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October 30, 2020

Concert Reflections: CIM’s BSU Bridges the Gap


BSU Benefit

By: Hosanna Carella  

CIM’s Newsroom now includes a student-led blog with posts covering a variety of topics, including the CIM admissions process, student life, and interviews with faculty, students and alumni. CIM professional studies violinist Hosanna Carella, who is currently studying with Jan Sloman and Jaime Laredo, will be a regular contributor and voice on the blog. Hosanna received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CIM. Follow the CIM blog to learn from members of our community and to get an inside look into what it’s like to study in Cleveland at CIM! 


As musicians, we are accustomed to a consistent tension and release of emotions – better known as live concerts. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to find other means in which to do so. Thankfully, CIM’s Black Student Union (BSU) provided some sense of normalcy by hosting a side-by-side benefit concert, featuring several of CIM’s Black and Latinx students, and conservatory faculty. The concert program consisted of exclusively Black and Latinx composers, giving a rest to Bach and Beethoven. With only a handful of the CIM community allowed in the seats of Mixon Hall, the public tuned in virtually.  

The benefit concert took place in support of CIM’s Musical Pathway Fellowship program, which provides full scholarships to Black and Latinx pre-college students. After the concert, I was able to have a non-class Zoom session with performers Chad Polk (senior) and Hollie Greenwood (junior) as well as Marquise Bradley (sophomore) – all members of the BSU executive board.  

As musicians, it must have been so special to be able to share the stage alongside your teachers and mentors, how did that feel?  

Chad Polk (CP): I had not played a concert with my teacher, Sharon Robinson, since freshman year. Getting to work in a chamber group with her and Mr. Laredo—such legendary chamber players—and to see them in action in their field and experience the whole process with such accomplished chamber musicians was truly special. 

Hollie Greenwood (HG): Even though my private teacher was not playing, it is such a wonderful thing for any young musician when you get to work with such high-level musicians, like we did with members of The Cleveland Orchestra in the William Grant-Still. It’s always a treat to see how they assess the music that they are playing in a large ensemble setting and to be able to gain knowledge from that is even better.  

What were the biggest obstacles that you faced in organizing the concert? 

CP: One thing that was very tricky was combining all the different groups and personnel that we had. We had performers playing in multiple groups and we were trying to make sure that schedules did not overlap.  

HG: The COVID restrictions made a lot of things harder that normally would not have been so complicated. We needed to make sure social distancing was always implemented and that spaces had enough time to air out.  

Marquise Bradley (MB): Executing all the things that we had planned was a challenge, especially because they all had time constraints. We had to make sure that they were all happening when they needed to, which also brought us to planning what to do in case things went wrong.  

BSU has done so much for the CIM student community, how do you balance your time between being students and members of the BSU executive board? 

MB: I have to prioritize BSU as much as I do everything else, sometimes even more than other things. If I don’t send a time-sensitive email on time, that could derail many things and alter other people’s schedules. There are occasions when not only can it affect other’s schedules, but also the community at large, so I really make it a priority. 

CP: I make it a huge priority for me because I owe it to the community and to the people that elected me to this leadership position. And I also owe it to myself and the coming generations of Black and Latinx musicians who need to have a better path in the music world.  

HG: We have had to re-define our roles as we have taken on more tasks with what is going on, and that is ever-changing.  

What BSU accomplishments are you most proud of? 

HG: The concert is definitely one of our biggest successes as a group. This is our first event that really involved all the personnel in the BSU in a musical context. To make music the center stage was really special.  

CP: We had two student forums during the summer in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, which led the Black Lives Matter movement to have a resurgence. That was such an important moment for our school and we realized that we had to make sure that our voices were heard in order to have positive change. That led to the creation of the Champions for Systemic Change taskforce, which has been leading the way for positive changes in our school and community. And the concert of course!  

MB: The work the BSU did during the summer leading to the benefit concert really defined us as an organization—for me that was the most important thing.  

What can the world expect from CIM’s Black Student Union next? 

CP: The next thing we are really looking forward to is the Alumni Mentorship Program. It is going to be a great resource for any Black or Latinx student who wants guidance in their career to push to the next level.  

HG: Another thing that the world can look forward to is more concerts performed by the BSU students! 

MB: The world can expect CIM to set the standard for inclusion and diversity. Bringing different types of people together to create a better present and future.  

Stay tuned for the next series of blog posts, which will feature faculty spotlights! Interested in meeting CIM’s conservatory faculty and learning more about studying at CIM? Sign up for CIM’s four-day, virtual open house on November 15-18 to participate in a variety of classes, coachings and panel discussions with faculty, current students, alumni and CIM’s Admissions team.