A musician who wants to make classical music more accessible to more diverse performers and audience members has been named this year’s recipient of a college scholarship founded in honor of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Joseph Weinberg, who graduated from Pittsfield High School in Massachusetts last weekend, plans to use the $2,000 Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship to major in music with a focus on double bass performance at The Juilliard School in New York City.
Weinberg, who started playing double bass his freshman year, said Tuesday he has been inspired by his own experiences in youth orchestras such as Massachusetts Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra, where too many of the musicians looked just like him.
In addition, some Black friends have told him they feel like outsiders in the classical music world.
“Orchestras end up looking so white,” he said. “It would be nice if they looked a little different.”
Classical music too often appears elitist, he said.
“It is beneficial to the classical music world that it gains a wider audience, and it is in dire need of one,” he wrote in his application essay. “Classical music should not be ‘posh.’ It should not be ‘elite’ or ‘boring’ and it most certainly should not be ‘white.'”
He would like to do so by supporting programs like Project 440 and El Sistema, both focused on expanding the reach of music to more youths.
Pearl, south Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in January 2002 while investigating links between Pakistani militant groups and Richard C. Reid, known as the “shoe bomber.” Reid had attempted to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes, a flight that was diverted to Boston.
Pearl began his journalism career in western Massachusetts at the now-closed North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield.
The scholarship has been awarded annually since 2003 to a high school student from the region planning to major in journalism or music, which were Pearl’s two passions. It is funded by contributions from the newspapers as well as Pearl’s friends and colleagues.
As Pearl did through his reporting, Weinberg hopes to better the world.
“The fact that he had the courage to do what he did, when he was clearly in danger, was inspiring, and I would like to make my own small changes to the classical music world,” Weinberg said.