LOS ANGELES — Opening his French horn case to begin a practice session has become a long-time routine for Malik Taylor.
It was in this band room at Bret Harte Middle School where he played his first note, and where he learned that he loved to play music.
"I get the chills just playing it, I love the sound, it has its own unique sound", said Taylor.
Malik is one of four students chosen for the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship, a post-graduate program designed to increase diversity in American orchestras, because less than five-percent of those working in American orchestras are people of color.
The rigorous three-year fellowship is a three-way partnership, where Malik will receive instruction from the USC Thornton School of Music, he'll mentor the next generation of musicians at the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, and he'll get to play professionally with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
"We get to sit side-by-side with professional musicians who have been doing this for years, we get to work with world-renowned conductors, guest artists who will be playing with us as well, so I'm looking forward to it and I know it's going to help out in the long run", said Taylor.
Born and raised in South L.A., playing music provided him a way to stay safe in an area known for negative distractions.
But the road to the fellowship for Malik, was paved by three mentors that he still has today.
The first being his middle school band leader Greg Martin who saw his talent and drive.
"Of course you can tell when the talent is there, but that was coupled with discipline and his overall character, and his sense of humility", said Martin.
Greg then took Malik to Bob Watt for private lessons.
Bob was the first Black French horn player hired by a major American orchestra and played with the L.A. Phil for 37 years.
"The blowing through the horn part, he had a way of blowing through that was absolutely correct and you know some things are so precious you don't want to mention them, least they disappear", said Watt.
And Greg took Malik to Chuck Dickerson, the founder of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles where Malik played every Sunday, and is the first from the program to make the fellowship.
"We all kind of feel like he's a son to us. How proud can a father be? But then to see his child sitting up on the stage of Disney Hall or Carnegie Hall?" said Dickerson.
All three mentors have been pivotal in his musical development, and for Malik, being in this fellowship will hopefully give him an idea of what it's like to be a professional classical musician and how to win a job with an American orchestra.
"My main goal is to be in the Los Angeles Philharmonic like my mentor Bob Watt. It's just a huge dream of mine", said Taylor.
And a platform where he can be a positive example to all aspiring youth, to show what's possible.