Monday, September 15, 2008

WRCJ Presents Thomas Wilkins, Resident Conductor of Detroit Symphony, on Black Composers

If you listen to WRCJ-FM in Detroit or online you may have heard the Detroit Symphony's Resident Conductor Thomas Wilkins yesterday on DSO Unmasked: Behind the Score. If not, you are still in luck, because this episode, which first aired on Feb. 17, 2008, can be heard on demand anytime. Maestro Wilson explains that the Detroit Symphony's Classical Roots concerts began 30 years ago, in 1978.  Wilkins begins his discussion of Black Classical composers with the advice of Antonin Dvorak, who in 1892 told American composers that in order to create classical music which was truly American, they should make use of the wealth of material found in African American Spirituals. Maestro Wilkins then turns to William Grant Still, whose Afro-American Symphony is sampled. Wilkins goes on to discuss Ulysses Kay, George Walker, Paul Freeman and Duke Ellington, and even refers to the historical importance of the Afro-French composer Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799).
“Thomas Wilkins
Thomas Wilkins is Music Director of the Omaha Symphony, Resident Conductor of the Detroit Symphony, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He was appointed as Music Director of the Omaha Symphony in 2005, and 2007/2008 marked his second season with the orchestra while the 2007/2008 season marked his eighth season as Resident Conductor of the Detroit Symphony. In March of 2008 he was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra for two seasons, making him the first person to hold a title with that ensemble since its founder, John Mauceri, retired after 16 years in 2006. Past positions have included Resident Conductor of the Florida Orchestra (Tampa Bay), and Associate Conductor of the Richmond (VA) Symphony. He served on the music faculties of North Park University (Chicago); the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.”

A native of Norfolk, VA, Thomas Wilkins earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in 1978, where he now returns each summer to serve as Orchestral Conductor for that institution’s summer performing arts camp. In 1982 he was awarded the Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.” 

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