Born in Ontario, Canada, Dantes Rameau is of Haitian and Cameroonian descent. He attended McGill University for a Bachelor’s in Music in Bassoon Performance, studying with Stéphane Lévesque and Mathieu Harel of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He graduated McGill in 2005, receiving the award for “Outstanding Performance in Bassoon”. He then attended Yale University School of Music for a Master’s in Music in Bassoon Performance, studying with Frank Morelli and graduating in 2007. Dantes then went on to the Performance Residency Program at Carnegie Mellon Unversity, studying with Nancy Goeres of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Festivals he has attended include Orford Arts Center (2000, 2002), Banff Festival (2004, 2005) and Aspen Music Festival (2006, 2007). He has performed with Charleston Symphony, Wallingford Symphony and Aspen Chamber Symphony. He was a finalist for African American Fellowships with both Detroit Symphony (2009) and Pittsburgh Symphony (2008).
His teaching credits include the Yale School of Music Outreach program (2006-2007), Coach at Carnegie Mellon University Basketball camp (2008), and working as a volunteer, camp counsellor, lifeguard and swimming instructor at the Downtown YMCA in Ottawa. He will volunteer for the Leading Note Foundation, an El Sistema-inspired music education program in Ottawa in September 2009.
A Talk with Dantes Rameau
How did you hear about the Abreu Fellows program?
I got an e-mail about it from Sue Heineman, Principal Bassoon of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Why did you apply?
I applied because I feel that the variety of my past endeavors can allow me to help bridge the gap between the symphony orchestra world and the underserved youth world.
What tools will you develop during this fellowship and how do you think these tools will be useful in your future post?
The bulk of my education has been in music performance so I expect that this fellowship will provide me with the skills I need to be able to start an El Sistema-like program in the U.S.; things like marketing, public relations, and fundraising come to mind.
Where do you see yourself in five years? What will you be doing and why?
In five years I hope to have taken a leadership role in starting a symphony orchestra–related music education program for underserved youth; something in the mold of Baltimore’s OrchKids or the LA Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. A program like that should have a positive impact on youth and symphony orchestras. Both are important to me.
Why do you think that music education is important to a child’s development?
It is important because it spurs a child’s imagination and creativity, which gives an advantage later on in relation to schoolwork and jobs. Creativity and out-of-the-box thinking are crucial to success in any field. As well, music education promotes dedication, concentration and analytical skills, all of which will have positive impacts on all youths.
Regarding the present state of music education for children in the U.S., what has been done right and where do you see room for improvement?
There are some positives, notably the outreach programs that are starting to pop in various cities. The LA Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids come to mind. But currently, symphony orchestras do not always represent the communities they are based in, so they need to further associate themselves with sustained outreach efforts in order to bridge the gap from the concert hall to the rest of the community.
How did you learn about El Sistema?
I read about Gustavo Dudamel and since then I’ve come to learn that wherever Dudamel is, El Sistema is not far behind.
Why do you think El Sistema is unique? What elements made the El Sistema program successful where others were not?
El Sistema is unique because it reaches out to all youth. It believes music education should be available to anyone and they make it so. Of course the program is well-funded, which helps, but most important is the desire to have a positive impact on all youth through music education.
Have you worked with or mentored children in the past?
My first interaction with youth was when I was in ninth grade, volunteering at the local Ottawa YMCA. As I was getting my certifications to become a lifeguard, I would help the swimming instructors with their lessons. Then throughout the rest of high school I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor, and spent two summers as a camp counsellor, all through the YMCA. At Yale, I spent a year with the Yale School of Music Outreach Program assisting music teachers in New Haven public schools with their classes. I worked with youth from kindergarten to 12th grade. Most recently in 2008, I was a coach at the Carnegie Mellon University Summer Basketball Camp for 6–14 year olds.