Sunday, July 24, 2011
[Blanche Burton-Lyles, Founder of Marian Anderson Residence Museum]
Posted on Sun, Jul. 24, 2011
By David Patrick Stearns
Inquirer Classical Music Critic
“In a city with much music and many African American musicians, the National Association of Negro Musicians, whose national convention begins here Sunday, shouldn't seem like such a secret. Were it not for the 92-year-old organization, the early careers of the late, legendary Marian Anderson, as well as the very much alive mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, might well have been harder.” “So if there's extra excitement around Center City's Doubletree Hotel this weekend, it's because NANM is using it as its convention nerve center though Monday. (The concluding gala concert, featuring Simpson and numerous well-known singers such as Donnie Ray Albert and Marquita Lister, will be Monday at North Philadelphia's Bright Hope Baptist Church.)”
“One member currently being boosted by the organization is the young Philadelphia pianist Dynasty Battles, a longtime Settlement Music School student who won last year's NANM competition and has recently finished his first year at Temple University. If there's one thing that tells him his talent is worth developing, it's that the African American composer George Walker's Piano Sonata No. 1, generally considered to be challenging, almost feels easy to him, 'as if I'm playing something out of my own life experience.'" “Battles will perform during the convention under the watchful eye of pianist Blanche Burton-Lyles, one of the guild's venerable members, who is being honored for her decades of service to the Philadelphia community.
“Now in her 70s, she discovered while growing up in Philadelphia that she had perfect pitch and went on to become the first African American woman to graduate from the Curtis Institute and to perform as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic. While she has plenty of music chops, she's something of an attitude-adjustment counselor - or, as Simpson calls her, 'a finishing school for when you think you're already finished.'" “One of the local guild's main philosophical beacons is the iconic Anderson, whose memory is kept alive by Burton-Lyles' creation of the Marian Anderson Residence Museum at 762 Martin St.” [George Walker (b. 1922) has a website at: http://georgetwalker.com/ and is featured at AfriClassical.com]