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.

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.