Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sergio Mims: Detroit Free Press: 'Leonard Slatkin: How African Americans changed classical music'

Awadagin Pratt (V. Richard Haro)

Sergio Mims sends this link:

Leonard Slatkin
Guest Writer
February 22, 2014

I have been working on a new chapter of a book about the challenges faced by the classical music industry. 

In their time, Beethoven and Haydn were both described as Moors. The former wrote some of his most significant music for the black violinist George Bridgetower. Before that, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges was France’s most prominent black composer. And in England, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor had considerable success with a work he wrote entitled “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.”
As classical music began to establish roots in America, more and more black musicians began to explore alternative styles and genres in which to express their individuality. Scott Joplin, William L. Dawson and Ulysses Kay were among the pioneers in the compositional world. Performers such as Dean Dixon, Leo Brouwer and Paul Freeman became role models for the young black musicians who would follow in their path-breaking mold.
Today, we can find more and more African-American musicians working in the classical music arena. Denyce Graves, James Lee III, Awadagin Pratt and Eric Owens are among those whose names grace the stages of the most prestigious musical institutions throughout the world. American conservatories continue to be beacons of inclusiveness, and one can see diversity in action at the Juilliard School in New York, Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia or Colburn School in Los Angeles.
For 35 years, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has paid tribute to the contributions of African Americans in what might be termed non-ephemeral music. Classical Roots celebrates a variety of styles and genres that are a shared musical experience.  It has been my honor to lead several of these concerts. The DSO will welcome that most distinguished of artists, Kathleen Battle, who will be the featured soloist in selections of songs and spirituals. 

Leonard Slatkin is the conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

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