Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program at the Colburn School for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music. 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 in classical music to pursue professional training and careers in the field.

Fortissima will be held in May 2025, dates will be announced soon. Mentorship will be held between April and September of 2025.


Applications for 2024 are now closed.  Applications for Fortissima 2025 will open Fall 2024.

Participant Criteria
  • Must be an enrolled high school student in the Fall of 2024.
  • Participants identify as women/girls from a minority group that is underrepresented in classical music or who have a socioeconomic disadvantage.
  • Demonstrate excellence on an orchestral instrument (includes piano).
  • Ideal candidates also possess an interest or curiosity in pursuing careers in music.
  • Fellow must be residing in the United States.

For questions please contact Olivia Richardson, Associate, Center for Innovation and Community Impact at the Colburn School


Fortissima has opened my eyes to so many possibilities for me and other people of color in music. Through all of our various sessions and workshops, I have gotten the opportunity to see new ways I can fit in and excel in the classical music industry. Fortissima local pilot participant, 2019

Now a national model, Fortissima is a six-month experience for up to 10 young women that includes mentorship, virtual engagement, and a weeklong residential intensive at the Colburn School. All participants receive full scholarships which cover tuition as well as room and board while on campus.

Program Leadership

Grammy-nominated violinist Jannina Norpoth made her debut as a soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at age 14. Since then she has built a career as an innovative collaborative artist with a passion for contemporary music, genre bending and improvisation, a sought after arranger and orchestrator, and an advocate for a more inclusive and versatile landscape in classical music.

Her string quartet, PUBLIQuartet, is recognized for unique and genre inclusive programming, earning them the 2019 Visionary Artist Award from Chamber Music America, 2015 Adventurous Programming Award from ASCAP and Chamber Music America and New Music/ New Places Prize at the 2013 Concert Artist’s Guild Competition.

Ms. Norpoth has performed internationally, including appearances at the Women of the World Festival at The Apollo Theater, Detroit Art X Festival, Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Saturday Night Live, VH1’s Save the Music, IFC’s Dinner with the Band, and Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Hall. As a soloist she has performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony, Casalmaggiore International Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble 212, and Bachanalia Chamber Orchestra. Most recently during COVID-19 she has been a featured virtual performer for digital performances from The Kennedy Center, The Library of Congress and Living Music with Nadia Sirota.

She has been a featured performer alongside such acclaimed musicians as James Carter, Nadia Sirota, Regina Carter, Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Helga Davis, Marcus Belgrave, Dave Young, Mike Garson, A. Spencer Barefield, Jay – Z, Beyoncé, Anita Baker, Sheila E., Boys II Men, Dionne Warwick, My Brightest Diamond, Alexi Murdoch, and many others.
Praised by Strad Magazine for her ability to write a transcription “so natural sounding that it could have been the composer’s original version.” Ms. Norpoth is a sought after arranger both in the classical and non-classical worlds. Recent commissions include Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Sphinx Virtuosi, Trinity Wall Street and the Volcano Theatre Company’s new adaptation of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha”.

Ms. Norpoth lives in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, with her husband John-Paul and their puggle Vegas. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of a new adaptation of Scott Joplin’s Opera Treemonisha, featuring a collaborative orchestration with composer Jessie Montgomery and commissioned by Volcano: an experimental theatre company based in Toronto, as well as a duo recording of Prokofiev’s Sonatas for violin and piano with pianist Maria Meirelles.


Mentors for the 2024 program are:

Titilayo Ayangade: With over two decades on the cello, Titilayo Ayangade has gracefully navigated classical music’s landscape. A recent recipient of the Chamber Music America Artistic Projects grant, as the cellist of Duo Kayo, Titilayo continues her history of excellence in chamber music preceded by awards at Fischoff and tours spanning China to Brazil.

Chanell Crichlow: A composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, California, Chanell Crichlow is known for her lush sound and vibrant compositions. She has received praise from esteemed publications such as Flaunt Magazine and Downbeat Magazine.

Karla Donehew Perez: Admired for her “luscious melodies” (New York Concert Review) and enlightened programming, violinist Karla Donehew Perez is a founding member of the GRAMMY-winning Catalyst Quartet as well as an acclaimed soloist, educator, and creative collaborator with numerous world-class artists and ensembles.

Lady Jess: As a soloing member of Beyoncé’s band, Lady Jess has toured with the superstar and her husband, Jay-Z in 2018 for On The Run II tour, recording and arranging with the Carters for their Grammy-nominated album Everything Is Love in 2019, after appearing in the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary Homecoming. She is a 2020 winner of the UNCSA Artpreneur of the Year award, 2020 Sphinx MPower grant recipient, and 2021-22 fellow at The Hermitage Artist Retreat.


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 in schools such as Oberlin, Stanford, and UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Findings from the pilot program informed the new model which will expand the program to recruit nationally and serve more students each year.


The program consists of two components: (1) online innovative leadership curriculum with one-on-one mentorship, and (2) a week-long residential intensive on the Colburn campus. 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 are 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.

Online Leadership Curriculum and Mentorship

From April 2024 to September 2024, participants will:

  • Attend monthly meetings with a distinguished mentor
  • Receive bi-monthly leadership and career development training sessions

Colburn Campus Intensive

Participants will:

  • Experience conservatory life first-hand, including trial lessons with Colburn faculty, Conservatory class observations, and access to Colburn facilities
  • Explore the arts in Los Angeles by attending concerts on the Grand Avenue cultural corridor and learning from local arts leaders spearheading innovation in the field
  • Attend panels and workshops on topics such as navigating the world of classical music as a woman or a woman of color, wellness, self-care, personal development, Conservatory audition and admissions processes, presentation skills, professional materials, and career development strategies
  • Receive artistic development opportunities by learning and performing works by BIPOC, women, and living composers; chamber music coaching from Music Director Jannina Norpoth as well as Colburn School and visiting faculty; and giving a culminating performance in Colburn School’s Thayer Hall
  • Gain access to ongoing alumni programming at conclusion of the program

The Fortissima program is made possible through the generous support of The Tippet Rise Fund of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, Visionary Women, Raulee Marcus, Beverly Ryder, and the many donors who support our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives at the Colburn School. If you would like to learn more about supporting Fortissima or any of our community engagement programs, contact the Philanthropy Office at