This season, BYSO invited Olivia McClendon to join its team of administrative staff. Olivia is integral in support of the Intensive Community Program
, BYSO's rigorous string instrument training program, which serves students from populations underrepresented in BYSO and in the classical music field in general.
“What drew me to ICP immediately was the thought of providing the platform for a student who, without even realizing that music is their passion at 5 years old, could possibly become the next Bach or Beethoven.”
Olivia McClendon, also known as "Billy Dean Thomas", is a Vocalist and hip hop teacher from Harlem, NYC. Her musical career began at the age of 8 playing congas in an Afro Caribbean ensemble and being a part of an advanced Poetry/Performance program. She was booked to appear as a spoken word artist twice for The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway
and once in The 24 Hour Plays in LA
, a production sponsored by Montblanc, HBO and NBC to benefit Urban Arts Partnership.
After graduating from Smith College in 2014, with a degree in Cultural Psychology, Olivia worked on a project titled “Hooks & Books” which is a collaboration with Yale school of music professor Ben Verdery. This project combined Hip hop with live classical performance and historical texts. After being featured on ABC’s The View as a segment of Rosie Perez’s "favorite things", she committed to teaching through her music and supporting the youth through arts to propel them toward success.
"Without programs like ICP, some children will never have the opportunity to explore a part of themselves that could be what makes them shine. I actually happen to be one of those kids who was given an opportunity through the arts and it happened to be what propelled my confidence and what paid and paved my way through college and now adult life."
Welcome to BYSO, Olivia!