Your Cart UMS

Orchestras of Change

Chineke! Orchestra

When you think of classical music and orchestras, what comes to mind? Join UMS teaching artists Teagan Faran and Natalie Frakes as they introduce us to the vibrant, innovative, and evolving landscape of classical music in the 21st century. This unit addresses racial and gender diversity in classical music, how organizations are working to increase accessibility, and what it means to reimagine orchestras and classical music in a contemporary context.

Get Started

Performance Playground logo

Recommended for

Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13); some prior experience with music may be helpful

Supplementary Materials

Download and print this Instagram template (PDF) for activities in lessons 1-3.

Meet the Artists

Featuring Teagan Faran and Natalie Frakes, with University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance students Max Moore and Noah Fishman.

Teagan FaranTeagan Faran, a native of Buffalo, NY, is a multidisciplinary musician focused on enacting social change through the arts. She has recorded with the Buffalo Tango Orkestra, La Martino Orquesta Típica, and the Ann Arbor Camerata. Faran has recently served as concertmaster of the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra and spent 2019 living in Buenos Aires, Argentina on a Fulbright to study tango and national music. In Fall 2020, she will begin her Masters in Contemporary Performance at the Manhattan School of Music.

Natalie FrakesNatalie Frakes is a Detroit-based violinist, teaching artist, and music educator who believes deeply in using music as a vehicle for social change. When she’s not teaching, she keeps busy performing with some of Detroit’s best musicians and has been part of live productions for artists such as Wordless Music Orchestra, Kygo, Michael Bublé, and Josh Groban. Natalie was Director of Orchestras for Oxford Community Schools and has been a teaching artist with the Detroit Symphony’s Civic Youth Ensembles, MSU Community Music School-Detroit, and El Sistema-inspired programs including Accent Pontiac, Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids, the Archipelago Project, and recently completed an intensive Global Leaders Bootcamp in Chile. Natalie currently works with the Sphinx Organization, the Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony, University Musical Society, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the newly created Collective Conservatory.

A Note from the Teaching Artists (6/5/2020)

Recent events are only a reflection and a continuation of what has been happening. Some of us do not have the privilege to ignore it. We’ve witnessed an unleashing of actions by people who are collectively striving to make real change in their communities. Marginalized people have been asking for this systemic change for a long time, as if on a loop. Too many privileged people have not been disrupted by what’s been happening and it is going to be a journey to affect systemic change. This is not a fight that we are starting from scratch, though – there are plenty of leaders in the field who have dedicated their lives to this work and we encourage you to look to them for guidance and direction.

We often tout the world of music as a welcoming space for all voices, but the classical music world especially needs to commit itself more to standing against racism in all its forms and continue to do what they can to make the world a more musical, a more peaceful, and a more just place for everyone. This includes crediting artists for their work, programming artists of all backgrounds, and actively creating equitable opportunities. Growing pains are normal but we need to be proactive in our education and we must take it upon ourselves to use the tools around us.

These lessons reflect just the beginning of a tough conversation and are focused on the work already being done in the field. There are many historical reasons for the exclusionary culture that we weren’t able to dive into, but hope this helps to build momentum in the drive to the future. Whether you are coming from a place of privilege or not, we encourage you to pause throughout this learning process and take care of yourself. These are not easy conversations and taking moments to breathe are vital. We’re in a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re in it together.


Recommended Warm-Up

Prepare your minds and bodies for concentration and listening with a 10-minute mindfulness and movement exercise.

Learn more at or follow @intermissionsessions on Instagram


Lesson 1

1720≠2020 — Changing the Landscape of Orchestras and Classical Music

Meet the vanguards of the classical music world who are changing the traditions of this genre.

Additional Learning

Who was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and what was he most famous for?


Lesson 2

All Together Now — Music Changing Your Community

Learn how orchestras are connecting with people to build and heal communities.


Lesson 3

New Classics — Changing Traditions

Learn how a new generation of composers are reimagining the music of Beethoven.


More Resources

Download and print this Instagram template (PDF) used in lessons 1-3

Complete List of Music Resources

Lesson 1

Chineke! — Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade

The Philadelphia Orchestra — Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, mvt. II
HOLLANDS, PUBLIQuartet and Amy Khoshbin — The Scheherazade Project
Quiz Music: Toledo Clarinets — William Grant Still’s Lyric Quartette (arr. G. Kostraba), mvt. III, The Jovial One

Lesson 2

Musical Body Scan: Teagan Faran — Teagen Faran’s Bachdoneón Arrabalero
Sphinx Virtuosi — Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings, mvt. III
PUBLIQuartet — Jesse Montgomery’s VooDoo Dolls
Quiz Music: Toledo Clarinets — William Grant Still’s Lyric Quartette (arr. G. Kostraba), mvt. III, The Jovial One

Lesson 3

Natalie Frakes — Natalie Frakes’ Improv from Cahill
Chineke! — Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, mvt. IV
The Philadelphia Orchestra — Iman Habibi’s Jeder Baum spricht
Quiz Music: Toledo Clarinets — William Grant Still’s Lyric Quartette (arr. G. Kostraba), mvt. III, The Jovial One

Playlists on Spotify

More non-canonic Classical music

More mindfulness

More artists making change

Buffalo String Works
DC Strings
Harmony Program
Music by Black Composers
Turn the Spotlight