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

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.

Ralph Barrett, percussion

Aug 4, 2017

A native of the Philadelphia area, Ralph Barrett holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Millersville University, PA, a Master in Music from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from University of South Carolina. Barrett served in the United States Navy for 28 years as a percussionist and an Officer Bandmaster. His performing and recording credits include the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, Natalie Cole, Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, and The Washington Winds.

Beverly Baker, viola

Aug 4, 2017

  In 1983, Ms. Baker joined the Virginia Symphony as a section player. In 1987, she was appointed assistant principal viola. She won the principal position in 1994 and currently holds that position with the symphony as well as the Virginia Opera. The Virginia Symphony made its Carnegie Hall debut in 1997, and Ms. Baker performed with her colleagues on NBC's Today Show. She performs regularly with the Virginia Chamber Players and was invited to perform Harold in Italy with the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra in North Dakota. Beverly is also a member of the Ambrosia Quartet.

Amadi Azikiwe, viola

Aug 4, 2017

Amadi Azikiwe, violist, violinist and conductor, has been heard in recital in major cities throughout the United States, including an appearance at the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Azikiwe has also been a guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at the Alice Tully Hall in New York. He has appeared in recital at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, the International Viola Congress, and at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has performed in Israel, Canada, South America, Central America, Switzerland, India, Japan, Nigeria, Hong Kong, and the Caribbean.

Jennifer Arnold, viola

Aug 4, 2017

Jennifer Arnold earned a Professional Studies Degree in viola performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2005, where she also obtained a bachelor’s of music in 2003. Jennifer is a member of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and was a semi-finalist in the 1998, 2001, and 2003 Sphinx Competitions for Black and Latino String Players. She has performed with several orchestras in Carnegie Hall as a member of the New York String Seminar with Jaime Laredo; the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra; and the Paquito D’Rivera Celebration Concert as a member of YOA. 

Hassan Anderson, oboe

Aug 4, 2017

Hassan Anderson is a soloist, chamber musician, and teacher. Since 2011, Mr. Anderson has been the oboist of the New York-based chamber music ensemble SHUFFLE Concert. Amongst his numerous guest appearances with distinguished ensembles are performances with the American Ballet Theater, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, East Coast Contemporary Ensemble (ECCE), and Harlem Chamber Players. Mr. Anderson currently serves as Assistant Conductor of the New Jersey City University Orchestra. Juilliard MAP Faculty since 2014.

Tia Allen, viola

Aug 4, 2017

Tia Allen has performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Radio City Music Hall and Metropolitan Museum. She is a fellowship member of Spoleto Festival in Charleston and a six-summer veteran of the Aspen Music festival. She performs with the Harlem Chamber players and the MUNY Program. She received her BM and MM in performance from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. She also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and received a Professional Studies certificate in Performance and a Professional Graduate Diploma in the Orchestral Performance Program.

Lucinda Ali-Landing, viola

Aug 4, 2017

Lucinda E. Ali-Landing, violinist and founder of the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, began her studies at age six, with her father, James Holland, a violinist/violist. She began with Suzuki studies, which was still relatively new in North America in the early 1970s. After studying for one year with her father, she then studied with Sarah Deneen and later Donna Ross. As a child, Lucinda was the concertmaster of the orchestra at the Music Center of the North Shore for three consecutive years.  Lucinda is a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta.


  Ifetayo Ali, 14, is the 2017 Junior winner of the Sphinx Competition. She began her musical studies on
violin when she was able to stand. At age 3, she decided that she preferred the mellow sounds of the cello
and begged her mother to switch. She was allowed to switch at age 4. Her teachers and coaches have
been Lucinda Ali Landing, Megan Lauterbach, Martine Benmann at the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, Tahirah
Whittington, Oleksa Mycyk, and Hans Jørgen Jensen. She has also studied with teachers at summer music

“I think the most important thing is: we need to make sure that we encourage music, and arts in general, solely for the sake of music and art. Because it’s the other part of human life that needs to be stimulated.

If all we give our kids are “how many AP classes can we cram into our high school schedule, how many activities can we do throughout the day,” and never give them the side of artistic stimulation that allows them to express and process them world around them, we’re really doing them a disservice.

Sean Jefferson is a drummer who taught for a couple years in public schools, then went out on his own as a private music teacher.   He spoke to Mona Seghatoleslami about an often overlooked part of learning music.  

If you know how to physically move with your instrument, you get the most out of it with the least effort, and you make the instrument work for you, rather than you working for the instrument.

Sean Jefferson is the founder of the Rochester Contemporary School of Music.