Friday, July 13, 2018

Rachel Barton Pine Foundation: Online Directory of Living Black Classical Composers

MBC’s Living Composers Directory includes information about each composer including their name, geographic region, gender, birth year, contact information and website link. Designed to be an ever-expanding work in progress, the directory currently holds the names of 170 living Black composers from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The public is invited to notify the project of any composer not currently on this list by emailing Megan E. Hill, Ph.D., Managing Editor for MBC, is an Adjunct Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan.

“Composers of African descent have created masterful classical music for centuries, yet they continue to be underrepresented in concert programming and in classical music education.  This absence silences a rich vein of works from global consciousness and obscures the true face of classical music,” says RBP Foundation President Rachel Barton Pine. “Young musicians seldom have the opportunity to study and perform classical music by Black composers. It’s a struggle for artists and enthusiasts of color to participate in an art form in which they do not appear to belong, perpetuating a lack of diversity on stage and among audiences. This online directory is one of the ways the RBP Foundation is working to spread awareness of and access to music by Black composers,” she adds.

The RBP Foundation’s Music by Black Composers, in collaboration the Orchestral Music by Black Composers (OMBC) project founded by  scholar-harpist Dr. Ashley Jackson and conductor James Blachly, is working to complete an online database of all composers of African descent, living and deceased. The database will feature information about numerous individual works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra, including instrumentation, length, descriptions, difficulty level, where to find the music, links to recordings, and programming suggestions.

In October 2018, MBC will take another monumental step toward showing the world #BlackisClassical, with LudwigMasters’ publication of MBC Violin Volume I, the first in a pedagogical series of books of music exclusively by Black classical composers from around the world. Each orchestral instrument will be the subject of multiple volumes, which will be graded by difficulty from beginner to advanced concerto-level playing and will include biographies for every composer, profiles of Black classical music role models, and feature articles about Black participation in classical music past and present. 

Subsequent publications will include works for school orchestra and chamber ensembles. In addition, MBC is also developing a coloring book of the 40 most prominent Black composers throughout history as well as a timeline poster featuring more than 300 Black composers.  

The idea for MBC started with a recording Rachel Barton Pine made for Cedille Records in 1997 titled Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The album contains historic compositions by Afro-Caribbean and Afro-European composers from the Classical and Romantic eras that had been unjustifiably neglected. Soon after its release Pine found herself sitting on diversity panels and fielding questions from students, parents, teachers, and colleagues about where to find more works by Black composers. She quickly discovered that most repertoire by Black composers is out of print or only exists in manuscript. So, in 2001, her not-for-profit Rachel Barton Pine (RBP) Foundation committed to the Music by Black Composers (MBC) project.  Over the past two decades, MBC has uncovered 900+ works by more than 300 Black composers from North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia, from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

Pine is an award-winning, chart-topping violinist, who performs with the world's leading orchestras and has recorded 37 acclaimed albums.  Her performances are heard on NPR and stations around the globe and she has appeared on The Today Show four times, CBS Sunday Morning, Bloomberg Television, CNN, PBS NewsHour and has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and media outlets around the world. In addition to the MBC project, her RBP Foundation assists young artists through its Instrument Loan Program, Grants for Education and Career, and Global HeartStrings which supports musicians in developing countries.

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