Wolpert founds organization Musicians for Equality

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Submitted by Isabelle Wolpert

Senior Isabelle Wolpert has been a classical musician for almost 11 years. She took a new turn with her involvement in classical music this year when she founded Musicians for Equality, a student run organization fighting for diversity and inclusion in the classical music world. Wolpert recounts how she founded the organization with Portland based high school pianist (who she met through the classical music world) Nate Strothekamp, “Me and Nate were supposed to have a recital back in May, and the murder of George Floyd happened right before our concert. Me and Nate at first decided to dedicate the piece we were playing to Floyd, but we realized there was more we wanted do.”

By Henry Burkhardt, St. Paul Academy and Summit School

Senior Isabelle Wolpert has been a classical musician for almost 11 years. She took a new turn with her involvement in classical music this year when she founded Musicians for Equality, a student run organization fighting for diversity and inclusion in the classical music world.

Wolpert recounts how she founded the organization with Portland based high school violinist (who she met through the classical music world) Nate Strothkamp,

“Me and Nate were supposed to perform a duet together back in May, and the murder of George Floyd happened right before our concert. At first decided to dedicate the piece we were playing to Floyd, but we soon realized there was more we wanted do.”

Thus the organization was born. Wolpert and Strothkamp then decided to put on a whole concert as a fundraiser to help out local communities in South Minneapolis in the aftermath of the May rioting. One concert and a GoFundMe that raised over seven hundred dollars soon turned into more then a single concert. The duo decided to try their hand at producing an entire concert series.

“After the success of our first individual concert, we realized the impact we might be able to have and decided to grow our plan to host a whole concert series.”

Since the first concert in June, Wolpert and Strothkamp have together hosted eight more concerts, highlighting a diverse range of performers from around the world. These concerts take place virtually on YouTube and compliment Musician for Equality’s continued fundraising efforts. So far the concerts have featured performers from 21 states, 7 countries, 5 different continents.

After the success of our first individual concert, we realized the impact we might be able to have and decided to grow our plan to host a whole concert series.”

Musicians for Equality has also been successful monetarily, in their ability to raise funds to support their mission.

Wolpert noted, “As for our fundraising efforts, we’ve raised $1,500 for La Raza [a Minneapolis “Spanish-language music and entertainment” radio station], and $2,500 for Walker West [a music learning program centered around the African-American experience].” The organizations’ current fundraising efforts are focused on the Harmony Program, a music education program located in New York City. The hope of Wolpert is that the fundraising will help economically support these organizations. Wolpert said, “Our goal is to support these organization making real change in the world, so that they can continue to keep their doors open, especially in this time of financial hardship.”

Musicians for Equality additionally has another more abstract  mission to “bridge the music history timeline gap.”

Wolpert explained, “Classical music has been a white, male, dominated space for almost all of history. This means that many great composers who don’t fit the profile of who we expect a composer to be, have been largely forgotten by music history.”

Wolpert enjoyed researching non-well-known composers even before founding the organization, but now her searches have taken on a new meaning as she looks for composers of historically oppressed demographics and learns their music.

Wolpert notes the satisfaction of creating a project that is providing support to a social issue she is passionate about, and encourages others to do the same.

“If you have an idea or a project in social change that you think might work, go for it,” Wolpert said, “It’s almost always a win win, you will undoubtedly benefit from the experience and hopefully other people will benefit from your efforts.”

Wolpert is currently working to incorporate her organization as a 501 c(3) non profit. With no end in sight Wolpert plans to grow the organizational and continue her mission to bring justice to unheard voices, educate other classical musicians, and spread awareness through music.

This story was originally published on The Rubicon on January 20, 2021.