Saturday, March 31, 2018

Renton Community Foundation Honors Key to Change Founder Dr. Quinton Morris

Key to Change Founder and Director Dr. Quinton Morris was recognized this month in the Renton Community Foundation’s League of Extraordinary Givers for his work building our violin studio in South King County. This annual philanthropy award is a tremendous honor given to individuals who use their time and talent to empower the local community in Renton.

"I would like to sincerely thank those who have helped fund the Key to Change Scholarship. It is an amazing opportunity to be practicing with the renowned Dr. Morris and for that, I am forever grateful. He has taught me so many things regarding not just the music we are learning, but various concepts that can also be applied to the real world later on. He has been instrumental in not only the progression of my skills as a violinist, but my character and my mindset on life as well. All of this would not have been possible without the help of the donors. I would like to personally thank all of those who have helped in changing my life for the better."
- Richie Doan, Key to Change Violin Student

"I would like to sincerely thank those who have helped fund the Key to Change Scholarship. It is an amazing opportunity to be practicing with the renowned Dr. Morris and for that, I am forever grateful. He has taught me so many things regarding not just the music we are learning, but various concepts that can also be applied to the real world later on. He has been instrumental in not only the progression of my skills as a violinist, but my character and my mindset on life as well. All of this would not have been possible without the help of the donors. I would like to personally thank all of those who have helped in changing my life for the better."
- David Amador, Key to Change Violin Student
Rachel Barton Pine Residency
Last month world-renowned concert violinist Rachel Barton Pine visited Key to Change to work with students on their violin repertoire. This event was sponsored by our community partner Early Music Seattle, and following the master class 15 of our students and their families attended Pine’s performance of J. S. Bach’s Complete Sonatas and Partitas at Benaroya Hall.

It was a wonderful experience for our students, and for many of them it was their first time seeing a professional violin recital in such a renowned venue!

Nielsen Bolsters The ‘POWER OF SHE’ With Maxine Waters, Mara Brock Akil & Angela Rye in LA

Mara Brock Akil, Creator, Screenwriter, Television Producer and Executive, Akil Productions 
Angela Rye, Principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies 
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 43rd District

Cheryl Grace, SVP of Strategic Community Alliance & Consumer Engagement, Nielsen 
Angela Rye, Principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies 
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 43rd District 
Mara Brock Akil, Creator, Screenwriter, Television Producer and Executive, Akil Productions

Nielsen Presents “A Conversation with Maxine & Mara: When Public Policy and Creative Arts Intersect”

On Friday, March 30, Nielsen gathered more than 300 influential Millennials, Black women and corporate leaders, for The Power of She LA, a half-day conference designed to empower and galvanize citizens and brands to leverage public policy and creativity to advance the causes and/or projects that are most important to the African-American community.  The agenda consisted of multiple panels, headlined by a unique dialogue between Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Mara Brock Akil, creator, television producer and executive at Akil Productions. The conversation was moderated by Angela Rye, political commentator and CEO of Impact strategies.

The event follows Nielsen's recent year-long investigation into the consumer strengths of multicultural women in the company's annual Diverse Intelligence Series reports. The reports provide insights on how multicultural women are the main purchase decision makers in their homes, leaders in education and entrepreneurship, tech enthusiasts and devoted users of social media. To keep the conversation going about multicultural women and their impact on the US economy and pop culture, Nielsen's community engagement and diversity & inclusion teams have hosted client- and industry-focused events in New York and Los Angeles, dubbed ‘The Power of She.’

Cheryl Grace, SVP, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen, opened the midday session with an overview of ‘Our Science, Her Magic,’ Nielsen's 2017 report on African-American women. She paid special attention to how Black women are more likely than total U.S. women to spend three to five hours on social networking sites, and how Black Millennial women (18-34) spend more time using apps and the web on their smartphones than their total U.S. female peers. Grace then shared data on Black women's use of social media to impact social change and catapult beloved products and content into the mainstream. These insights helped set the tone for the dialogue between Congresswoman Waters, Ms. Rye and Ms. Akil.

“Not only does Nielsen data help quantify the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the social movements we’ve seen originate in the Black community, it proves to our clients that when they think about ‘what’s next,’ they need to be considering the power of Black women,” said Grace.  “Our conversation with Maxine and Mara proved that Black women—in tandem with our community leaders—can leverage our insights to affect positive change. It also showed that in order for companies to earn our business, they have to put in the time to truly learn and understand our preferences, desires and stories.”

The key component to the day’s events were concurrent breakout sessions, which took deep dives into three topics designed around Black women's engagement in current political, social and economic trends. The first featured best practices for leveraging social media to impact public policy. Another session featured storytellers and brand developers who advised attendees on the most effective personal storytelling techniques. In the third session, financial experts talked about how building financial literacy can help Black women make healthy consumer choices that work best for them and their families.

Friday, March 30, 2018 André Raphel To Conduct The Philadelphia Orchestra Summer 2018

André Raphel
(Derek Brad)

March 29, 2018

André Raphel returns to the Mann Center of the Performing Arts to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in "A Night of Gershwin" on Friday, July 27, 2018 at 8pm. The All-Gershwin program will include the Cuban Overture, the Piano Concerto in F with Curtis pianist Micah McLaurin, making his Mann Center debut, Porgy and Bess, A Symphonic Picture and also An American in Paris. The concert is the closing of the Philadelphia Orchestra's Mann Center Residency. It will be a return appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra for Raphel who last conducted the Orchestra in 2014 and is a Curtis Institute alumnus.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1898, Gershwin was one of the first American composers to bring jazz and Broadway into the concert halls and opera houses. This program pays tribute to his legacy from An American in Paris to his Concerto in F to his operatic masterpiece, Porgy and Bess.

Tickets are priced at $20 to $65 and available now via (800) 745-3000, or at the Mann Box Office. The doors open at 6pm with an 8pm curtain. The Mann Center for the Performing Arts is located in West Fairmount Park at 5201 Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia and is easily accessible by public transportation, care, rideshare or bike.

About André Raphel
A dynamic and versatile conductor hailed for his profound musical performances, André Raphel is renowned for his technical brilliance. An adventurous programmer, he has also developed a reputation as an orchestra builder. In his fifteenth season as Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, he has led the orchestra in critically acclaimed festivals, world premieres and commissioned works by composers including Richard Danielpour, Kenneth Fuchs, Jennifer Higdon, Avner Dorman and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

Raphel enjoys an active career as guest conductor. In recent seasons he has appeared with the San Antonio Symphony, Toledo Symphony and made his Los Angeles debut conducting at the gala opening of the Broad Museum. He returned to the Philadelphia Orchestra to conduct the world premiere of Uri Caine's Passion of Octavius Catto. Raphel has led the Bamberg Symphony in two recordings for Bayerischer Rundfunk. He has appeared with most of the major American orchestras including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

André Raphel made his European debut with the Neubrandenburger Philarmonie, and has also led the Moravska Philharmonie. In the United States he has appeared with the orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, Seattle, the National Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra among others. He made his Carnegie Hall debut leading Robert Shaw and the Orchestra of St. Luke's in a concert celebrating the centennial of legendary mezzo-soprano Marian Anderson. Raphel's international engagements have further included appearances with the Auckland Philharmonia, Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Columbia and Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica.< 

New York Amsterdam News: Dance Theatre of Harlem spring season sizzles

Dance Theatre of Harlem's 'Dougla'

March 29, 2018

Zita Allen

African drummers fill the air with compelling Caribbean rhythms. Dancers, male and female, appear dressed in floor-length skirts festooned with red balls accenting every movement of their swiveling hips. On the beat, dancers thrust one arm forward wagging an index finger as if to say, “You can’t touch this!” In an instant, we are mesmerized by the rhythmic, color-infused spectacle that is Geoffrey Holder’s masterful “Dougla” created for Dance Theatre of Harlem back in 1974 and now scheduled to be presented during the company’s upcoming City Center Season April 4 to April 7.

It’s been several years since DTH performed “Dougla,” and because Holder died some years back, remounting this dynamic ballet involved a process best described as a family affair.

“‘Dougla’ is genuinely a magnificent work,” said DTH Artistic Director Virginia Johnson. “And, it’s an immensely popular work, so everywhere we go on our extensive touring schedule we get requests for it.”

Because it was created when the DTH Company was a bit larger than it is today, Johnson said it was necessary to figure out how the company could perform “Dougla” in its current configuration. “It’s something I personally wanted to bring back,” she said, noting that the work truly satisfies a sense of spectacle and magnificence and it does so in such a simple way. “Geoffrey’s costumes are gorgeous and there’s a scenic element, with lighting, that creates such a unique atmosphere, so clearly ‘Dougla’ was something we could manage. Also, I certainly enjoyed dancing it all those years.” Kelly Hall Tompkins Announced As CSO [Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra] Artist In Residence

Kelly Hall-Tompkins

March 29, 2018

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is proud to announce its inaugural Classical Roots Artist-in-Residence, acclaimed violinist, Kelly Hall-Tompkins.

Classical Roots is a signature outreach program of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra focused on engaging communities and celebrating African-American musical traditions and musicians who embody exceptional artistry, innovation, commitment to education and community engagement.

Between April 2nd through the 5th, Ms. Hall Tompkins will work with CSO musicians, engaging local students, young musicians and members of the community. She will also work with the CSO/University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Diversity Fellows during her visit.

Ms. Hall-Tompkins' plans include visiting the Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts and Frederick Douglass Elementary School before performing a recital with CSO musicians at First Unitarian Universalist Church on April 5th, at 7 pm. The program will include Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Clarinet Quintet, Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale and music from her latest recording, The Fiddler: Expanding Tradition.

Named as The New York Times' 2017 "New Yorker of the Year" Ms. Hall Tompkins' is forging a dynamic career as a soloist and chamber musician. Her YouTube videos have garnered over 1,472,000 views.

City Gospel Mission will host a performance by Ms. Hall-Tompkins. Her work as a community activist and founder of Music Kitchen, a not-for-profit that takes high-level classical music performances to homeless shelters in New York City. This program has inspired CSO musicians to join her in a production of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale for clients at the City Gospel Mission as part of her residency. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance, Inc.: Calling all HBCU alums STEM Professionals

DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance, Inc. writes:

Calling all HBCU alums STEM Professionals!  

Alumni of HBCUs are concerned about the inadequate representation of minorities in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) related professions. Consequently, the DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance (DCHBCUAA) STEM professionals have designed an interactive hand on STEM workshop for students in grades 9-12 to enlighten them on the different professions available in the sciences. As a part of our partnership with Kaiser Permanente and Comcast, the workshop is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2018, from 8:30 am-4:00 pm, 2101 Jefferson Street, Rockville, MD.
The DCHBCUAA is asking all alumni who have attended an HBCU, majored in a STEM-related field, and have a desire to give back to the youth in the community, to volunteer to participate in the workshop.
Please let us know your plans for participating in the program by selecting from the options below.

  1. Converse with students about your profession (describe a typical work day, educational requirements, salary and career opportunities for this profession)
  2. Design a 40-minute experiment or activity that immerses students in your area of expertise and garners an understanding and appreciation for your STEM profession. The session should be highly interactive and encourage teamwork with their peers.  Students will rotate between consecutive sessions in groups of 15 -18 students.

Please go to this link to register as a presenter for the STEM workshop. 
Please visit our website at for more information about DCHBCUAA’s programs. 
If you are interested in volunteering for our workshop or have questions, email Dr. Ava Morrow at

Thank you in advance, HBCUs forever!!

Eric Conway: Morgan State University Choir has big season next year!

CeCe Winans

Eric Conway writes:

2018 - 2019 Academic Year
Big Concerts!

Choir performs Bernstein Mass with Marin Alsop
Friday, October 26, 2018 at 7PM - Bernstein Mass Conducted by Marin Alsop with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra at New Psalmist Baptist Church

Gospel Christmas with CeCe Winans
Friday, December 21, 2018 at 8:00 PM at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra!
Link to Buy tickets

Choir performs with Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Premiering Hannibal Lokumbe’s 
Healing Tones, a Hymn for the City of Brotherly Love
March 28-30, 2019

Choir performs Porgy and Bess with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra!
April 11-14, 2019 
Link to Buy Tickets

Rick Robinson: "Symphony Swings into Action" 7:30 PM Sunday, April 8, Birmingham Temple on 12 Mile Rd. near Detroit


Photo by David Burnett

Draylen Mason makes 1st down

Kevlar Afrika with Simfonica

Rick Robinson

March 29, 2018

Rick Robinson writes:

Dear Friends,       

My bi-monthly newsletter seems to be turning into quarterly. Given the increasing pace of information today, perhaps that's not such a bad thing. CutTime® in 2018 is off to a slow but promising start.

Simfonica played two great concerts at the Fox Run senior community and the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church. Even older, traditional audiences seem to enjoy being invited to join the music-making on soft toy percussion from time to time. Our drummer Mike List cued them in with a yellow banana shaker (pic at top). We received a fairly good video of the former performance, which I'll cut and make available on YouTube. And we further surprised the church audience with a taste of our new partnership with The Urban Requiem Project I mentioned in our last newsletter. Kevlar Afrika waxed poetically over my Serenade and each hand washed the other: the poetry gained urgency and arc, while the music gained relevance and a modern authenticity. I'll write a bit more about where this is going next.

The postcard design by the church music director Jim Biery was so good, I asked him to create a promotional card we can use to book more gigs. Explaining the differences between the two ensembles, it is linked here for you to see, share and help us adapt classical and symphonic music near you.

I always enjoy subbing bass into local orchestras. Once again I played in the Sphinx Competition orchestra; this time as assistant to Philadelphia Orchestra Associate Principal Joseph Conyers

The last time he and I played together decades ago, he was subbing into DSO from Grand Rapids Symphony. Ann Arbor Symphony has me out regularly, and Detroit had me for the annual Classical Roots concerts and some educational services. I was particularly pleased to meet incoming DSO bassist Nick Myers, a fellow Interlochen Arts Academy grad and Michigan native.

In fact Nick was able to hear Simfonica perform for a meeting of Interlochen alumni at the Detroit Metro Airport Westin, and was impressed enough to take a publication catalog to Juilliard where he is soon graduating. I'd like to begin recruiting bass players like him and begin stepping out, to let a younger generation take ownership of CutTime ensembles.

Last week I played in the Detroit Film Theatre pit orchestra Richard Einhorn's incredible score for the emotional silent French film The Passion of Joan of Arc. And this week I'm playing Easter mass at Assumption Grotto Catholic Church in Detroit, where Father Peronne regularly leads musical masses, this time by Gounod and Mozart.

CutTime has magical concerts coming up in April near Detroit and Cleveland. April 8 (Su) 7:30 is the CutTime Players program at Birmingham Temple on 12 Mile, called Symphony Swings into Action. We'll highlight the intersections of jazz, folk, humor and classical with Bach, Smetana, Vivaldi, Robinson and Claude Bolling! And April 19 (Th) 7:30 I bring the Detroit crew of CutTime Simfonica to the Rocky River Senior Center auditorium for Now Time Like the Present. They've enjoyed Players twice now and can't get enough of our New Classical spirit. MOT Concertmaster Eliot Heaton (top pic) will be featured in both programs.

At both of these events, I'm going to interrupt the fun to dedicate a work to the great spirit of Draylen Mason (above), a spirited 17-yo bassist who was killed by one of the Austin, Texas bombs. This promising young man was a beacon of light in his community, soloed well in his school orchestra, participated in others and accepted to study at Indiana University. He was a great American who exemplified what this country stands for. His flame was extinguish, but we will help it live again that it can spread through tribute programs of music, photos, videos of him and friends who knew him, poetry, a new composition and perhaps even a song. We will announce a tribute program in Detroit soon.

This seems to be a new direction CutTime is taking ever since our DIA program marking the Detroit '67 uprising last year. The poet Virgil Taylor, in attendance, contacted me to talk about collaborating in The Urban Requiem Project (, which celebrates and mourns the life and death of industrial Detroit with  poetry, classical and soul music, and projected photos of Detroit's 20th-Century factories and families, often all at the same time. The effect is quite powerful. And we are applying for grants to grow, refine and perform our work on scales both large and tiny; eventually creating a large symphonic work that could resonate in all the rustbelt cities, and possibly starting this summer in my hometown of Highland Park, MI; the ironic City of Trees. Given the assaults on democracy, inclusion and fairness in America, the time is right for art to bring humanity back together.

So, the immediate future looks dark, and in need of dark music, the special domain of classical music. But through this darkness we will find a way into the unforeseeable future, resuming the path to universality, equity, tolerance and even some agape.

Meanwhile, come to our concerts, recommend us to concert presenters, and support us both spiritually and financially. Thanks!

- Rick Robinson (Mr. CutTime)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 African American Composers: Striking a Chord [William Grant Still, William Levi Dawson & R. Nathaniel Dett]

William Grant Still in a pensive pose from 1949
(Courtesy of Judith Anne Still)

The Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra 

The City's Magazine

April 2018

By Michael McLeod

Now and then, some well-meaning person will try to give Celeste Headlee a compliment about her grandfather. It does not go well. They’ll say: “His music sounds just like George Gershwin to me.” And she’ll say: “Are you kidding me? It’s more like the other way around.”

Headlee is a writer, NPR commentator, and opera singer living near Washington, D.C.  Her grandfather, William Grant Still, was one of the first African American composers to create classical music in the first half of the 20th century. Born in 1895 in Little Rock, Arkansas, to two first-generation, free black schoolteachers, he began by crafting his own violins from scrap wood as a boy and would go on, in a career that took him to New York City and Hollywood, to become known as “the dean of African American composers.”

He was the first black musician to have his own opera performed by the New York City Opera Company; the first to conduct major symphony orchestras and see his own symphony performed by them; the first to have one of his classical works broadcast on television; the first to conduct a radio orchestra—at the insistence of its musicians, all of whom were white.

He was also party to another, more dubious first. That’s where Gershwin comes in.

Still belonged to the first—and certainly not the last—generation of African American musicians to routinely see their music appropriated, whole or in part, by white performers who turned it into mainstream success. A notorious example involves the opening chorus of a Gershwin song, “I Got Rhythm,” a vintage jazz standard first sung by a brassy young star by the name of Ethel Merman in Gershwin’s 1930 Broadway hit, Girl Crazy.

The belief among some classical music historians, and all of Still’s colleagues and family members, is that Gershwin “borrowed” that catchy, four-note theme after hearing its inventor, one William Grant Still, play it, as he often did, while warming up with his oboe as a pit musician for an earlier, long-running Broadway smash of that era, Shuffle Along, a Eubie Blake revue which was re-envisioned and revived on Broadway two years ago.

The soft-spoken Still never complained about the supposed theft. But in Afro-American Symphony, his groundbreaking fusion of blues motifs incorporated into complex symphonic conventions, he inserted the same theme at the beginning of the third movement, as if to wordlessly reclaim it as his own.

Headlee draws a measure of amusement and satisfaction from an old joke – if indeed it is a joke: “They used to say that Gershwin would go down to Harlem with a stack of dollar bills and walk around asking people:  ‘Hey. Could you hum that tune for me again?’ ”

Still is one of three pioneering and oft-overlooked African American classical composers whose works will be performed April 21 and 22 in a concert at Rollins College combining the Bach Festival and Bethune-Cookman University choirs. The concert, African-American Masterpieces: Symphonic Spirituals, is in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Like Still, both of the other composers, Nathaniel Dett and William Dawson, lived in a looking-glass world, honored for creating music in its loftiest forms while being treated as second-class citizens. They were keenly aware of a responsibility to challenge the patronizing racial stereotyping of the day by incorporating motifs from the blues and jazz—which were still dismissed by many as lowly, rough-hewn genres—into lofty classical compositions.

Dawson, best known as a composer for choral arrangements of African American spirituals, sold his bike for $6 when he was 13 years old and set off from his home in Anniston, Alabama, to the Tuskegee Institute, where he was eventually befriended and mentored by its founder, Booker T. Washington.

He also secretly earned a degree from the then-segregated Horner Institute in Kansas City, but was not allowed to take the stage at graduation for fear of upsetting the crowd. His Negro Folk Symphony, which debuted in 1934 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Leopold Stokowski, will be performed during the Bach-Bethune-Cookman event.

Dett, born in Canada in a town founded by fugitive slaves, grew up to spend most of his musical career in the United States. He was dedicated to incorporating black spirituals into the classical concert tradition. His work will be represented in the concert by The Ordering of Moses, an ambitious oratorio fusing European romanticism with African American spiritual themes.

The oratorio was first performed in 1937 in Cincinnati, which had been a key way station in the Underground Railroad, one that Dett’s grandparents may have passed through on the way to Canada. The concert was a success, but, in an era in which white spirituals were accepted as part of the mainstream but black spirituals were not, a live radio broadcast was cut off because of listener complaints.

Of the three composers, Still was the most versatile, well-traveled and influential.

He taught himself to play the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, double bass, cello, viola and violin, which he used to serenade officers at mealtime after enlisting in the Navy during World War I.

He had a lifelong working friendship with W.C. Handy, an Alabama log cabin-born African American musician and composer who earned a title of his own, “Father of the Blues,” for helping to transform a regional genre—inspired, he liked to say, by “the sound of whippoorwills, bats, and hoot owls”—into a national phenomenon.

After moving to New York City, Still became part of the Harlem Renaissance, a surge of artistic and intellectual expression among African American professors, artists and writers. In the late 1930s, he was enrolled by two key figures in the movement, arts patron Charlotte Mason and Howard University professor Alain Locke, to compose the music for a defiant choral ballad, And They Lynched Him on a Tree.

It was originally performed by the New York Philharmonic in 1940, at a time when anti-lynching legislation was being considered by Congress. The ballad, which calls for two choruses, one white and one black, will be performed as part of the Symphonic Spirituals program.

Though family members say he rarely spoke of it, Still himself had seen a lynching in Alabama while traveling with a company of blues musicians. Over the years, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress. Southern politicians blocked them. None was ever adopted.

John Malveaux Interviews Michael Abels, MusicUNTOLD 2017 Composer of the Year, on YouTube (21:25)

Michael Abels
(Commissioned by MusicUNTOLD)

John Malveaux of 

Composer Michael Abels was honored February 18, 2018 as MusicUNTOLD 2017 COMPOSER OF YEAR at City of Long Beach Michelle Obama Library.  Michael Abels composed the sound track for movie GET OUT (Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) The event included special gifts to Michael Abels, separate interviews of Michael Abels by MusicUNTOLD president John Malveaux and City of Long Beach Vice Mayor/Ninth District Council member Rex Richardson and audience Q&A. See John Malveaux interview of Michael Abels

John Malveaux: NPR: Famed Civil Rights Photographer Outed As FBI Informant

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

John Malveaux of 

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographer and FBI 

September 15, 2010

Host Michel Martin speaks with historian David Garrow, noted biographer of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., about revelations that celebrated civil rights era photographer, Ernest C. Withers, was a paid FBI informant.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Eastman School of Music Celebrates the 95th Birthday Year of Composer and Pianist George Walker

George Walker

Gateways Music Festival


Eastman School of Music

The Eastman School of Music is proud to celebrate the 95th birthday year of composer and pianist George Theophilus Walker in a special alumnus recital on Monday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m., in Hatch Recital Hall at Eastman, followed by a champagne toast and reception in Wolk Atrium for the audience. The recital, comprised of the complete (5) piano sonatas of George Walker, will be performed by Albanian pianist Redi Llupa, with opening remarks by Jamal Rossi, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean at Eastman.

The first African American to graduate with a Doctorate from Eastman in 1956, and the first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize (for Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra) in 1996, George Walker’s Eastman accolades also include an Alumni Achievement Award in 1975 and the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Medal in 1996.

“It was fortuitous for me to read an article in the New York Times in 1954 about the DMA Degree created by Dr. Howard Hanson at Eastman when I was teaching at Dillard University, a small black private college in New Orleans,” Walker recalls. “I applied for admission into the graduate program and was extremely happy to receive a fellowship. During that time Dr. Hanson proposed that DMA candidates could select a project that was not a dissertation for the DMA Degree. I chose to compose my Piano Sonata No. 2. This work has become one of the most performed American piano sonatas.”

That piano sonata, along with four others, will make up the program for Walker’s 95th birthday celebration at Eastman. “Having all five of my piano sonatas performed by Redi Llupa in a celebration of my music is very special. They represent additions to the repertoire of piano literature that should be known.” Walker adds on a personal note, “My son, Gregory, will participate in the celebration by playing my Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1.”

Walker’s career and legacy is brimming with accomplishments and successes. He blazed the trail for many African-American musicians by being; the first black instrumentalist to appear with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the first black instrumentalist to be signed by a major management, the National Concert Artists; the first black tenured faculty member at Smith College; first recipient of the Minority Chair established by the University of Delaware; and  the first composer to receive the Whitney award. George Walker has composed over 90 works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, piano, strings, voice, organ, clarinet, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and chorus.
“George Walker is one of the most prolific and accomplished American composers of the last century. In addition to having been awarded the coveted Pulitzer Prize, he has been honored by some of our nation’s leading cultural organizations including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Classical Music Hall of Fame,” shares Dean Jamal Rossi. “We are very proud to consider Dr. Walker as one of Eastman’s most distinguished alumni, and I am privileged to know him as a friend.”
Walker’s works have been performed by virtually every major orchestra in the United States, and by many in England and other countries.  His awards include the Harvey Gaul Prize, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo and Bennington Composer Conference Fellowships, two Guggenheim Fellowships, two Rockefeller Fellowships, a Fromm Foundation commission, two Koussevitsky Awards, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust Award, the Mason Gross Memorial Award, numerous grants from the Research Councils of Smith College, The University of Colorado, Rutgers University, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts.  He has received two Alumni Awards from the Eastman School of Music, the University Medal from the University of Rochester (1996), honorary doctorate degrees from Lafayette College (1982), Oberlin College (1983), Montclair State University, Bloomfield College, Curtis Institute of Music (1997) and Spelman College (2001).

“George Walker is one of the great musical visionaries of our age,” adds Lee Koonce, President & Artistic Director, Gateways Music Festival, in association with Eastman School of Music.  “His music is engaging, often brilliantly rhythmic and frequently contains very American references.  Eastman and Gateways Music Festival are delighted to celebrate Dr. Walker’s 95th birthday year and we congratulate him on his extraordinary career.”

Walker also received the Dorothy Maynor Outstanding Arts Citizen Award in 2000 from the Harlem School of Arts. In March of 2001, the Detroit Symphony awarded him its first annual Classical Roots Award for a lifetime of achievement in American Music. George Walker has been awarded the prestigious A. I. duPont Award, presented by the Delaware Symphony, in 2002. In 2003 he was selected for inclusion in the Washington Music Hall of Fame (Washington, DC).

It is fitting that Walker’s 95th birthday musical celebration will be at Eastman, as one of the featured pieces is one he wrote while attending as a student.

“I am most grateful for the continuity of my connection with Eastman, a wonderful institution,” Walker reflects. “The support that Eastman has given me since I graduated in 1956 has been truly amazing.”

The George T. Walker 95th Birthday Year Celebration recital is free and open to the public. 

# # #

Sergio Mims: Tenor Lawrence Brownlee Gives New York Premiere of "Cycles of My Being" in Zankel Hall on April 24

Lawrence Brownlee
(Shervin Lainez)

Sergio A. Mims forwards this release:

Carnegie Hall



Program Features New York Premiere of 

Tyshawn Sorey’s Cycles of My Being,

Conducted by the Composer, and

Schumann’s Dichterliebe, with Pianist Myra 


On Tuesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Zankel Hall, acclaimed American tenor Lawrence Brownlee presents the New York premiere of Cycles of My Being, a new song cycle composed by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by Terrance Hayes that explores the realities of life as a black man in America. Brownlee—hailed as one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors” by the Associated Press—is conducted by composer Tyshawn Sorey and joined by violinist Randall Goosby, cellist Khari Joyner, clarinetist Alexander Laing, and pianist Kevin Miller for Cycles of My Being, which is co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall as part of the Hall’s 125 Commissions Project. The program opens with Schumann’s Dichterliebe, to be performed alongside pianist Myra Huang.

“I’m honored to be working with the extraordinary talents of Tyshawn and Terrance on this new song cycle, and I’m grateful to Carnegie Hall for helping to make it possible,” said Lawrence Brownlee. “In these divided times, we hope to create something that brings people together with mutual respect, understanding, and communication across races and generations.”

Carnegie Hall’s commitment to the music of today and tomorrow continues this season with the third year of its five-year 125 Commissions Project, during which at least 125 new works will be commissioned from today’s leading composers. Through this initiative, Carnegie Hall expands upon its history as the preeminent venue where music history is made. Launched during the Hall’s 125th anniversary season, the project features new solo, chamber, and orchestral music from both established and emerging composers, including John Adams, Timo Andres, Donnacha Dennehy, Bryce Dessner, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hannah Lash, James MacMillan, Olga Neuwirth, Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, Caroline Shaw, Chris Thile, and Jörg Widmann. 

About the Artists
Named 2017 “Male Singer of the Year” by both the International Opera Awards and Bachtrack, American-born Lawrence Brownlee has been hailed by the Associated Press as one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors.” Brownlee captivates audiences and critics around the world, and his voice has been praised by NPR as “an instrument of great beauty and expression…perfectly suited to the early nineteenth century operas of Rossini and Donizetti,” ushering in “a new golden age in high male voices” (The New York Times). Brownlee also serves as Artistic Advisor at Opera Philadelphia, helping the company to expand their repertoire, diversity efforts, and community initiatives.

One of the most in-demand singers around the world, Brownlee has performed with nearly every leading international opera house and festival, as well as major orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniker, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

In addition, Brownlee has appeared on the stages of the top opera companies around the globe, including The Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Bavarian State Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Opera National de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, Berlin State Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, Teatro Real Madrid, Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie, and the festivals of Salzburg and Baden-Baden. Broadcasts of his operas and concerts—including his 2014 Bastille Day performance in Paris, attended by the French President and Prime Minister—have been enjoyed by millions.

The 2017–2018 season began with a run of Rossini operas, beginning with his house debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona with Il viaggio a Reims, followed by Semiramide at the Royal Opera House in London, and then to Zürich for Le Comte Ory. Brownlee will then sing Bellini’s I puritani at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Bayerische Staatsoper (including a concert performance at Carnegie Hall), and then Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at Opéra National de Paris.

The season also includes the world premiere of a song cycle centered around black male experience in America today, touching on the recent series of tragic deaths, and the Black Lives Matter movement that has arisen as a result. Tyshawn Sorey composed the music, with text by poet Terrance Hayes. The piece was commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Carnegie Hall, and Brownlee is currently on tour at major venues around the US, including the world premiere in Philadelphia, followed by performances in San Francisco, Utah, Portland, Boston, Princeton, Illinois, Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, Virginia, and Michigan.

Brownlee’s latest album, Allegro Io Son, received a Critic’s Choice from Opera News, among numerous other accolades, and followed his previous Grammy Award-nominated release on Delos Records, Virtuoso Rossini Arias, which prompted New Yorker critic Alex Ross to ask “is there a finer Rossini tenor than Lawrence Brownlee?” The rest of his critically-acclaimed discography and videography is a testament to his broad impact across the classical music scene. His opera and concert recordings include Il barbiere di Siviglia with the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra, Armida at the Metropolitan Opera, Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Carmina Burana with Berliner Philharmoniker. He also released a disc of African-American spirituals entitled Spiritual Sketches with pianist Damien Sneed, which the pair performed at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and which NPR praised as an album of “soulful singing” that “sounds like it’s coming straight from his heart to yours.”

Brownlee is the fourth of six children and first discovered music when he learned to play bass, drums, and piano at his family’s church in Youngstown, Ohio. He was awarded a Masters of Music from Indiana University and went on to win a Grand Prize in the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. Alongside his singing career, Brownlee is an avid salsa dancer and an accomplished photographer, specializing in artist portraits of his on-stage colleagues. A die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State football fan, Brownlee has sung the national anthem at numerous NFL games. He is a champion for autism awareness through the organization Autism Speaks, and he is a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity Inc., a historically black fraternity committed to social action and empowerment.