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Road to lead orchestrator for the 2022 Oscars began with a trumpet in City Schools

A dream rooted in Baltimore City Public Schools will be on full display at the 94th Academy Awards– also known as The Oscars - on Sunday, March 27 on the ABC network.

Dontae Winslow, a 1992 graduate of Baltimore School for the Arts, will serve as lead orchestrator, conductor, composer, arranger for the world-renowned ceremony presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to honor the best films released between March 1 and December 31, 2021.

While Winslow has played integral roles in two other editions of the Academy Awards, this is the first time he’s held each of the prominent responsibilities. He views the moment as a milestone in his journey and a beacon for Baltimore City students, especially those with troubled backgrounds.

“They can do exactly what I’m doing. Never ever give up on your dreams. Persist, have tenacity, and compassion for everyone around them,” Winslow said a few days before the event. “You don’t think when you’re catching your blessings that it will pay off later. Be patient.”

During his career, Winslow has been part of musical presentations at three Super Bowls (including in 2022) and toured with Jill Scott and Justin Timberlake, among many other experiences. Currently, he’s composing music for a film to be released this year featuring actor Wesley Snipes and entertainer Tiffany Haddish. At the same time, Winslow is also composing music for a play, “Blues for an Alabama Sky,” directed by celebrated actress Phylicia Rashad.

The road to those achievements started at then-Cross Country Elementary and Falstaff Middle schools (today, both are elementary/middle schools). During an upbringing he describes as rough, Winslow was introduced to the trumpet. He said that even as he experienced bouts of dismay, he could pour his energy and emotions into the musical instrument. He credits that connection for saving him from adverse outcomes that can often be found in major cities like Baltimore.

Today, Winslow, a graduate of the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, champions the re-introduction and expansion of fine arts opportunities in schools.

“Growing up as a kid in Baltimore, I’ve seen family members doing drugs, I’ve seen hopelessness,” Winslow said. “To have a musical instrument, it can be the one thing you hold on to inspire you to get to school.”

Winslow views his role in the 94th Academy Awards as part of a greater plan for the young man with the trumpet from Baltimore City, a child that rode buses across multiple ZIP codes to get to this point, literally and figuratively.

“This is the opening of my manifest destiny. This is not the pinnacle of what I am trying to achieve,” Winslow said. “It is the beginning of my career as a world-renowned film music composer.”

It’s a journey inspired by Baltimore City, Maryland, and its public schools.