Black conductors make inroads at orchestras

Posted on: September 9, 2009

In Wednesday’s (9/9) Los Angeles Times, Greg Braxton writes, “When conductor Thomas Wilkins takes his place at the podium in front of a major orchestra, he knows what he won’t be doing. ‘I used to wave my arms a lot when I was starting out my conducting career,’ said Wilkins, principal guest conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. ‘It was a very physical thing for me. But ultimately I learned that less is more.’ … Wilkins, who will guide the orchestra Friday through Sunday in the Bowl’s fireworks finale, ‘Blame It on Rio,’ is also aware that no matter what he does with his arms, he instantly attracts attention—not only of musicians, but of audiences—in another, more subtle way: He is one of the few African American conductors leading major orchestras. As music director of the Omaha Symphony and resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony, Wilkins is gaining recognition as the ranks of major conductors grow more culturally diverse. … Among the most prominent African American maestros are James DePreist, director of conducting and orchestral studies at the Juilliard School and laureate music director of the Oregon Symphony; Paul Freeman, founding music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta; and Michael Morgan, music director of Oakland East Bay Symphony. Kay George Roberts, founder and music director of the New England Orchestra in Lowell, Mass., is one of the few female African American conductors.”

Posted September 9, 2009