Stories from our Fellows: Samuel Igbo
How did you get started in classical music?
My journey in classical music is kind of unconventional. Most people start playing the violin when they’re 6, 5, or 4 years old. But I started violin at 12½ years old, and not in the sixth grade orchestra program. I knew nothing about classical music before I began. I was on YouTube one day, scrolling through my recommendations, and I came across a video of Itzhak Perlman playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. I watched that performance from start to finish like 3 times. I was so enraptured by his sound, by his stage presence, by how the audience was reacting. I was like: I want to do this too. I want to play in such a way that other people feel something. So I wanted to pick up the violin, but my parents wanted me to focus on academics and didn’t really want me to start music. I finally received my first instrument, and my progress and love for music has gone uphill from there.
What do you envision for yourself after high school?
I want to continue pursuing music and major in it, but I also want to have another major in a STEM field. I want to go to a university that supports that.
What challenges have affected your music journey?
A challenge I’ve seen is people looking down on Pathways programs, not seeing that the people in Pathways programs are equally as talented as people who aren’t. In my general community, which is majority white and doesn’t have a lot of support for classical music, it can be difficult to be the only person doing classical music while also being a minority. That’s something I’m trying to address in my community: no matter when you start, no matter what your race is, no matter what your gender is, you can still excel in classical music.
“That’s something I’m trying to address in my community: no matter when you start, no matter what your race is, no matter what your gender is, you can still excel in classical music.”
How has participation in a Pathways program helped you on your journey?
I am part of the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio, and I’m part of its Rising Star Fellows, which is the Pathways program for our area. Our job is not only receiving support but also promoting and paying it forward in our communities. Most reach out and mentor elementary and middle school kids in their communities.
In the winter of 2022, Xavier Foley performed the Koussevitzky Bass Concerto with the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio Philharmonic. We had a mentorship session where all the Fellows sat down and had a conversation with him. And he also played for us, which was really, really cool. It was exciting to see another person of my skin color also excelling in this field. It gave me a new breath of inspiration.
What did you think of the Equity Arc Common Application for Summer Study?
Last year I used Equity Arc’s Common Application for Summer Study, and I got into all the programs I applied for. It was probably one of the easiest applications I’ve ever had to fill out, and it provided a wealth of resources and opportunities. Without the Common App, I wouldn’t have the means to apply to summer programs due to the many application fees or the time to travel out and record a lot. The common application made it extremely easy and organized, submitting a set of recordings and having them go to all these amazing programs.
What are your hopes for the future of classical music (as an art form and an industry)?
I hope people understand and appreciate difference in classical music. Not all the same composers need to be played at every single orchestra concert. There can be room for people of color, BIPOC composers, women composers; different spaces for different groups to be able to perform and be widely accepted. There are truly gems out there, musicians with voices who want to be heard, but aren’t traditionally heard because of systemic inequalities that are still very present.
I’m hoping the work Equity Arc is doing now can pave the way for people like us to carry it forward and bring it to the next generation of classical music.
Age 17 at time of interview, February 2023
- National Pathways Festival Orchestra in 2022 & 2023
- Rising Star Fellow with the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio
- Do Re Mi Project Violin and Note Reading Tutor
- Back to Bach Project Regional Director
- Texas All-State Orchestras
- Sphinx Performance Academy
- Private instruction with Eric Gratz and Mary Ellen Goree
- “From the Top” podcast