Those who met composer/conductor Quinn Mason in 2022-2023 or had the experience of speaking with Melissa White in the 2023-2024 season, know that the HSO has chosen extraordinary musicians for our Black Artist in Residence program. The program is made possible by a generous grant from the Roberts Foundation, in loving memory of Joyce C. Willis, a staunch advocate for diversity in the arts, and a former Board member of both the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the Roberts Foundation.     

During her residency with us, Melissa won a Grammy award (her second!) in February of 2024 for Best Classical Compendium, with her colleagues in the Harlem Quartet and the New York-based wind quintet, Imani Winds. 

The highlights of Melissa’s year with the HSO included an impressive impact on young and aspiring student musicians in Hartford and beyond. Since our last update (see the winter edition of Quarter Notes), Melissa has been on the move! In March, she visited the South End Boys and Girls Club (where she led a yoga class), returned to the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts to work with students in grades 2 – 5, spoke to the entire music department of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts where she also led a master class in violin, met with the entire Community First School where she engaged with the children by playing music that engaged the children as they laughed and participated, and returned to East Hartford High School to continue her work with three different string ensembles. Melissa also participated in Read Across America and ended her week by spending time with the entire 8th grade orchestra at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. 

On April 30, 2024, Melissa’s constant presence in the community was celebrated with a culminating performance at the Artists Collective, attended by more than 300 people, to enjoy “Strings of Inspiration featuring Melissa White.” The free program, open to all in the community, featured a performance by Melissa (with cellist and UConn professor Sophie Shao), an inspiring performance by two young violinists and a pianist from East Hartford High School (who performed the first movement of the Bach Double Violin Concerto) and a performance with all of the students Melissa had mentored at the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts School (located in Bloomfield). 

Melissa’s year-long residency with the Hartford Symphony concluded in June, with her electrifying performance of the Bruch Violin Concerto on our closing Masterworks performance of the season.   

As we look forward to next season, when we will welcome pianist Clayton Stephenson as our third and final Joyce C. Willis Artist in Residence, we have made certain to keep up with Quinn Mason, watching his journey as a gifted composer and conductor. Quinn (who celebrated his 28th birthday with us) was recently featured in Symphony magazine, and orchestras around the world are lining up to commission his works. Quinn Mason Forges His Own Path as Composer—and Conductor – Symphony He conducted the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in April of 2023, and in Quinn’s own words, “I specialize 110 percent in the orchestra.” His trombone concerto, Sonorous, was premiered by the Utah Symphony in February of 2024, and in May of 2024, he returned to Connecticut, for the world premiere of his new piano concert, Every New Day, with the New Haven Symphony. The friendships he forged during his stay in Hartford have stuck, and many travelled to New Haven to celebrate his newest work.   

Both Quinn and Melissa will be forever a part of the HSO family and will always be remembered for the lives they touched, and the joy they brought to us through their music and their commitments to our community. The incredible support of the Roberts Foundation made it possible for these remarkable artists to make an immeasurable impact on the students and community of Greater Hartford.