by Lilyanna D’Amato
As America finds itself in the midst of a centuries-overdue reckoning, classical music must follow suit. A tradition long criticized for its exclusionary, Eurocentrist snobbery and stark lack of diversity, there remains a cruel, discriminative legacy behind the classical canon. One that, very purposefully, led us to Brahms and Wagner but kept us from Bologne, Price, and Still.
“The Legacy of Black Classical Music” hopes to remind us of those musicians and composers whose voices went largely unheard, whose careers were left obscured by the pernicious disease that is systemic racism. In this weekly series, we will explore the lives and contributions of Shirley Graham Du Bois, Florence Price, Josephine Baker, William Grant Still, and Joseph Boulogne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges) — rich and valuable lives largely omitted from Western music history. Let us listen and learn together, celebrating their mastery while also taking the time to critically consider our own complacency in their erasure. For, in this admission lies the beginnings of vital change.
The first musician on our list is Shirley Graham Du Bois, whose tenacity, creative ferocity, outspoken personality, and intellectual prowess led her on a career spanning the globe. Born in Indianapolis in 1896, she spent her childhood immersed in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where her father served as a preacher and activist. [Read more…]