Meet Braden and Peirce Ellis, two talented brothers and recipients of this year’s Marian Anderson Award Young Artist Study Grant (MAA YASG). The grant helps high school students overcome financial hurdles to pursue music and art.
We heard about Braden and Peirce through their involvement with our free Kimmel Center Education programs – specifically ShowStoppers and Creative Music Program for Jazz (CMP) – and were in awe of how much they’ve accomplished so far on their music journeys! Enrolled at Settlement Music School, the boys first studied Suzuki violin, Braden later switching to double bass and Peirce to viola. They sang in chorus and participate in Settlement’s Sounds of Young Philadelphia ensemble, with both studying privately with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Braden participates in the Creative Music Program for Jazz at the Kimmel Center, a free program led by staff member Anthony Tidd. As Braden advanced from a beginner group to the most challenging one, Tidd remarked that this kind of shift to another level of ensemble is a first for a CMP student. Braden lends time to Settlement’s jazz group, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and was part of National Youth Orchestra 2′s (NYO2) inaugural program.
“I want to play in groups, all kinds, orchestras, jazz, Broadway… and grow and become a respected bassist,” Braden said.
“My mom is a student, so this [grant] helped our family A LOT. Also, during the summer when I participated in the CMP summer jazz camp, I played on a $50 electric bass I found on Craigslist and it shorted out during the performance. I was embarrassed and devastated. With this year’s award, I was able to take part of it to get a better bass that I use in my jazz ensembles… it makes me feel good to know that there are people who see something in me.”
The boys have already seen success in competitions, with Braden winning and Peirce placing in the Bucks County Symphony Youth Competition. Participating in Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra and a school quartet, Peirce joined a quartet called the “Perfect Fourth,” traveling to the White House to perform for the First Lady and others.
Peirce also discovered a love of musical theater, joining the Kimmel Center’s free after-school musical theater program, ShowStoppers, this past year.
“I want to be able to use music to be able to meet new musicians and learn repertoire,” Peirce said. “I would love it if all members of my quartet stay together so we can have more opportunities. I want to participate in more theater programs and I want to learn how to brand myself so people will want to work with me. I also want to learn the business side of music. Last year the award helped me travel to Sphinx in Chicago and without the award, I wouldn’t have met the Perfect Fourth, so there would be no White House performance for me. It also helped with my music lessons and my trio lessons at Settlement and I got a rehair on my bow with the award.”