Arts Academy senior Tendekai Mawokomatanda wins position with Orchestra Noir

A 17-year-old double bass major, Mawokomatanda becomes the youngest serving musician in Atlanta’s African-American orchestra.

Tendekai Mawokomatanda

Interlochen Arts Academy senior Tendekai Mawokomatanda (IAC 21, IAA 21-present) has always dreamed of a career as an orchestral musician. But he never imagined his professional career would begin before he’d graduated from high school.

Mawokomatanda was recently appointed to the double bass section of Atlanta’s Orchestra Noir, an ensemble that celebrates the achievements of African American musicians in all genres of music. Founded in 2016 by Jason Ikeem Rodgers, Orchestra Noir performs sold-out concerts throughout the southeastern United States and has worked on projects for Time Warner, NBC Universal, Atlantic Records, BET, rapper 2 Chainz, and hip-hop duo Migos.

At just 17, Mawokomatanda is the youngest currently serving member of the ensemble.

“Starting my professional career so young really means a lot to me,” Mawokomatanda said. “I know that I still have a lot of room for growth, and I’m excited that I get to grow by playing alongside musicians who have been playing professionally for a while now. I’m really looking forward to working with everyone as I grow as a person and as an artist.”

Mawokomatanda learned about the vacancy from a friend who was already a member of Orchestra Noir.

“He encouraged me to apply, and I thought, ‘Why not?’” Mawokomatanda said.

After submitting his excerpts and completing an audition, Mawokomatanda was formally offered the position. Mawokomatanda credits his Interlochen experience with preparing him for the role.

“Winning this audition would not have been possible without Mr. Weller, Dr. Dunner, Dr. Schlomer, and all the other fantastic faculty who have mentored me over the past year and a half,” he said. “They’ve shown me what it’s like to be a professional musician and taught me all the tips and tricks. Just being at Interlochen and being surrounded by classical musicians with the same goal as me has helped me be determined and stay on-focus, ensuring that I play to the best of my abilities.”

Mawokomatanda will play with the orchestra on a part-time basis while he completes his studies at Interlochen Arts Academy and will join the orchestra full-time over the summer.

“I’ll be a full member of the orchestra in June or July, but in the meantime, I do have the option to attend some of the weekend concerts in April and May,” he said.

Following his graduation in May, Mawokomatanda plans to attend a college where he can pursue both his musical career and his other passion: politics. Mawokomatanda was recently elected as the Speaker of the House for the March 2023 conference of the Michigan Youth in Government program and is preparing to introduce a government transparency bill to the Michigan House of Representatives.

“I love studying political science, economics, and pre-law, so I’m hoping to attend a university that can accommodate a double-major in either pre-law or political science and bass performance,” he said. “I’m looking for a place where I can do what I love—performing—while also being civically engaged with my community.”