Stories from our Fellows: Alliese Bonner
How did you get started in classical music?
I started in classical music the way most people do: I wanted to join band going into sixth grade. I was automatically drawn to the flute, so my mom signed me up for flute lessons. I’ve loved it ever since.
What do you envision for yourself after high school?
I want to pursue my undergraduate in flute performance, and if I’m able, I’d love to double-major in vocal performance. My long-term goal is a graduate degree, hopefully a doctorate in flute. I’m hoping these tools prepare me not only for a professional career as a performer, but also as a teacher. I also love the prospect of teaching private lessons and I really want to work closely with a Pathways program in the future.
What challenges have affected your music journey?
Something that has been very difficult for me was my father’s passing when I was 13. In my grief, I felt like I was going to abandon music because I didn’t see a way through. But my mentors showed me the healing power music can have. I’m so grateful for the Accelerando program (Nashville Symphony) because otherwise I would not have access to these opportunities or the means to participate. For people who go through these kinds of life-altering challenges, or maybe have always faced financial hardship, or their family may not fit the conventional standard, it can be very difficult to connect with music.
“Being able to experience what it’s like to perform alongside professionals playing that level of repertoire in a professional hall, I truly felt like I was getting a glimpse into my future.”
How has participation in a Pathways program or the Festival Orchestra helped you on your journey?
Before I entered the Accelerando program, I had never seen someone who looked like me who was a prominent classical musician. My eyes opened to the world of classical music, something that I’d always felt on the outside of. I was able to see how many people were like me. Everyone I have met has wanted to see me grow as a musician and a person. The program has showed me the value of community in classical music and the power of uplifting others.
The 2022 Chicago Youth in Music Festival* was my first side-by-side experience with a professional orchestra. Prior to that I’d never performed as if I were a professional. Being able to experience what it’s like to perform alongside professionals playing that level of repertoire in a professional hall, I truly felt like I was getting a glimpse into my future. I was able to recognize that performing is what I want to do. I’ve made up my mind!
One of my favorite aspects of last year’s Festival was meeting the other students who are similar to me. They’re in Pathways programs, they have this passion for pursuing music. It was wonderful to get to connect with them and see how alike we can be. Even though we’re all across the country, we can connect and form these deeper bonds. I’m also still in contact with the players I got to perform alongside from the Chicago Symphony. They let me know if I ever want to reach out to them, they’re available.
What else should we know about you?
I also love education, and I work as a math tutor. It’s very likely, in my area, that students haven’t had an educator who looks like me. So in addition to helping them understand math concepts, I act as representation. I get to show them how important it is to value the help they receive from people of any background. I’m reducing stigma around people who might look like me.
I know that I’m following in the footsteps of all the people who’ve come before me and continuing their work. I’m paying it forward.
*The 2022 Chicago Youth in Music Festival was hosted by Equity Arc in partnership with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative.
Grade 12 at time of interview, February 2023
Flute & Piccolo
- Equity Arc Festival Orchestra in 2022 & 2023
- Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program
- Curb Youth Symphony, Nashville, TN
- Blair Children’s Chorus, Nashville, TN
- School wind ensemble & chorus
- Private instruction in flute & voice
- Double major in flute & voice
- Doctorate in flute
- Performing, teaching private lessons & working with a Pathways program