of 2019

Gabrielle Skinner is enrolled in the Master’s program at Rice University as a viola student of Ivo van der Werff. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music as a Viola student of Kirsten Docter. Ms. Skinner has played with the Governor’s School for the Arts, Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, the Shepherd Symphony Orchestra, The Virginia Symphony, as well as Hampton Roads Chamber player’s. Her debut performance was in the Spring of 2011, when she performed Paul Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher at the beautiful Sandler Center of the Arts. Ms. Skinner placed second in the regional Bland competition, and she placed first in
the John Marshall competition sponsored by Symphonicity. In the past, she has attended the Aspen Music Festival, Sphinx Performance Academy, the North American Viola Institute, and the Meadowmount School of Music. Gabrielle has also had the pleasure of performing at the International Viola Congress 2012. In 2017, she was fortunate to be an alumni attending the Sphinx Connect Conference, where she worked with other musicians of color advocating for diversity in todays music society.

Ms. Skinner has performed in Master classes for Heidi Castleman, Jeffrey Irvine, Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot, David Holland, Mark Jacobs, Sabina Thatcher and Roger Tapping. She has also performed in Chamber Master Classes for David Geber, Mark Steinberg, the Cavani
String Quartet, The Miami String Quartet, The Brooklyn Rider Quartet, The American String Quartet and The Jupiter Quartet. In 2016, Gabrielle became a founding member of the Kamila Quartet at the Shepherd School of Music. With them she attended the Robert Mann Institute in January 2017, and has a summer residency planned in Steamboat Springs, working with
members of prominent orchestras from around the country. Gabrielle plays a custom made, modern viola by Geoffrey Ovington.

Read Gabrielle's interview on Acceptd