• Alexis Alabado

Congratulations, Chaz Salazar!

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

Chaz Salazar, flute instructor at the Harmony Project Phoenix

Chaz Salazar, flutist instructor for Harmony Project Phoenix, is the recipient of the Sphinx Organization’s National Alliance for Audition Support, an artistic development initiative to provide audition support for artists of color.

Founded in 1997, Sphinx is dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Salazar has been involved with two initiatives through Sphinx, Sphinx Orchestral Partner Auditions (SOPA) and National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS), which has given him grants and fellowships to continue his musical pursuits.

If he could sum up what the organization has done for him in one word, it would be opportunity.

“I’ve gotten invited to auditions just for being a part of Sphinx,” he said. “It makes it possible for me to go and take an audition financially.”

Along with getting the opportunity to get his name on the radar, Salazar said he gains invaluable experience with every audition and gets better at the nerve-wrecking aspect of auditions to begin with.

“Audition-taking is a skill, which is very different from doing the job itself and playing in an orchestra,” he said. “Being able to do so many auditions gives me a better idea of how to prepare for them.”

Salazar received his formal music training from Rosie's House, a similar program to Harmony Project Phoenix in that it provides free private music instruction to under-resourced youth.

He earned both his bachelor’s (‘15) and master’s (‘17) degree in flute performance. He first started teaching with Harmony Project in fall 2015 at Ignacio Conchos Elementary School. Currently, Salazar instructs four budding and talented students.

For Salazar, being an instructor of Harmony Project goes beyond the idea of giving back or paying it forward.

“It’s deeper than that,” he said. “It’s a duty — I have to do it, I should be doing it, and if I wasn’t doing it, it wouldn’t make sense to me. It’s my job to continue the cycle. Even if any of these students don’t want to be professional musicians, it opens up so many doors for them for their entire lives.”

Salazar said there are many implications with these kinds of programs in changing the symphonic environment, as American orchestras aren’t nearly as diverse as the cities they serve. According to a study by the League of American Orchestras in 2014, just over 14 percent of musicians in all United States symphony orchestras are people of color, with 2.5 percent being Hispanic/Latino and 1.8 percent being African American.

“We’re in 2019,” Salazar said. “Those numbers don’t make sense to me, and they need to change.”

Just as Salazar was given the opportunity to learn an instrument through Rosie’s House and attend auditions through Sphinx, these programs along with Harmony Project send a clear message: Money should not be a barrier when it comes to learning an instrument.

“You can’t expect people of color to show up to auditions if they’re not given the opportunity to learn an instrument from the beginning,” he said. “We have to be the ones to put those instruments in these children’s hands.”

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