May 31, 2023

Youth orchestra works to narrow racial gap

Youth orchestra works to narrow racial gap


On any given Sunday night, Chuck Dickerson can be found at a church leading rehearsals for the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, which he founded at the request of several African-American music students.

“African Americans make up 1.8% of the orchestra work force in the United States,” Dickerson said. “Latinos make up 2.5% of the orchestra work force in the United States. And it’s been that way for 40 or 50 years.”

Since 2009, the youth orchestra has worked to try and change that tune.

“What we do in music is we teach excellence,” Dickerson said. “When you learn those skills in music, those skills are transferable into other aspects of your life.”

For cellist Hannah Innis, the orchestra gives her something she hasn’t found anywhere else.

“I think that spaces like these are very important because it uplifts and gives confidence to minority students,” Innis said.

That confidence has brought the youth orchestra’s budding musicians to one of music’s biggest stages: the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where they’ve played a season-ending concert for the past ten years. 

“Man, you cannot compare the pride that resounds both in the hearts of those kids, but in their families and everybody they touch just because they’ve played on that stage,” Dickerson said.

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