Alumni Spotlight: Diana Ortega '10

NEC virtually welcomes back Diana Ortega '10 as the 2021 Alumni Commencement Speaker.


Grad year and major: Class of 2010, Bassoon Performance

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Favorite NEC Faculty Member: Robin Dash was one of the most caring and influential faculty members with whom I have ever worked. She helped us understand varying perspectives and see situations from many angles. The skills she taught us were transferable and have impacted meto this day. Robin helped so many of us through the most difficult of times and supported us as we found our voices as artists and community leaders. 

Current job: Arts and Health Consultant

Get to know Diana:  

  • First generation American-Colombian
  • Life long learner with a love for aviation and the sciences
  • Professional electronic bassoonist
  • Fluent in Spanish and beginner in French
  • Professional "El Sistema" educator
  • Expert in implementing arts, culture and heritage programming in Hospitals and Schools
  • Spearheaded and implemented Indianapolis’s first public music therapy program 
  • Manage and lead over 100 concert events for the Marianne Tobias Music Program 
  • Founding member of Rock E Bassoon

This year's NEC Alumni Commencement speaker, Diana Ortega '10, shares her remarkable journey from New England Conservatory to a career in community relations, successfully using her music education to improve the social determinants of health for marginalized communities.

For the past nine years I have dedicated my career to making music accessible and enhancing the quality of life for our marginalized communities. My journey began in 2006, when I was exposed to Jose Antonio Abrau’s El Sistema at New England Conservatory. Abrau’s teachings fascinated me and led to four years of comprehensive pedagogical research, where I then became a bassoonist for la Filarmónica Joven de Colombia, Batuta—the El Sistema of Colombia.  

I then started my career as a freelance teaching artist in New York City where I worked with three community-based organizations and implemented El Sistema in the classroom to over 1,800 public school students. In 2013, I was hired by Children’s Aid Society to develop, manage and teach El Sistema to at risk youth at the Title 1 Community School 61 in the Bronx. 

Working only in Title I schools for over four years was not an easy feat, but was a rewarding experience as it brought me back to my roots and pushed me  to become a strong, effective advocate and leader. At many of our after-school music ensembles, we offered food pantries, clothing, therapy and music classes to parents so that they were involved, engaged and supportive of their child's development. 

In 2016, the desire to truly understand the underlying systemic health issues that were affecting our families led me to pursue a Master's in Public Administration. I wanted to create a more effective and personalized arts programming for our poorest communities. 

Admission into the prestigious National Urban Fellowship program gave me the opportunity to design music intervention strategies for the Indianapolis Mayor's Office and the Health Department’s criminal justice reform initiative. I successfully built partnerships and implemented policy within 8 months—all while creating, managing, performing and arranging music for my new civic engagement electric bassoon cover band (Rock E Bassoon).

After my fellowship, I was offered a position by the CEO of Health and Hospital Corporation to develop a co-treating music therapy model of care for those with Substance Use Disorders. I proposed policy amendments to the Family and Social Service Administration (FSSA) for the inclusion of music therapy in the Medicaid additions waiver and launched a fundraising campaign to support the first public music therapy program in Indianapolis. 

By 2019, live hospital concerts grew to 105 performances, including over 30 ensembles per year, and our concert series expanded to 3 public clinics. I also implemented the Indiana Avenue Legacy Series, a monthly concert series to celebrate living Jazz legends in our community, worked with families and patients to develop culturally responsive music programming and partnered with our Communications Department to develop media content and coverage promoting music and art as a vehicle for wellness and motivation. In 2021 we will continue to provide programming virtually to our patient’s and front line staff and collaborate with local organizations to provide live music therapy to patients and families.

Watch Diana's commencement address from the 2021 NEC Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 23.