Friday, March 1, 2019 American Violinist Aims To Raise Profile Of Black Classical Music Composers

Forbes Magazine

Feb. 28, 2019

Jane Levere

Although few people can name even three black classical composers, the Chicago-based violinist Rachel Barton Pine can name 350.

Pine’s RBP Foundation Music by Black Composers (MBC) project has recently released four landmark initiatives celebrating these composers:  MBC Violin Volume I, the first in a series of pedagogical books of music exclusively by black classical composers; the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation Coloring Book of Black Composers; a timeline poster of over 300 black classical composers; and Pine’s Blues Dialogues, an album of classical works written by 20th  and 21st-century composers of African descent, released by Cedille Records. Of the 54 composers represented among these initiatives, 22% are women.

These four initiatives aim to place black classical composers and much of their previously overlooked music into today’s cultural consciousness. In doing so, the RBP Foundation hopes to inspire black students to begin and continue instrumental training, make the music of black composers available to all people and help change the face of classical music and its canon.

Serving on the honorary committee for the RBP Foundation’s MBC project are trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, violinist Joshua Bell, actor Leslie Odom, Jr., jazz bassist and composer Stanley Clarke, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, pianist and composer Billy Childs, television commentator Gretchen Carlson, pianist and pedagogue André Watts, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste from Black Violin, violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and double bassist Chi-Chi Nwanoku.

According to Pine, black composers have created masterful classical music for centuries, yet they are underrepresented in concert programming and in classical music education, silencing a rich vein of works from global consciousness. As young musicians seldom have the opportunity to study and perform classical music by black composers, she believes aspiring black music students struggle to participate in an art form in which they do not appear to belong, perpetuating a lack of diversity on stage and among audiences.

With this in mind, over the last 15 years, Pine and her foundation have collected over 900 works by over 300 black composers from the 18th to the 21st centuries, representing Africa, North and South America, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Oceania.

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