Heartbeat Music Project
Gregory Lewis with students​​​​​​ in the Heartbeat Music Project

Can you make the world a better place even as you train to become a world-class musician? It’s a daunting challenge, but four students at the Colburn School’s Conservatory of Music are moving forward on both tracks. They have been awarded 2021 Social Innovation Grants from the Los Angeles-based institution’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact.

Gregory Lewis
Gregory Lewis

The initiative is “designed to support artistic development by considering our larger culture and society,” Nathaniel Zeisler, the Colburn School’s Dean for Community Initiatives, said in announcing the grants. The students will receive up to $2,500 apiece and will have one year to either complete a project that benefits the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community, and/or commission new works involving BIPOC composers or choreographers.

Violinist Gregory Lewis will use his grant to support the Heartbeat Music Project, a nonprofit organization which offers tuition-free music education to K-12 students on the Navajo Reservation. Like most music-education organizations, Heartbeat was forced to move its instruction online when the pandemic hit a year ago.

This proved particularly problematic, because, according to Lewis, “almost 50 percent of people living on North American reservations lack high-speed internet access.” The money, he reports, will be used “to provide students with internet infrastructure that can be safely accessed from home, as well as additional musical instruments to give our students.”

Eder Rivera
Eder Rivera

Clarinetist Max Opferkuch will record an album of works by Black composers for clarinet and strings, including a quintet by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. It will be recorded at the school, with the Colburn AV team, during the 2021–2022 school year. Trumpeter Melissa Muñoz will use her grant to support the annual workshop of Brass Out Loud, an organization committed to supporting brass players from traditionally underrepresented groups such as people of color, women, and LGBTQ musicians. It will take place in January.

Finally, oboist Eder Rivera will use the grant money to support the Honduras Oboe Foundation, a nonprofit that “seeks to promote musical and instrumental education by teaching the oboe in a socially inclusive manner in Honduras, Central America.”

“We aspire to provide low-income students with the skills to learn the instrument,” as well as provide “opportunities to study abroad,” he said. “We envision this project to be a long-lasting life platform that will nurture the future of musical talents and musical exchange with the world.”

Read the complete press release.