Updated: Nov 11
In a predominately white field, you would be forgiven for thinking that there were no black classical musicians. But that is far from true; the spotlight rarely falls on them. According to the New York Times, there are under 2% of black players in America's orchestras. There are countless stories of black people succeeding in industries like tech and finance, but are the black musicians in classical music? Get to know five black classical musicians in this article.
Jessie Montgomery is a composer and violinist. The daughter of a musician and a theater artist, she was influenced by art and music at an early age. Today, this reflects her musical style, as she combines classical music with social justice, improvisation, and language. Montgomery has been selected by the New York Philharmonic to be one of the featured composers for Project 19 and won the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation.
Roderick Cox is an American-born conductor based in Berlin. He has been lauded as a trailblazer by media outlets. He has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Houston Grand Opera, Cleveland Orchestra, and the Philharmonic Orchestra in London. He recently founded the Roderick Cox Music Initiative (RCMI) to help support young musicians of color. The initiative covers the costs of instruments, music lessons, and summer camps.
Latonia Moore is a classical singer who sings soprano. She began her studies at the University of North Texas, where she initially planned to study jazz music. However, she was convinced to study classical music by one of her teachers. Since then, Moore has performed for the New York City Opera, the San Diego Opera, and Opera Australia. She has also won a host of awards and prizes, including one for Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions in 2000.
Monica Ellis is a bassoonist. Her father was a jazz saxophonist, so it's no surprise that she also pursued a career in music. Ellis played the piano, clarinet, and saxophone when she was younger. She studied at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, receiving a Bachelor in Music degree. She is a member of Imani Winds, a wind quintet that was nominated for a Grammy in 2006.
Anthony McGill is the principal clarinet player at the New York Philharmonic. He is also the first African-American principal player who has been praised for his talent and skill. After graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, McGill has performed with different orchestras across North America, including the Metropolitan Opera, where he served as the principal clarinet.
These five musicians are breaking down barriers faced by black classical musicians. They have many accolades and performances to their names, proving that a black musician can have a thriving classical music career. To hear black talent in classical music performances, the Color of Music Festival is where you can see several black classical musicians perform. Next year's festival will be held between the 3rd to the 6th of February 2021, in Charleston South Carolina, which gives you plenty of time to book your ticket. You won't regret it!
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