Rethinking the Canon: The Legacy of Black American Classical Music

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The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy is pleased to present “Rethinking the Canon: The Legacy of Black American Classical Music.” In partnership with the PostClassical Ensemble, this program will explore the roots of Black classical music, from the spiritual arrangements of Harry Burleigh to the compositions of Margaret Bonds and Florence Price. Drawing from the production The Souls of Black Folk: Rediscovering Black Classical Music, this virtual program will delve into the tremendous contributions of Black Americans to classical music.


Wednesday, February 23, 2022 @ 1:00 PM EST


Wednesday, February 23, 2022 @ 2:00 PM EST

Location: Online


Weaving in clips from PostClassical Ensemble’s film "Dvorak’s Prophecy," musical scores, and readings of W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk, this discussion will navigate the important cultural legacy of Black classical musicians, interrogate their absence in musical history and reimagine a future for classical music rooted in inclusion and recognition.


Roderick Cox is a Berlin-based American conductor and winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award by the U.S Solti Foundation. Praised for “paving the way” (NBC News) and recognized as a “trailblazer…a conductor who will be amongst the vanguard” (Minnesota StarTribune), Cox has had debuts at Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Seattle and New World Symphonies, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Malmo, Kristiansand and Lahti Symphony Orchestras, as well as returns to Washington National Symphony Orchestra, among others. With a passion for education and diversity and inclusion in the arts, Roderick started the Roderick Cox Music Initiative (RCMI) in 2018 — a project that provides scholarships for young musicians of colour from underrepresented communities, allowing them to pay for instruments, music lessons, and summer camps. Roderick and his new initiative will be featured in an upcoming documentary called Conducting Life.

Joseph Horowitz is the Executive Producer of PostClassical Ensemble. Most recently, he authored the book Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music (2021), which was named “Best Book of the Year” by The Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews. From 2011 to 2020, Horowitz directed Music Unwound, a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)–funded national consortium of orchestras and universities dedicated to curating the American musical past. Through NEH, he also led a National Education Project and a Teaching-Training Institute dedicated to Czech composer Dvořák’s relationship with America. Horowitz is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, New York University, and Columbia University, as well as a Certificate of Appreciation from the Czech Parliament.
Angel Gil-Ordóñez is Music Director of DC’s PostClassical Ensemble, Principal Guest Conductor of New York’s Perspectives Ensemble, and Music Director of the Georgetown University Orchestra. He also serves as lead advisor for Trinitate Philharmonia, a program in León, Mexico modeled on Venezuela’s El Sistema. Mr. Gil-Ordóñez is also a regular guest conductor at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine and at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. He has appeared as guest conductor with the American Composers Orchestra, Opera Colorado, Pacific Symphony, Hartford Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and at the Brevard Music Festival. The former Associate Conductor of Spain’s National Symphony Orchestra, Gil-Ordóñez received the Royal Order of Queen Isabella, the country’s highest civilian decoration, for his devotion to sharing Spanish culture with the world. He has recorded nine albums for Naxos.
Karen Walwyn, Concert Pianist, Composer and an Albany Recording Artist, is the first female African American pianist/composer to receive the Steinway Artist Award. A native of New York, Concert Pianist Karen Walwyn made her New York solo piano debut at Merkin Hall as a follow-up to her 2-CD series for Albany Records entitled Dark Fires, offering premiere recordings of works by American composers of African descent. She did the premiere performance of the Florence Price Piano Concerto in One Movement with the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble. As a Composer, she received the Global Award: Gold Medal -Award of Excellence for her recording of her composition entitled Reflections on 9/11. As a Mellon Faculty Fellow, Walwyn composed her debut choral work entitled Of Dance & Struggle: A Musical Tribute on the Life of Nelson Mandela, (Choir/Solo Piano/African Percussion) commissioned and performed by the Elon University Chorale under the direction of Dr. Gerald Knight. Dr. Walwyn is currently the Area Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at Howard University.

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