The Marian Anderson Award may be best known for honoring world-famous artists, from the likes of Harry Belafonte and Gregory Peck to Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou, but the Award also has a long history of supporting emerging and local artists, particularly through its Young Artist Study-Grant program. In the spirit of Marian Anderson herself, who came from a modest community in South Philadelphia and worked to become one of the most renowned contraltos of the twentieth century, the Study-Grant aims to support high school artists who face financial challenges in the pursuit of their artform.
While this year’s headline award was granted to Kool & the Gang, several Settlement students were among the winners of the Young Artist Study-Grant—pianist Obataiye Lyles, trombonist Josif Collazo, and flutist Blue Shelton. We spoke to all three about what winning this award means to them, and what musical goals lay ahead for them.
Lyles, who you may remember from our recent blog post about his remarkably successful GoFundMe campaign, has been studying piano for around three years:
I would first like to thank the Marian Anderson Award Board for choosing me to be one of the recipients for this award and I would like to thank my teacher Michael Stambaugh for mentioning to me that this was something that I could apply for and for, in general, being an amazing teacher. Winning this award means a lot to me, because with this grant, I’ve been able to pay for the rest of my lessons for the school year and buy music books for the many pieces I will learn in the future.
My next goal is to attend Curtis School of Music or Jacobs School of Music in Indiana. With the grant, I’ve been able to buy recording equipment for the many audition videos I will have to submit in the future. It also relieves a little bit of financial pressure from my mom and dad.”
As a Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) Artist, Collazo is a student of both The Primavera Fund and Settlement, where he studies trombone with Brian Brown:
I feel really honored and touched to have received this recognition. This award means a couple of things to me. First of all, the award makes it clear that music is an important part of life and that there’s a lot of people willing to support young artists who will go on to make that music. This award also created a cherished moment at the Kimmel [Center], which brought a lot of joy to my parents and made them really proud. However, the most important thing about the award is that I got money. Joking aside, the funds from this award will help me reach my musical goals, such as becoming a better player and participating in ensembles that challenge me. The award will help me continue following these goals by paying for lessons and summer camps. These are crucial for growing as a player which I’m both grateful and very fortunate to have access to. Because of the Marian Anderson Award, music will play an even bigger role in my life.
Also a PMAY Artist, flutist Blue Shelton is a member of Settlement’s Rosalie Magen Weinstein and Matthew B. Weinstein Advanced Study Woodwind Quintet, coached by Rie Suzuki, in addition to participating in The Philadelphia Orchestra All City Fellowship, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Project 440, and School District of Philadelphia All City Ensembles. Blue is also an alumnus of Temple Music Prep:
[The grant] shows me that people are willing to provide for and reward students who work hard to achieve their musical dreams but don’t have all the necessary means to do it. This award gives students like me a chance to succeed.
My musical goals are to successfully audition for a Conservatory to study music performance. I hope someday to be in an orchestra. Until that day arrives, I will continue to hone my craft and strive to be the best musician I possibly can. This grant helped me purchase an instrument that will allow me to explore my artistic capabilities to the fullest extent possible. I feel like your instrument is an extension of your voice, and with this new instrument I feel like I am finally able to express music the way I would like.