Classical 91.5

Classical Musicians of African Descent

WXXI Classical 91.5 is in the process of building a resource of photos and brief biographical information about musicians of African descent. This resource is by no means complete, and we rely on you to help us build the site by sharing your information. Please click on the alphabetical groupings below to begin your discovery.

Search for Artist by Last Name:
A-E    F-J    K-O    P-T    U-Z

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.

The Classical Musicians of African Descent (CMAD) pages 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 classical@wxxi.org.

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.
 

https://www.facebook.com/

As the 2020 Gateways Music Festival launches its first-ever all-virtual festival, WXXI Classical celebrates the week with a tribute program featuring all music from black composers, including Adolphus Hailstork, Florence Price and Michael Abels. We'll also hear a unique arrangement of the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," all performed by the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra recorded live at the Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York in August 2019.

Life as a Black Classical Pianist

Aug 12, 2020
Provided

Editor’s note:  Canadian pianist Luke Welch says he feels like a unicorn in the world of classical music.  Luke was born and grew up in Mississauga, Ontario. He played his first public performance at age seven.  He’s passionate, talented, and sometimes bewildered by how he’s been treated.  I hope his account of his experiences will move you as much as it moves me.  ~ Brenda Tremblay

Luke Welch, pianist

Jul 8, 2020
https://harryjeromeawards.com/

Award-winning Canadian pianist Luke Welch was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and grew up nearby in Mississauga. He graduated from Western University in Canada with Bachelor and Master of Music degrees, and completed additional graduate studies in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

https://www.musicbyblackcomposers.org/2017/08/25/undine-smith-moore/

The granddaughter of slaves, Undine Smith Moore’s first musical memories were of the Morningstar Baptist Church in Jarratt, Virginia. She received a scholarship from the Julliard School to study music at Fisk University, and later studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School. Undine was a co-founder of the Black Music Center at Virginia State College, and today she is known as the “Dean of Black Women Composers.”

Ayanna Witter-Johnson, cello

Feb 26, 2020

  Singer, songwriter, cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson is a rare exception to the rule that classical and alternative r&b music cannot successfully coexist.

Astrid Schween, cello

Feb 26, 2020
Steve J. Sherman

  Cellist Astrid Schween has gained a rich following and enjoys a varied career as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher. Since joining the Juilliard String Quartet in 2016, she has appeared at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Wigmore Hall, Yamaha Hall in Tokyo, and in Hong Kong, Singapore, Greece, China, Spain, Scandinavia and throughout the US, with concerts at the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, New York’s 92nd Street Y, Ravinia, Tanglewood and the Kennedy Center.

Roderick Cox, conductor

Feb 26, 2020

  Winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award by the U.S Solti Foundation, German based American conductor, Roderick Cox, has been praised as a conductor who is “paving the way” (NBC News) and recognized as a “trailblazer…a conductor who will be amongst the vanguard” (Minnesota StarTribune).

Ashley Jackson, harp

Feb 19, 2020

  Praised for her rhythmic precision and dynamic range, harpist Dr. Ashley Jackson enjoys a multifaceted career as a highly sought-after musician and collaborator in New York and beyond. As a highly versatile artist, she has developed a unique "groove beyond gentility" on her instrument (I Care If You Listen).

Jonathan Bailey Holland, composer

Feb 19, 2020

Jonathan Bailey Holland (b. 1974, Flint, MI) was influenced early on by his grandfather’s baby grand piano and his father’s record collection, which contained everything from Miles Davis to Bootsy Collins, G. F. Handel, Sergio Mendes, Michael Jackson, Kenny Rogers, and more. Holland draws inspiration from classical, jazz, hip-hop, and other musical genres, as well as from visual art, architecture, poetry, dramatic works, and contemporary events. Early studies of piano, trumpet, tuba, and double-bass led him to Interlochen Arts Academy, where he discovered music composition.

Pages