The Atlanta Symphony’s Talent Development Program leads Lester to his future aspirations


Jessica Joachim

Junior, Kobe Lester plays the marimba, one of at least nine instruments that he plays in the percussion section. As he participates in the Atlanta Symphony’s Talent Development Program he hopes to improve his skills as well as helping inspire others in the program.

Jessica Joachim, Photographer

NC’s band attracts students of all grades and talents to discover their musical passion. Not all students in band decide to pursue a musical profession after high school, however, junior Kobe Lester intends to work as a professional percussionist, learning through the Atlanta Symphony’s Talent Development Program, a program for young African-American and Latino musicians.

“I love just how expressive playing music in general can be,” Lester said.

Lester plays countless instruments within the percussion section of the band, including the marimba, vibraphone, bass drum, gong, tamborine, symbols, snare drum, timpani, xylophone, and the glockenspiel.

“There’s just so many [instruments], it’s like the kitchen sink you know,” Lester said.

Along with band, Lester also takes part in the Talent Development Program (TDP). The TDP partners with the Atlanta Symphony to provide young African-American and Latino musicians with mentors, an opportunity previously unavailable. The program aims to increase the diversity within national orchestras including the Atlanta Symphony. As of 2018, only 1.8 percent of African-Americans make up America’s orchestras and Hispanics make up just 2.5 percent.

“I found out about the TDP program through ASYO—The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. A lot of the Black and Latino students in ASYO are also in TDP, so they told me about it, and I thought that it would be a good opportunity. I love how they are trying to help people who are disadvantaged in the classical music community,” Lester said.

Lester began the program this year and meets up with his mentor, Donna Thompson, once a week to further develop his musical skills.

“[My experience with the TDP has been] incredibly life-changing. The TDP propelled me further than a young musician can feasibly go without a program like theirs,” Thompson said.

TDP provides students with support and an environment to improve their skills.

“I would hope that Kobe gains a strong presence in his music performance [and] improves his own character and style of playing,” Thompson said.

Kobe continues to improve his talents and remains grateful for the opportunities provided by the Atlanta Symphony Program and their outreach towards young musicians of color as he develops his passion for music.  

“I feel like my teacher and my mentor have helped me to push myself further. They’ve given me the tools that I need to actually be able to play a lot better. When you’re on your own, you often don’t notice things by yourself,” Kobe said.