The African American conductor and violinist John McLaughlin Williams (JMW) has made a comment on an AfriClassical post, “Leslie Dunner & Kirk Edward Smith Conduct Works of Mary Watkins & Olly Wilson for CBMR/Albany CD.” JMW writes: “I should add that the First Violinist for the recording of Olly Wilson's Of Visions & Truth was Sanford Allen. Allen is notable for his effortless violin virtuosity and for his being the first African-American musician to be made a member of the New York Philharmonic in 1962. He is also the soloist on the classic Columbia recording of Roque Cordero's Violin Concerto, released decades ago as part of that label's pioneering and visionary Black Composers Series.” His Biography as Sphinx Competition Jury Chair of 2004 reads:
“Sanford Allen - Jury ChairViolinist Sanford Allen was appointed Director of the Clarion Concerts in Columbia County's Leaf Peeper Series after the death of its founder Newell Jenkins. Mr. Allen started his study of the violin at the age of seven and entered the Juilliard School of Music at age ten, continuing at the Mannes College of Music under Mme. Vera Fonaroff. In 1962 he became the first black musician ever to become a regular member of the New York Philharmonic. Regarding his recording of Cordero's violin concerto with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Strad magazine said: 'Its virtuoso challenges are thrillingly met by Sanford Allen - a fabulous player who was, incidentally, the first African-American to gain a regular place with the New York Philharmonic in 1962. Despite the challenging nature of the writing, the listener's attention is held effortlessly throughout due largely to the extraordinary commitment and finesse of Allen's playing. Indeed the intensity generated by this impassioned performance is nothing short of overwhelming. Well worth seeking out'. His solo appearances with orchestra have included the Quebec, Baltimore, and Detroit Symphonies and the New York Philharmonic. He served on the advisory panel of the New York State Arts Council and was also a member of the Executive Board of the Kennedy Center National Black Music Colloquium and Competition. In 1998, Mr. Allen gave a premiere performance of Sir Roland Hanna's Sonata for Violin and Piano at the Kennedy Center in Washington, joined by the composer.