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.

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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.

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.
 

Lester Lynch, baritone

Feb 11, 2020

  Lester Lynch, an established dramatic baritone, is making his mark in some of the world’s leading opera houses. Known for his charismatic portrayals and commanding voice, he is receiving rave reviews as he masters some of the most important baritone roles from Scarpia to Rigoletto to Count di Luna.

Brandie Sutton, soprano

Feb 11, 2020

  Hailed by The New York times for her "warm, ample voice" and "distinctive earthy coloring," and by Opera News for her "sumptuos, mid-weight soprano," Ms. Sutton first embraced classical music during her undergraduate studies at Oakwood University where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with a concentration in voice. She now holds a Master in Music degree from The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Isaiah Jackson, conductor

Feb 5, 2020

Jackson founded the Juilliard String Ensemble and was its first conductor 1970-71. He was associate or assistant conductor with the American Symphony Orchestra (1970-71) where he worked with Leopold Stokowski; the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1971-73); and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (1973-87). He was appointed music director of the Flint Symphony Orchestra (Flint, Michigan) in 1982, the first black music director of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in 1987 , and principal conductor of The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, in 1986, and became its music director 1987-90.

https://www.mercurynews.com/

Conductor Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland Symphony in California, will make his San Francisco Symphony debut April 30-May 2, 2020. Morgan will bring a whole new program to the symphony.  The concert will include a performance of Florence Price's 1940 Symphony No. 3, the first local performance of Carlos Simon's 2019 work AMEN! as well as Brahms' Alto Rhapsody with mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson, and Franck's The Cursed Huntsman.

https://www.classical915.org/

February of each year is designated as Black History Month and throughout the month Classical 91.5 hosts will be introducing you to composers, performers and conductors of African descent past and present.  We are also building a resource of musicians of color on our website, On Demand at Classical Musicians of African Descent (CMAD). These pages are a work in progress and we look forward to adding new musicians of color to our resource throughout the year.

Lena Fankhauser, viola

Jan 29, 2020

Lena Fankhauser is a native of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. At age 12 she attended the Yehudi Menuhin School in England and studied violin. She attended the Young Artists Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying with David Cerone before receiving both her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School which she attended on full scholarship. Her postgraduate studies took place at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Thomas Riebl. 

Jordan Bak, viola

Jan 29, 2020
Dario Acosta

“A star in the making,” (Seattle Pi) Jamaican-American violist Jordan Bak is establishing a career as an artist of passion, energy, and authenticity in the recital and chamber music arenas. Considered one of the most outstanding musicians of his generation, Bak is a winner of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, the recipient of the 2019 Samuel Sanders Tel Aviv Museum Prize and the 2019 John White Special Prize from the Tertis International Viola Competition. Bak is also a Sphinx Competition alum and Sphinx MPower Artist Grant Recipient.

Alfred Walker, bass-baritone

Jan 29, 2020

The bass-baritone recently triumphed as the title role in Der fliegende Holländer at Theater Basel and returned to the company for his first performances of both Amfortas in Parsifal and Amonasro in Aida. Other recent performances include Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde at Angers Nantes Opera and Opéra de Dijon; his first performances of Wotan in Das Rheingold with North Carolina Opera; Méphistophélès in Berlioz’s La damnation du Faust at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago; the title role of Der fliegende Holländer with Oper Köln, Seattle Opera, Théâtre de Caen, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg Boston Lyric Opera, and the Wagner Geneva Festival; the title role of Josh Gibson in the world premiere of Sonenberg’s The Player King with Pittsburgh Opera; Pizarro in Fidelio with Caramoor International Music Festival; Bluebeard in Bluebeard’s Castle with the New Japan Philharmonic; Amonasro in Aida with Utah Opera; Creonte in Medea with the Opéra national de Lorraine; Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann with Komische Oper Berlin and Den Norske Opera; and Il Prologo in Gnecchi’s Cassandra with the Deutsche Oper Berlin. 

Donovan Singletary, bass-baritone

Jan 29, 2020

  Bass-Baritone Donovan Singletary has been praised by Opera News for his “bright baritone.” He lit up the concert stage in performances with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonic, the Latvian National Opera, the Orchestra Lamourez in Paris, and The Metropolitan Opera for their “Summer in the Parks” concert series.  He made his debut at Carnegie Hall in Mark Hayes’ Te Deum and returned there to sing Fauré’s Requiem and Haydn’s Paukenmesse.  In addition, he traveled to Vienna as a representative for the George London Foundation.    Mr.

Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone

Jan 29, 2020

Praised by Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times for his “robust voice” and Anne Midgette of The Washington Post as an artist “fully ready for a big career,” bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green is quickly establishing himself as an artist of international demand at the world’s leading opera houses. In the 2018 – 2019 season Mr. Green returns to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the King in Aida, conducted by Nicola Luisotti and broadcast to theaters around the world as part of the Met’s Live in HD program, and for a reprise of Colline in La bohème. Mr.

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