Saturday, May 21, 2022

Arts Engines: Aaron Dworkin Interviews Composer & Citizen Artist, Gabriela Lena Frank!

Welcome to this week's episode of Arts Engines which now reaches over 100,000 weekly viewers in partnership with Detroit Public Television, Ovation TV, The Violin Channel and American Public Media including Performance Today and YourClassical. Arts Engines seeks to share the most valuable advice and input from arts administrators who tell their stories of creative problem-solving, policy, economic impact, crisis management and empowering the future of our field.

This week's show is co-curated by our Creative Partner, the Philadelphia Orchestra and our guest is Gabriela Lena Frank, Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Recipient of the Heinz Award, Winner of a Latin Grammy and Recipient of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, as she speaks about the role of an artist citizen.  Enjoy... and have a creative week!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Prairie View A&M University Flag To Head To Outer Space On Boeing Spacecraft

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas (May 18, 2022) – Prairie View A&M University, along with 13 other Boeing HBCU recruiting partners’ paraphernalia, will be sent to outer space aboard Orbital Flight Test-2 on Thursday, May 19. Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft is set to launch at approximately 6:54 p.m. Eastern time from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Live broadcasts of the launch will be shared on NASA TV.

Click here for more information about Orbital Flight Test-2.



Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Damien Geter, Native of Chesterfield County, to have Premiere of his work at The Kennedy Center 7 PM Monday, May 23

Damien Geter

An African American Requiem Graphic

Scott Tucker, Artistic Director, Choral Arts

Nolan Williams NEWorks

Choral Arts Society of Washington


Chesterfield County, Virginia native and acclaimed composer Damien Geter set to have his "An African American Requiem" receive its East Coast Premiere at The Kennedy Center.

Following its world premiere by the west coast based Resonance Ensemble, Geter's work will be performed on Monday, May 23, 2022 in collaboration The Choral Arts Society of Washington.

The Choral Arts Society of Washington will present the East Coast premiere and recording of South Chesterfield County, Virginia native Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem in collaboration with Oregon’s Resonance Ensemble. The concert will take place on Monday, May 23, 2022 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. This setting of the requiem piece is drawn  from traditional Latin text and has been in the works for the last several years. It is a bold and thought-provoking musical response to racial violence against African Americans in the United States.

Growing up in Virginia, his artistic style was molded and influenced as a Black male growing up in the rural South.   To have this important work performed in the Nation's Capital at The Kennedy Center not too far from his hometown, Geter considers this as a marked and important occasion.  Additionally, he views it as a homecoming for him to showcase classical music to the Black community, a segment of the population that has long been excluded from the genre.

The work is a 20-movement piece that memorializes Black American victims of lynching, hanging, and other racial violence perpetuated throughout our country’s history. The infusion of Black vernacular, spirituals, and modern declarations enhances the traditional Latin requiem used for the body of work. Listeners will experience a setting of Ida B. Wells’s speech “Lynching is Color-Line Murder”; the famous last words of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe”; and spirituals like “There’s A Man Goin’ Round” and “Kumbaya.” 

An African American Requiem was commissioned by Resonance Ensemble in 2017 and was originally set to premiere in April of 2020. Because of the pandemic shutdowns, the world premiere occurred on May 7, 2022, in Portland, Oregon at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.   Resonance's Artistic Director Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon spoke about the composition's early inception:  “When we commissioned An African American Requiem, we had no idea the path we were about to embark on. Damien’s work is extraordinary and moving, and it’s exciting to see how audiences, community partners, and arts organizations across the country are coming together to watch his vision come to’s exciting to be able to perform it again so soon in the East Coast premiere. We are grateful for this incredible collaboration with Choral Arts as we perform and record Damien’s work at the Kennedy Center together” she concluded.

Artistic Director of Choral Arts Scott Tucker shared about the importance of this new work:  “It has been an honor and privilege to work with Damien Geter and Resonance Ensemble.  “An African American Requiem" has been in the works for a long time and we cannot wait to share it. Music has the power to awe, transform opinions, and evoke change. As we honor the lives of Black women, children, and men who have been killed senselessly in this country, we hope the audience is moved to start conversations about the disparities Black Americans continue to face" he said further.

The East Coast premiere will feature the Choral Arts Symphonic Chorus with Artistic Director Scott Tucker, Resonance Ensemble with Artistic Director FitzGibbon and NEWorks Chorus and Philharmonic Orchestra with Nolan Williams, Jr.

WHEN: Monday, May 23, 2022 | 7 pm
WHERE: The Kennedy Center Concert Hall
COST: Tickets start at $15

Monday, May 16, 2022 "Soprano Latonia Moore Brings Her Vaunted Aida to Los Angeles" May 21 - June 12

Latonia Moore
(Courtesy Latonia Moore)

Victoria Looseleaf on May 15, 2022

She’s outspoken, outrageous, and has an outsized talent. She is Latonia Moore, an African American soprano who makes her Los Angeles Opera debut in the title role of Aida. Onstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for six performances, May 21 – June 12, this production, first seen in 2016 at San Francisco Opera, is directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by LAO music director’s, James Conlon.

While the Texas-born singer made a virtual debut with LAO in an online Living Room Recital in 2020, seeing her in the flesh promises to be something special, as Moore has probably racked up more performances of Verdi’s grandest opera than anyone, with last count somewhere between 150 and 160 times.

Now owning the role, the 43-year-old downhome diva counts hard work, good teachers, and a little bit of luck as part of her success. Indeed, when Moore stepped in for an ailing Violeta Urmana in 2012 at the Metropolitan Opera to tackle the titular role of the Ethiopian princess, The New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini wrote that “her voice was radiant, plush, and sizable at its best, with gleaming top notes that broke through the chorus and orchestra during the crowd scenes.” 

Since then, Moore has sung Aida at major opera houses around the globe, including at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, Teatro Colón, and at Opernhaus Zürich. But Moore’s musical journey began in her home town of Houston, where her grandfather was a preacher and her grandmother played the piano; at age 4 she sang gospel with her sisters, a cousin, and aunt in a group dubbed the Moore Singers.

After high school, Moore attended the University of North Texas, majoring in jazz. But, having found her true calling in opera, she moved east to attend Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. In 1999, the musician made her debut at the Palm Beach Opera — albeit offstage, singing the Celestial Voice in Don Carlo — with competitions soon following, including snagging top honors at the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions in 2000 and scoring first prize in the International Competiziona dell’ Opera in Dresden in 2002.

In a phone conversation, Moore took a deep dive into Aida; how performing at the Met in the new Terence Blanchard opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, changed her; and the power of perseverance. 

You haven’t done an Aida since before the pandemic. How does it feel to be coming back to the opera, and what are your thoughts on the character of Aida?

It has been a minute, but it snaps right back, just because I sang it so many times. When I jumped in to a new production in Hamburg in 2010, I was asked if I could learn it in a week. I said, “I don’t think I can sing it.” But there’s one thing about me — I basically was teaching myself to sight read. I’m excellent and I have perfect pitch. I learn music extremely quickly, which is why I was able to jump in to Aida in a week. 

New World Records: Alvin Singleton - Four String Quartets

Alvin Singleton
Four String Quartets
Momenta Quartet

Alvin Singleton


Momenta Quartet
Emilie-Anne Gendron, Alex Shiozaki, violins; Stephanie Griffin, viola; Michael Haas, cello

Alvin Singleton's (b. 1940) approach to music-making has all along been involved in an interplay with listeners and their psychology. While this does not mean he has been centered on simply pleasing his audiences, his work seems to constantly draw his audience into confronting challenges of listening, and they tend to end up pleased. Therefore, with so many of his pieces, they might be extremely complex and masterfully crafted, but seldom do you feel he presents the listener with something they cannot understand on at least a basic level. When asked recently about why ordinary listeners seem to "get" his music, he answered: "Perhaps because it's structurally filled with surprises, a lot of silences, and spaces in my compositions.…"

Contrasts both big and small, long and short, vigorous and subdued, loud and quiet, are important to his music. Maybe a passage is presented that happens loudly over and over again followed by sudden silence. Suddenly the listener notices how loud that silence seems. In a way, it is the relationship with the listener that he regards as making serious music a serious matter. And his pieces are more than what is normally thought of as just pieces of music. One finds them that, yes, but as much as anything, they are experiences—almost "theatrical" experiences you can hear.

Singleton's string quartets span the arc of his career—the first (untitled) written in 1967, the fourth in 2019—and trace his stylistic evolution as a composer. Suggestively and somewhat enigmatically titled—No. 2 (1988) is Secret Desire to Be Black; No. 3 (1994) is Somehow We Can; No. 4 is Hallelujah Anyhow—they serve as an excellent introduction to his work and constitute a substantial contribution to the string quartet repertoire by one of this country's most distinguished African-American composers. Three of the four quartets are world premiere recordings.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Castle of our Skins is donating 100% of its May Black Composer Miniature Challenge Anthology proceeds to the National Negro Opera House

Castle of our Skins is donating 100% of its May Black Composer Miniature Challenge Anthology proceeds to the National Negro Opera House, one of America's 11 most endangered historic places. 

Read more, purchase below, and help preserve a history worth saving. 

The effort to restore and preserve the National Opera House, a historic landmark located in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, is receiving a helping hand from Castle of Our Skins, a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to amplifying and uplifting Black artistry.

Ashleigh Gordon, artistic and executive director and co-founder of Castle of Our Skins, found out about the National Opera House — formerly known as the National Negro Opera House — when she read an article about it last year.

Gordon wanted to learn more about it and how she could help.

“There is an amnesia that plagues so many things, and certainly as it plagues an awareness of Black excellence and artistry,” she said. “We are in a heightened awareness now, but that moment needs to be extended and habitualized.”

Jonnet Solomon, executive director of the National Opera, bought the house with her friend Miriam White in 2000. Over the years, she has asked for support to preserve the house at 7101 Apple St. in Homewood.

The National Historic Landmark was named as one of Discover America’s 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 1941, musician and educator Mary Cardwell Dawson founded the National Negro Opera Company — the first permanent African-American opera company in the nation. Dawson rented the third floor of the opera house as an office and rehearsal space for the company.

Dawson learned to sing in the church choir and then enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music, the only African American in her class, according to the opera’s website. She earned degrees in voice and piano and continued her studies at the Chicago Musical College in New York with a dream of becoming an opera singer.

When she saw there were no opportunities for African American opera singers, she took it into her own hands to give Black singers opportunities. Some went on to perform in New York, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.

Over time, the organization started to lose money. Dawson died of a stroke in 1962. The opera folded months later. The house received its first historical marker dedication in 1994.

The history behind the house compelled Gordon to plan to donate 100% of sales made during May for Castle Of Our Skin’s “Black Composer Miniature Challenge Anthology Vol. 2” to the house. The digital anthology is a collection of writings of 30-second pieces for solo flute, alto flute, piccolo, harp and/or flute-harp duo.

Gordon saw the opportunity to help highlight the nonprofit and its mission as a natural fit. Castle of Our Skin celebrates Black artistry through music and other arts. The nonprofit is also a concert educational series focused largely on classical music from the African diaspora as well as history, culture and education.

“We need to preserve that history,” Gordon said. “We can’t risk losing anymore history.”

The collaboration was a milestone for Solomon, who said she was excited to have the opera house’s work introduced to a larger network. “This is why we need people telling our stories,” she said.

“We need people advocating to support preservation of this type and historical preservation, and building a legacy and keeping a legacy in the community,” Solomon said. “We need people to advocate and defend it.”

Solomon hopes to restore the house to make it a space to foster talent and to help artists support their brands and businesses.

It requires raising $3 million to restore the house, she said. The nonprofit has managed to raise $2 million so far. Solomon is confident the last $1 million can be fulfilled.

“In the world of fundraising, it is not a lot of money, and it is doable,” she said. “We are hoping to get last thousands of dollars from foundations and the community.”

Preserving the history of the house is Solomon’s driving force.

She said the community’s support has been crucial for the nonprofit. Soloman said it has received more than $500,000 in grants from organizations and foundations.

In April, the Pittsburgh Opera and the National Opera House announced a long-term programmatic and strategic partnership. The partnership includes developing curricula and programming in music education, artistic development and community engagement, according to a press release.

“There are so many people in the city who want to see it happen successfully,” she said.

Once the nonprofit secures a permit for the house, a groundbreaking will be planned, Solomon said.

”That is the next big exciting thing — actually working on the house,” she said.

Donations to the National Opera House can be made at

Ashleigh Gordon (she/her/hers)
Artistic/Executive Director
& Violist - Castle of our Skins
Address: Boston Center for 
the Arts, Studio #206 | 
539 Tremont Street | Boston, 
MA 02116
 | Email: 

Saturday, May 14, 2022 ‘If I can’t join you, then I will lead you’: How Lee broke color barriers on the conductor’s podium

Everett Lee
(Photo: The New York Times)

Face2Face Africa

May 13, 2022

Mildred Europa Taylor

Everett Lee was already a concertmaster leading white theater orchestras when he made Broadway history in 1945. He was appointed music director of Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town” in September 1945, making him the first Black conductor to lead production on Broadway. Per the Chicago Defender, Lee was the first Black conductor “to wave the baton over a white orchestra in a Broadway production.”

Despite racial barriers, he went on to achieve other firsts. In 1953, he conducted the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky — the first time a Black man led a white orchestra in the South. Two years later, Lee conducted the New York City Opera, another first for him. He could have done more but for the racism that Black classical musicians faced in the United States. 

He went on to pursue an amazing career in Europe, holding conducting positions in Germany, Colombia, and Sweden. Lee also made guest appearances in many other parts of the world. While making waves internationally, his desire was to return to the U.S. but he wanted to do so only after he had become the music director of a major orchestra, according to The New York Times.

Born on August 31, 1916, in Wheeling, W.Va., to a barber and a homemaker, Lee started playing violin at eight years old. His musical talent inspired his family to move to Cleveland in 1927, where he became an athlete in junior high and led the Glenville High School orchestra as concertmaster. While working as an elevator operator, he met the Cleveland Orchestra’s conductor, Artur Rodzinski, who started mentoring him.

Lee studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and enlisted in the Army after graduating in 1941. He trained to become a Tuskegee Airman in Alabama but was released after getting injured. In 1943, Lee moved to New York to play in the orchestra for “Carmen Jones,” an Oscar Hammerstein II rewrite of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”. A year later, Lee moved from the concertmaster’s chair to conduct Bizet’s music when the conductor was snowed in, The New York Times said. Then in 1945, as music director of “On the Town”, he made Broadway history amid Jim Crow segregation in performance.

Lee then played in the violin section of the New York City Symphony for Leonard Bernstein and studied conducting in Tanglewood in 1946. 


An early pioneer of African-American conductors in the mid-1900s, Lee passed away in his home in Malmö, Sweden on January 12, 2022, at the age of 105. He is survived by his wife, Christin Lee, their son Erik Lee, and his daughter Dr. Eve Lee, whose mother Sylvia Olden Lee was Lee’s first wife.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "OTSL’s 'Treemonisha' will mark the world premiere of a new, expanded version of Joplin’s original, which was published in 1911"

Jermaine Smith
(By Ken Howard)

Scott Joplin

May 13, 2022

By Daniel Durchholz Special to the Post-Dispatch

Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 2022 Festival Season isn’t underway just yet — its production of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” is still a week away — but the organization has already announced its lineup of operas for 2023.

The season will run from May 20 to June 25 with mainstage productions of Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha,” Puccini’s “Tosca,” Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” and Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah," plus OTSL’s annual Black Music Month Celebration and “Center Stage” young artist showcase.

The productions will be staged at Webster University’s Loretto-Hilton Center. Each of them will feature accompaniment by members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

OTSL’s “Treemonisha” will mark the world premiere of a new, expanded version of Joplin’s original, which was published in 1911 but never staged during his lifetime. The reimagined version features a new prologue and epilogue by composer Damien Sneed and librettist Karen Chilton, who wrote “The Tongue and the Lash” for OTSL’s 2021 “New Works, Bold Voices” lab. “Treemonisha” will be conducted by George Manahan and directed by Charlotte Brathwaite. Performance dates are May 20, 26, June 3, 6, 8, 11, 21 and 24.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Sergio A. Mims: Jonathon Heyward Awarded “Young Talent Award” by 2020/21 UK Critics

Jonathon Heyward

Sergio A. Mims writes:


Conductor Jonathon Heyward was awarded last week with the the “Young Talent Award” by the 2020/21 UK Critics’ Circles Music Awards for triumphantly overcoming the hardships and challenges of the last two years and making significant breakthroughs in his career.

Guy Rickards from The Critics’ Circle writes, “American by birth (from Augusta, Georgia), Jonathon Heyward is proving an indispensable asset to British musical life. In 2020-21, he conducted Hannah Kendall’s The Knife of Dawn at Covent Garden, championed Elgar in Germany, and made a rapturously acclaimed Proms debut with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in a scintillating performance of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti, and a “fast and fearless… exuberant” Eroica conducted from memory. His rapport with the young players was manifest throughout. Equally at home in Stravinsky as in Haydn and Dvořák, Jonathon Heyward seems the complete musician.

Thursday, May 12, 2022 "William Grant Still’s 'Dismal Swamp' (1935) opened last Sunday’s afternoon concert by The Orchestra Now"

William Grant Still (1895-1978)
(Library of Congress)

May 11, 2022

by Kevin T McEneaney

William Grant Still’s Dismal Swamp (1935) opened last Sunday’s afternoon concert by The Orchestra Now at Sosnoff Theater conducted by Leon Botstein in a program focused on unusual rarities from the 1930’s. Still is the first important African American classical composer; I am a fan of Still.

This piano concerto with Frank Corliss from Vassar College at the keys offers an impressionistic mood piece which made me think of Claude Monet’s large tableau paintings of water lilies. The usual situation of a piano concerto pits the strength of the piano in either a dialogue with the orchestra, or a competition with the orchestra.

Here the dialogue created a painterly portrait of melancholy Mississippi landscape with the piano modestly whispering in unusually subdued eloquent elegance at the fingertips of Corliss. The work still lingers hauntingly in my memory due to the subtly smooth playing of the orchestra and the delicacy of Corliss at the keys.