The New 411


By Raymond Ward

Ground-Breaking Coloring Book Of Black Classical Composers Can you name three Black classical composers?

Leading classical violinist soloist and mother Rachel Barton Pine can name 350, and over the past 15+ years has discovered 900+ compositions by Black composers many of which were previously hidden in the shadows.

Beginning October, 2018, the internationally-renowned violinist and her Rachel Barton Pine (RBP) Foundation Music by Black Composers (MBC) project, is showing the world how #BlackisClassical through the release of The Rachel Barton Pine Foundation’s Coloring Book of Black Composers.

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

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, 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 that in mind, over the last 15 years, Pine and her RBP Foundation have collected more than 900 works by 350+ Black composers from the 18th-21st centuries, representing Africa, North and South America, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and Oceania.

Spreading Awareness of and Access to Music by Black Composers, The RBP Foundation’s MBC efforts are part of a multi-pronged approach to spread awareness of and access to music by Black composers. This fall The Rachel Barton Pine Foundation also released, MBC Violin Volume I, the first in a series of pedagogical books of sheet music exclusively by Black classical composers featuring 22 works for violin from 1767 to 2014. The series is designed to enable everyone from beginners through Mendelssohn Concerto level to include works by Black composers in their studies. Additional orchestral instruments will be the subject of future volumes.

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, American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, pianist and composer Billy Childs, American 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.

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