Detroit cellist headed to Juilliard on full scholarship

Cellist Joshua McClendon is so talented that he was accepted into five conservatories across the county. All full rides.

If you total up how much he was offered in scholarship money, it's more than a million dollars. Come the fall, the Detroit native is heading to Juilliard.

But, before that, he's going to return to where it all started for him -- the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

"I attended my first Detroit Symphony concert with my teacher at the time and they were playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in the Second Movement, which features the cello and viola section. That's when I fell in love with cello itself, although it was too big so I wasn't allowed to play at the time," he says, smiling. 

So, instead, he settled for the miniature.

"But Joshua fell in love with classical music at a very young age. I played Mozart for Babies for him and he was able to keep beat at 6, 7 months old. And I was like, okay, this kid has a little something in him," says Voncile Campbell. 

She recognized Joshua's music acumen and found a way to support the time, money and intensive passion, despite being a single mom and battling a brain tumor. Twice.
"When I couldn't make a concert, I cried because I couldn't go. My brother went and he's like, 'I'm here; you don't have to worry about it.' So my support system was strong," she says. 

By 7, Joshua was playing in the DSO's youth orchestra, setting an example for young men and boys in Detroit.

"We get a lot of surprising looks. When he walks into a room and everyone just assumes he's an athlete because he's tall and thin, and he's a black boy from Detroit, and he says, 'No, I play cello.' And everyone's like, 'You play the what?'" his mom laughs.

Joshua has picked up numerous awards over the years, even sitting as a principal cellist at Interlochen Arts Academy where he's a senior. The DSO stage he'll be taking in June is a dream come true. 

"It still shocks me, every day, that that's even happening," he says. "Studying with my teacher and the Symphony for the past 10 years, it's always been a dream of mine to share the stage with them and, so, it's finally happening. I'm excited."

Before Joshua heads to Juilliard, he'll also perform at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.