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

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.

Eric Owens, bass-baritone

Jan 29, 2020

Bass-baritone Eric Owens has a unique reputation as an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music. Equally at home in orchestral, recital, and operatic repertoire, Mr. Owens brings his powerful poise, expansive voice, and instinctive acting faculties to stages around the world.

Latonia Moore, soprano

Jan 29, 2020

  Praised as “richly talented” by the New York Times, American soprano Latonia Moore returned to the Metropolitan Opera in the 2019-2020 season to sing Serena in a new production of the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess which is broadcast as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, and which the New York Times noted she “stopped the show...from almost vibrato-less, celestial high stretches to chilling, chesty low phrases, all of which she sang grippingly.” Ms.

Janai Brugger, soprano

Jan 29, 2020
Dario Acosta

A former winner in 2012 of Placido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia competition and of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, American soprano, Janai Bruggerbegins the 2015-16 season as Michaela Carmen at Washington National Opera, and sings the role again later in the season at Lyric Opera of Kansas.

Golda Schultz, soprano

Jan 29, 2020
Dario Acosta

Born in South Africa, trained at New York’s Juilliard School and the Opernstudio of Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, soprano Golda Schultz has enjoyed success after success in the first seasons of her professional career and has already been firmly established on both sides of the Atlantic as one of today’s most exciting young artists.

Elizabeth Llewellyn, soprano

Jan 29, 2020
Frances Marshall

Specialising in the Italian repertoire, Elizabeth’s roles include Puccini and Verdi – Madama Butterfly, Magda La Rondine, Giorgetta Il  Tabarro, Tosca, Suor Angelica; Aida, Luisa Miller, and Amelia Simon Boccanegra for which Elizabeth was nominated for “Singer of the Year 2013” in OpernWelt. In 2014, she also made her Wagner debut as Elsa Lohengrin in Germany.

Briana Elyse Hunter, mezzo-soprano

Jan 29, 2020

Briana Hunter has been hailed by Opera News as “a mesmerizing mezzo-soprano with a fiery theatrical presence and dynamic vocalism.” Following her acclaimed performances creating the role of Mother in Jeanine Tesori’s Blue at the Glimmerglass Festival, she reprised the role for her debut at the Washington National Opera. A graduate of the Gerdine Young Artist Program, she returned to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for her role debut as Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus.

Brianna J Robinson, soprano

Jan 29, 2020

Soprano Brianna J. Robinson is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University with degrees in Vocal Music Performance and Black World Studies. She received her master’s degree in Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music in May of 2018.

Veena Akama-Makia, mezzo-soprano

Jan 29, 2020

Arkansas-born mezzo-soprano Veena Akama-Makia received her Masters in Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music as a student of Professor Kathryn Cowdrick. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she sang leading roles in their productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors (Menotti), Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck), and A Hand of Bridge (Barber).

Angel Blue, soprano

Jan 29, 2020

Recognized for her beautiful timbre and stunning stage presence, soprano Angel Blue's voice has been hailed for its shining, agile upper register and "smoky" middle register. A regular BBC Proms presenter who is equally at home on the concert or operatic stage, Angel is quickly establishing herself as one of the best singers in her generation, having performed in over 35 countries in the last 6 years.