Sunday, February 20, 2011

Georgetown U.: Rufus Jones Jr. writing book on 'Dean Dixon, the first African American to lead' N.Y. Philharmonic

[“Rufus Jones Jr., an assistant professor of music at Georgetown, is working on a book on the late Dean Dixon, the first African American to lead the New York Philharmonic.”]

“February 17, 2011 – Rufus Jones Jr., an assistant professor of music, wants his students to know about the successful African American classical music conductors that have largely been ignored by history. 'In the early 20th century most American impresarios would not accept the reality of a black conductor actually having the intellectual dexterity needed to lead a professional orchestra,' Jones says. 'Without exposing these conductors to as wide an audience as possible, people would never know about these incredibly talented African Americans.' Now an experienced conductor and the editor of the Journal of the Conductors Guild, Jones says he enjoys bringing African American composers to life in his books, in class and on stage.

“Black Composers
In 2009, Jones edited his first book, The Collected Folk Suites of William Grant Still. The book puts to modern notation the works of the first African American big band composer leading a professional orchestra. William Grant Still Music, a publishing company run by Still’s heirs, commissioned the book. Now Jones is working on a book-length project on the late Dean Dixon, the first African American and the youngest conductor of any race to lead the New York Philharmonic. 'Dixon left the United States in 1949 after realizing that if he remained, the color of his skin would prevent him from achieving his ultimate goal,' Jones explains. 'He went on to conduct major orchestras in Europe and Australia.'

“Piano, Viola, Horns
Classical music has been a part of Jones’ life for almost as long as he can remember. 'I was exposed to the music in school and found that it really appealed to me,' says Jones, the former music director/conductor of the Washington Sinfonietta. After studying the piano, Jones picked up the viola, then the baritone horn. As a college sophomore he realized he wanted to conduct. PBS had recently broadcast a joint concert by the Israeli and the New York Philharmonic orchestras, the intensity of which he says 'spoke to me in a profound way.' [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

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