Wednesday, October 27, 2010

City Beat: Nokuthula Ngwenyama acquires violin 'crafted by Freeman Adams Oliver, a former slave'

[Nokuthula Ngwenyama]

Nokuthula Ngwenyama will perform in the Clarion Concerts "Leef Peeper" series on 10.30.10 at 8 PM in Columbia County, New York. The concert involves the pioneering African American violinist Sanford Allen and cellist Astrid Schween. Sanford Allen was the first Black musician to hold a permanent position in the New York Philharmonic. He was appointed Director of the Clarion Concerts after the death of Newell Jenkins, their founder, according to

City Beat
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
By Brian Baker
“As it stands now, there is barely any free time in the schedule of violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama. The married mother of two is a world-class instrumentalist and teacher with a constantly full slate of concert appearances and recording sessions, and the juggling necessary to balance it all could be considered just another of her many skills. Those skills will be put to the test when Ngwenyama comes to Cincinnati for a two-week whirlwind visit, the result of her being named the Taft Museum’s 2010 Duncanson Artist in Residence.”

“Ngwenyama becomes the 24th recipient of the Duncanson residency, a program that was established in 1986 as a tribute to the relationship between African-American artist Robert S. Duncanson and his patron, prominent Cincinnatian Nicholas Longworth, and to honor the accomplishments of artists of African American heritage across the broad spectrum of the creative arts. Ngwenyama, of Zimbabwean/Japanese descent, will be utilizing her full range of talents during her residency, giving public performances, conducting workshops and performing educational outreach during her two-week stay in the city. (Her public schedule is available at”

“Her husband, a violin dealer and collector, has just acquired an instrument crafted by Freeman Adams Oliver, a former slave and respected violin maker who opened a shop in Boston after the Civil War and was patronized by members of the Boston Symphony, among many others. 'I cannot wait to get my hands on that instrument,' Ngwenyama says with unrestrained glee. 'Yet again, here you have someone who was very successful at the turn of the century, probably a violinist himself, who had a lot of patronage and yet people don’t really talk about him today. So I’m hoping I can play some of the concerts on that instrument, which would be just amazing.'

“Ngwenyama is planning a good deal of traditional Classical programming for her concert and recital schedule, but she’s also weaving in a number of works by African-American composers, in keeping with the spirit and legacy of the residency. 'I think it’s really important that we highlight that as well,' Ngwenyama says. 'I’ll be playing some works by a living composer named Adolphus Hailstork and the Anglo-African composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, and I have some arrangements of some spirituals that I’ve programmed. But I’m going to throw some Brahms and some Kreisler in there; I’m trying to do nice, balanced programs.'”

Performance Schedule from Performer's Website

Clarion Concerts
10.30.10 8 PM
Columbia County, NY
Concert with violinist Sanford Allen and cellist Astrid Schween

2010 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence, Cincinnati, Ohio

Taft Museum of Art
11.04.10 6-8 PM

Taft Museum of Art
11.07.10 2-3 PM
Family Concert Strings and Things

Allen Temple A.M.E. Church
11.11.10 7 PM
Recital with pianist Sandra Rivers

Taft Museum of Art
11.14.10 2 PM
Recital with pianist Sandra Rivers

Cosmos Club
11.17.10 8 PM
Washington DC
[Nokuthula Ngwenyama is profiled at, as are Adolphus C. Hailstork (b. 1941) and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). Her personal website is]

Comment by email:
Hi Bill, I especially enjoyed the story about Freeman Adams Oliver. For me, it's always interesting to learn more about our history. I'm also intrigued by discovering people with the last name, 'Oliver'. My maternal great-grandfather was, Marshall Oliver. He was born about 1876 in Georgia or perhaps Alabama. U.S. Census records vary. He visited us in Michigan when I was about 8 years old and we visited him in Illinois, where he lived out his elder years at my maternal grandmother's home. I recall that he could not read or write and as a child found that very strange. He was always delighted when my sister, Cathy, and I used to read stories to him. I was too young to understand much about his background and would not have known the questions to ask. Through, I recently located a copy of his World War I Draft Record and saw 'his mark' on the signature line.

“I also recall Nokuthula Ngwenyama's first appearance at the Kennedy Center and have enjoyed watching her career blossom. I'm delighted to hear of her residency at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati. Cathy and I have spent many summers at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music's Annual Classical Guitar Workshop. My most vivid memory of the Museum's artifacts was that of President Taft's cradle. As always, I deeply appreciate your continued dedication to this website. All best, Phyllis Fleming”

1 comment:

msladydeborah said...

This is really a very interesting story. Thanks for sharing the information.