Colburn School’s Fortissima Program Expands Nationally

Fortissima cohort of young women of color with Jazmín Morales

Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music. (Pictured: 2017 pilot program cohort)

The Colburn School has expanded its Fortissima program nationally. Housed under Colburn’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact, Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music who demonstrate excellence on an orchestral instrument and have an interest in pursuing a career in music. Applications are now open until April 2, 2021 for the first national cohort.

Developed by program director Jazmín Morales and music director Jannina Norpoth, Fortissima’s innovative leadership curriculum, paired with rigorous artistic development and one-on-one mentorship, is designed to inspire, equip, and empower young women from underrepresented minorities to pursue professional training and careers in the classical music field. Now a national model, Fortissima will be a six-month experience for up to ten young women that will include mentorship and virtual engagement, and culminate in a weeklong residential intensive at the Colburn School in Fall 2021. The program is provided at no cost to participants.

Fortissima began as a local pilot program in 2017 and featured a cohort of six young women from Los Angeles. Those young women are now pursuing studies in music and other disciplines at schools such as Oberlin, Stanford, and UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Findings from the pilot informed the new model which will condense the program into a residential intensive, recruit nationally, and serve a larger cohort of students each year.

The program will consist of two components, beginning online with innovative leadership curriculum and one-on-one mentorship, and culminating in a week-long residential intensive on the Colburn campus in Fall 2021. The curriculum and mentorship are tailored to participants’ unique perspectives and provide specialized approaches to both personal and professional development. During their time on campus, these newly acquired skills will be put into practice in a deeply engaging residency that provides opportunities to explore all facets of artistry, including performance, the conservatory experience, and career development.

Virtual Learning

Students will participate in three virtual learning sessions in the areas of career development, arts leadership, and community engagement, leading up to the residential intensive.


Students will be paired with a distinguished mentor and will meet monthly (virtually) with their mentor from May–October 2021.

Mentors include violinist Karla Donehew Perez, co-founder of the Catalyst Quartet; violist Jennifer Arnold, Richmond Symphony’s Director of Artistic Planning and Orchestral Operations, violinist Stephanie Matthews, founder of String Candy and co-founder of the Re-Collective Orchestra; bassoonist Monica Ellis, founding member of Imani Winds; and harpist Angelica Hairston, founder of Challenge the Stats and Artistic Director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble.

Colburn School Campus Intensive

Students will convene for a week-long residential intensive on the Colburn School campus from October 30–November 6, 2021, pending COVID reopening guidelines. Throughout this week, students will receive intensive leadership training and chamber music coaching while experiencing conservatory life first hand. Students will have the opportunity to arrange trial lessons with Colburn faculty, observe conservatory classes, and experience campus life in Los Angeles. The week will culminate with a final performance in a Colburn School concert hall, directed and curated by music director Jannina Norpoth, which will feature works by women and BIPOC composers.

The national Fortissima program is made possible through the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, the Lawrence Morton Fund, and the Southern California Chamber Music Fund at the California Community Foundation, and the many individual donors who support this and other Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives at the Colburn School.