Tracking trends among young black classical musicians

Posted on: April 1, 2014

The Saturday (3/29) edition of Al Jazeera America includes an extended article by E. Tammy Kim about the recently completed Sphinx Competition in Detroit, “in most respects like any other musical tournament … but open only to young black and Latin string players of the highest caliber…. Like his older siblings, Justine and Brendon, both violinists, [14-year-old Sterling Elliott] picked up his instrument on the tail end of potty training and never stopped. Until Brendon left home for conservatory, they each practiced as much as five hours a day … ‘My oldest son showed his stereotypical ghetto classmates that being a violinist is cool. Not pop music, but Paganini,’ says [Dannielle] Weems-Elliott.” Sterling won first place this year in Sphinx’s junior division. The article covers the changing role of African-Americans in classical music, quoting authorities including Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras; Stanford Thompson, trumpeter and founder of Play on Philly!; Major Andres Surlock, a member of the piano faculty at the Juilliard School and the Harlem School of the Arts; bassist Richard Davis, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and formerly principal bass at the Chicago Civic Orchestra; William Zick, who runs the website AfriClassicalcom; and Jeri Lynne Johnson, founding music director of the Philadelphia-based Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. 

Posted April 1, 2014