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Last Saturday, MMI hosted our third annual Virtual HBCU Music Auditions. Over the course of the day, 18 high school students in band and choral programs across Memphis auditioned for representatives from nine different Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The majority of students who auditioned received offers on the spot (exact numbers pending), and we couldn't be prouder! Read on to learn what makes these auditions so special. 

One of the few silver linings of the pandemic era is that we have discovered new ways to offer young people experiences they might not normally be able to access. Two years ago, in the thick of virtual learning, MMI's In-Schools team saw a unique opportunity to more easily connect young people in Memphis with the rich and storied world of HBCUs, and to connect those institutions with Memphis' amazing young musicians. 

In-Schools Program Director Lawrence Blackwell says that the goal of the audition day has always been to eliminate the barriers keeping talented students from auditioning for multiple schools. In years past, students who were interested in entering a college music program were required to be physically present in the audition room. It's expensive—and time-consuming—to expect students to travel to and audition at even one school, let alone nine. And that limits young people's ability to explore different pathways both in and out of Memphis.

What we have learned over the past three years hosting these auditions, however, is that our HBCU partners benefit from the virtual format just as much. All of the band and choral directors present on audition day expressed excitement about the chance to hear from students in orchestra, band, jazz, and choir programs at schools they'd never recruited from before. Of the 40 students who registered, 18 students from Central High School, Cordova High School, Memphis Business Academy, Overton High School, Soulsville Charter School, and Southwind High School auditioned. Reps commended the level of preparedness, which they agreed has only increased over the past two years as students have returned to in-person music instruction (shoutout to all the MMI Fellows and music educators in Memphis who helped get students ready). 

Thank you to all the music program directors from Alabama State University, Alcorn State University, Clark Atlanta University, Claflin University, Fisk University, Lane College, Lemoyne-Owen College, Tougaloo College, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff who helped make this day a success. We can't wait to partner again next year.

As we look to the future of this program, says Blackwell, "we aim to highlight and uplift the continued legacy of excellence found in our nation’s HBCUs as a way to strengthen young people’s connection to a larger network of Black professionals, thinkers, and creators.”

Y'all already know Memphis' young people have so much to offer. We just have to help set the stage. Congrats, students!