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Gateways Music Festival Orchestra makes Carnegie debut

April 25, 2022
Orchestral musicians of African descent standing, clapping on cancer stage with pianist dressed in gold waving.The Gateways Music Festival Orchestra made its Carnegie Hall debut on Sunday afternoon, April 24, with conductor Anthony Parnther (far right) and Grammy Award-winning pianist Jon Batiste (in gold). The performance was the first by an all-Black classical symphony orchestra in Carnegie Hall's history. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The Gateways Music Festival Orchestra made its Carnegie Hall debut Sunday, April 24, the final day of the weeklong Gateways Music Festival in association with the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music.

Founded in 1993, the orchestra brings together classical musicians of African descent from professional orchestras around the nation to share in music making and performance and to promote its philosophy “that classical music belongs to all people, and that people of African descent have played an important role in classical music for centuries.”

The concert featured conductor Anthony Parnther of the San Bernadino Symphony Orchestra and Southeast Symphony & Chorus in Los Angeles; and Grammy Award–winning pianist and composer Jon Batiste, who performed the world premiere of a commission for the orchestra.

The concert also included works by the German composer Johannes Brahms (1833–1897); George Walker ’56E (DMA) (1922–2018), the first composer of African descent to win a Pulitzer Prize (Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, 1996); Florence Price (1887–1953), the first African American female composer to have her work performed by a major orchestra (1933 Chicago Symphony performance of Symphony No. 1 in E Minor); and the orchestra’s signature closing piece, Fantasia on Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by African American film and classical music composer James Cockerham.

The historic concert was broadcast live on WXXI in Rochester and on the New York City classical station WQXR.

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Category: In Photos