First CSO Fellowship goes to violinist Gabriela Lara

The first winner of the CSO Fellowship is Venezuelan-born violinist Gabriela Lara, who will take up her post in September..

Elizabeth Hernandez

Gabriela Lara, a violinist originally from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, is the first winner of the CSO Fellowship, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has announced. She will assume her post when the CSO’s 2022-23 season starts in September.

Developed with input from Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti, the CSO Members’ Committee and Chicago Federation of Musicians, the new fellowship program seeks musicians from traditionally underrepresented groups in American symphony orchestras, including, but not limited to, Black, Latino or Indigenous individuals.

As a CSO Fellow, Lara will rehearse and perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, work with renowned conductors and receive training and mentorship from CSO musicians for up to three years. Lara will be paid to perform in at least 20 subscription weeks with the CSO, along with receiving financial support to attend auditions, and participate in up to 10, one-hour private lessons annually with a CSO musician. The program aims to prepare fellows to win auditions for U.S. orchestra posts.

Lara already has ties to Chicago. A 2022 graduate with a bachelor of music degree in violin performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, she was a student there of Almita Vamos. Lara also received a 2022 Project Inclusion Fellowship from the Grant Park Orchestra. 

At age 8, Lara began her violin studies in her native Venezuela and later became a member of the Latin American Violin Academy, where she was a student of José Francisco del Castillo and Francisco Díaz.

An alumna of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program, she served as a concertmaster of the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in 2017, and performed with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra as part of a 2016 European tour. Lara also was a second-place winner in the 2021 Sphinx Solo Competition and won the 2021 Frank Preuss International Violin Competition. 

The CSO Fellowship Program is part of the CSO’s and Muti’s ongoing commitment to foster the next generation of musicians. It builds on the CSOA’s longstanding focus on musician training and development that began more than 100 years ago with the founding of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the CSO’s preprofessional training orchestra. Other CSOA-supported programs devoted to musician development include the Percussion Scholarship Program, Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative and Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions.

The CSO Fellowship Program is currently open to early-career string players (violin, viola, cello, double bass) who are college, university or conservatory graduates and are from Black, Latino, Indigenous or other underrepresented groups. In addition, applicants must have U.S. citizenship, permanent U.S. residency or an 0-1 or OPT visa at the time of application. They also must be a member in good standing of the American Federation of Musicians, or willing to join the AFM if accepted to the fellowship. If accepted, a fellow may be invited to remain in the program for up to three years.

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