Minnesota Orchestra names two musicians as ‘Good’ fellows following nationwide audition

(l-r) Good fellows: Jason Tanksley and Myles Blakemore (Photos courtesy of Minnesota Orchestra)

Myles Blakemore, a trombone player from Dallas, Texas, and Jason Tanksley, a tuba player from Eastpointe, Michigan, have won positions as the Minnesota Orchestra’s first-ever Rosemary and David Good Fellows.

The newly-created fellowship is designed to encourage greater diversity in the orchestral field by supporting the career development of outstanding young musicians of African American, Latino American and Native American descent as they embark on professional orchestral careers. Blakemore and Tanksley will begin their two-year fellowships — which will run concurrently — in September 2017.

Over the course of the fellowship, Blakemore and Tanksley will both observe and participate in Minnesota Orchestra rehearsals; perform within the Orchestra at selected concerts; study with Orchestra musicians; and train and prepare for auditions. The fellows will both receive mentoring from Minnesota Orchestra musicians and provide mentorship, as they work with Minnesota students on a variety of initiatives through the Orchestra’s Education and Community Engagement department. Both fellows will reside full-time in Minnesota.

Thirty musicians from across the country applied for the fellowship position, with eight applicants being invited to audition at Orchestra Hall earlier this month before a committee comprising musicians, staff and Music Director Osmo Vänskä.

“We opened auditions with the idea to name one fellow, but the quality of playing by both Jason and Myles was very, very high, and we decided we must offer two fellowships,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “I am very happy Myles and Jason will join the Orchestra to further their own training.

They will also be great Orchestra ambassadors to all corners of our community through engagement work that includes our Young People’s Concerts, school visits and collaborations with other educational and community partners.”

About the Rosemary and David Good Fellows

Myles Blakemore (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Orchestra)

Trombone player Myles Blakemore is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, where he studied with John Kitzman, and the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Dr. Per Brevig. He has performed with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and served as second trombone with New Jersey’s Symphony in C during the 2016-17 season. He has held festival fellowships in Aspen and Spoleto and performed at summer festivals in Brevard, North Carolina, and Lake George, New York. “Words cannot express how fortunate I am to receive this fellowship,” Blakemore says. “It will give me the opportunity to realize my dreams as a musician, all while making an impact on the Minnesota Orchestra and the local community.”

Jason Tanskley (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Orchestra)

Tuba player Jason Tanksley recently earned a Master of Music degree and is now a candidate for the Artist Diploma at the Cleveland Institute of Music, under the instruction of Yasuhito Sugiyama. A graduate of Detroit’s Wayne State University, where he studied with Dennis Nulty, Tanksley has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Jacksonville Symphony, among other ensembles. As a soloist, he has appeared with the International Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Concert Band and the Wayne State University Symphony Orchestra, as well as its Wind Symphony. Tanksley says, “I am excited to have the opportunity to work with the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. Having their wisdom and knowledge shape the next part of my career is a dream come true.”

The Fellowship is made possible due to generous support from Rosemary and David Good. The initiative grew from the Orchestra’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which comprises board, staff and musicians. Minnesota Orchestra musicians worked with the Orchestra’s General Manager Beth Kellar-Long over the past eight months to define the fellowship with the goals of providing mentorship, performance and community engagement opportunities for the fellows. Their work was guided by Forty Years of Fellowships, a recent report from the League of American Orchestras that offers impact data and participant perspectives on orchestral fellowships over the last four decades.

Said Principal Trombone R. Douglas Wright, “We couldn’t be happier to welcome Myles and Jason to the Orchestra. The low brass section, in particular, is really excited to have them both join us in the back row. They’re both terrific musicians who will bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the stage.”


Information for this story was provided by Minnesota Orchestra.