Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program at the Colburn School for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music. This 6-month program for 10 young women from around the country includes mentorship and virtual engagement, and culminates in a week-long festival on the Colburn campus. Two CMPI fellows, Ella Saputra and Natalia Noriega, are members of this year’s Fortissima cohort. Student Navigator Becca Dora sat down with Natalia to discuss her time in the program.
How did you hear about Fortissima?
I heard about Fortissima through my CMPI Navigator, and a few girls who were in the previous year’s cohort, whom I met through the Pathways Music Festival in April of 2022.
How was your experience participating in the in-person workshop/concert at the Colburn School? What other components make up the Fortissima experience?
I had a wonderful experience both in the learning and interactions with the people of the cohort. I observed a performance forum, attended a few panel sessions on development in the music world, and workshops on getting your work out there by many brilliant musicians, directors, and composers. I also had fun experiences sightseeing downtown Los Angeles, CA and getting to know the lovely ladies of the cohort!
What pieces did you perform? Any favorite musical moments?
I performed in a brass trio, Adagio y Allegro, by Ivette Rodriguez. The entire cohort also participated in a performance of Buddha by Julius Eastman. This contained some of my favorite moments, since it was interesting learning the history of the piece and studying the “egg-shaped” manuscript. I also enjoyed the performance of the piece, which allowed us to explore our creative musicianship, that even resulted in an improvised musical exchange with CMPI fellow Ella Saputra!
What was your biggest takeaway from participating in the program?
My biggest takeaway would be that we all have what it takes to be successful in life; all it takes is the willingness to put yourself out there. I learned many lessons about leadership, balance, and navigating a sea of fire from my fellow participants, my mentor Melissa Munoz, and panelists like Stephanie Matthews, Juliette Jones, and even an interview with Michael Abels.
How did it feel to be collaborating with/surrounded by young female musicians of color?
It felt amazing to meet such talented girls from across the country, especially fellow musicians of color. I felt that since it is a smaller cohort, I got to know each of them personally and connected better than I would in a large orchestra, and the music making was just as meaningful as the memories made outside of the rehearsal halls.
Any advice for prospective students who want to audition?
Of course do your best to demonstrate your musical talent, but also be open to new things! Fortissima is looking to elevate unique voices in music and provide leadership training for getting their ideas out there. Part of that experience will be trying things out of your comfort zone. I had never really tried improv before and being one of the only brass players in a majorly string group was also fairly new to me, but I stuck with it and had an amazing week.
Photo of Natalia