Classical 91.5

Classical Musicians of African Descent

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People of African heritage have made enduring contributions to classical music throughout history. There have been countless accomplished Black classical conductors, composers and performers (both instrumentalists and singers) who have enriched classical music as long as it has existed.

It is the intent of WXXI Classical 91.5 to provide these pages to serve as a resource to more information about musicians of African descent.  The Classical Musicians of African Descent (CMAD) pages are not mean to be an exhaustive list of musicians of African descent, but were begun in partnership with the Gateways Music Festival at the Eastman School of Music (part of the University of Rochester) and will be a growing and changing resource for your information and research. We encourage you to visit the pages and if there are musicians that should be included, please write to us at

One such pioneer is the late Maestro Paul Freeman (1936-2015) who earned his bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees from the Eastman School of Music. Maestro Freeman founded the Chicago Sinfonietta as a mid-size orchestra dedicated to the causes of promoting diversity, innovative programming and celebrating the legacies of minority composers.

Here in Rochester, the Gateways Music Festival, in Association with the Eastman School of Music, has celebrated the contribution of classical musicians of African descent, biennially since 1995. Like Gateways Founder Armenta Adams (Hummings) Dumisani, Maestro Freeman passionately worked toward “opening the doors of classical music to everyone.”

With the assistance of the Gateways Music Festival, we have compiled a significant listing of classical musicians of African descent for your reference. Among the musicians listed are members of American symphony orchestras, college and university music school faculty, as well as concert and freelance artists.

Patricia Weitzel, cello

Nov 29, 2018

Dr. Patricia Silva Weitzel is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Augustana College and Teaching Artist at both Drake and St. Ambrose Universities, where she teaches double bass, cello, chamber music, String Methods and Latin Music classes. She is also a member of the Des Moines and Quad Cities Symphonies. Weitzel performs on a 2015 Nick Lloyd double bass.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil and a Master of Music degree from The University of Southern Mississippi and a doctoral degree from University of Iowa.


On Monday, April 2, 2018 the Eastman School of Music recognized the accomplishments, and celebrated the 95th birthday of composer George Theophilus Walker, (June 27, 1922 – August 23, 2018) the first black recipient of a doctoral degree from the Eastman School of Music.  This was one of Walker's last public appearances.

Anyango Yarbo-Davenport, violin

Aug 18, 2017

Praised for her “captivating performance” and “sparkling rich” sound, violinist Anyango Yarbo-Davenport has appeared twice at Carnegie Hall, both times receiving 1st prizes in international competitions. Her performances can be heard in concert halls in Munich, New York City, Detroit, and Salzburg. Anyango was born and raised in Munich, Germany as the daughter of African-American soprano Africa Yarbo-Davenport and the late Austrian conductor Hans Peter Jillich. She received the Performer’s Certificate Bachelor’s degree from Eastman School of Music and is pursuing the Doctorate Degree.

Terrence Wilson, piano

Aug 18, 2017

Terrence Wilson has appeared with the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Washington, DC (National Symphony), San Francisco, St. Louis and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Wilson was nominated for a Grammy Award for his recording of Michael Daugherty’s Deus ex Machina for Piano and Orchestra with the Nashville Symphony conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero. Wilson is a graduate of The Juilliard School. A native of the Bronx, he currently resides in Montclair, NJ.

Joseph Williams, piano

Aug 18, 2017

Joseph Williams is currently based in his hometown of Tacoma, WA. He has enjoyed performing at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and various schools throughout Amman, Jordan. For the 2015-2016 academic year, he served on the faculty of Oberlin College Conservatory of Music as an Instrumental Collaborative Pianist. He holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance from Cleveland State University, and received a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and the Piano Faculty Prize in Accompanying from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Roger Whitworth, French horn

Aug 18, 2017

Roger Whitworth, a native of Chicago, attended Indiana University as a music performance and education major. In July of 1977, Roger joined The President’s Own, U.S. Marine Band. In 1989, he joined the 257th Army National Guard Band, “The Band of The Nation’s Capital”. He served as the principal French Hornist from July of 1989 until August of 2005. He served in the U. S. Armed Forces for 29 years until his retirement in July of 2007. Roger was the first African-American French Hornist in the history of the United States to become a member of one of the major service bands.

Richard White, tuba

Aug 18, 2017

Richard White began his tuba studies at age twelve at The Baltimore School for the Performing Arts. He then went to the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he received his Bachelor’s degree. He received both his Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Indiana.  Dr. White is currently in his fifth season as Principal Tubist of the New Mexico Philharmonic. He enjoys teaching at the University of New Mexico, where he is Associate Professor of tuba/euphonium and Associate Director of the Spirit Marching Band.

Teryle Watson, cello

Aug 18, 2017

Teryle Watson graduated from the Eastman School of Music and pursued graduate studies at the Royal College of Music, London. After three years of being a peripatetic cello teacher and performer in the U.K., she began a thirty-two year teaching career in the Rochester City School District as a string teacher and choral director. She is on the staff of the Kanack School of Musical Artistry. Teryle has treasured being a Gateways musician for nearly twenty years and serves on the Artistic Programs Committee of the Festival.

William Warnick, French horn

Aug 18, 2017

Bill Warnick attended the Mannes College of Music. He has had an extensive and varied career playing in the Symphony of the New World, American Ballet Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem, Brooklyn Philharmonia Chamber Ensemble, Filarmónica de Caracas (Venezuela), Orquesta Sinfónica de Colombia, Orquesta Sinfónica de Maracaibo (Venezuela) and Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Caracas (Venezuela). Bill Warnick was named Visiting Professor of Horn and Chamber Music at Bethune-Cookman University in 2011 and participated in the Gateways Music Festival in 1995, 2013, and 2015.

Adrian Walker, violin

Aug 18, 2017