Classical music delivered to Houston's underserved communities

Double bassist Joseph Nuñez

Classical music delivered to Houston's underserved communities
Rice Shepherd School, Houston Symphony join forces to create community-embedded musician fellowship

HOUSTON – (April 22, 2021) – Rice University's Shepherd School of Music has joined forces with the Houston Symphony to bring classical music to children and adults from Houston's underserved communities.

A new pilot program, The Shepherd School–Houston Symphony Brown Foundation Community-Embedded Musician Fellowship, will offer one Shepherd School graduate student the chance to work with children and other people in the area. Double bassist Joseph Nuñez has been selected as the first fellow.

Double bassist Joseph Nuñez

Nuñez will develop community engagement skills under the guidance of the symphony’s Community-Embedded Musicians (CEMs) and its education and community engagement staff. Nuñez is a student of Timothy Pitts, professor of double bass and a former Houston Symphony principal. He has performed with the New World Symphony and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, and previously participated in the Aspen Music Festival.

Shepherd School Dean Robert Yekovich said this partnership aligns with the mission of the school's newly established taskforce, MUSE (Musicians United for Social Equality), which in part aims to engage with young musicians from underrepresented groups.

“This joint effort between the Shepherd School and Houston Symphony aims to expose young, underserved minority students to the richness of music education,” Yekovich said. “Our organizations consider this to be among the most important responsibilities we have.”

Nuñez's fellowship will begin this month and run through December, at which point the fellowship program will be evaluated before selection of the next fellow.

"We were very excited when the Shepherd School approached us about this joint initiative," said Houston Symphony executive director, CEO, and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. "It was great to know that the MUSE taskforce viewed our CEM program as a model for engaging with underserved communities in Greater Houston, and that they wanted to partner with us in this pilot program. It will allow both institutions to broaden and deepen the impact of this critical work."

The CEM Fellowship Program builds on the longstanding partnership between the symphony and the Shepherd School. The collaboration recently teamed Rice scientists with symphony musicians to study the air flow created by wind instruments and singers, using high-speed imaging to investigate proper social-distancing protocols for rehearsal and performance.

The Houston Symphony’s CEM program began in 2015, allowing the symphony to expand its education and community engagement activities from approximately 200 to 1,000 events per year. For more information on the program, visit


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More information on the Rice's Shepherd School can be found online at:

Double bassist Joseph Nuñez

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Photo credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,978 undergraduates and 3,192 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.