Black History is American History

This page is dedicated to spotlighting the contributions of Black composers and pioneers that have been performed, curated and explored by the ASO over the past year. This compilation is only a small representation of the contributions to classical music by Black artists, but we present it as a resource to guide an approach for the future. We must not only consume culture that originates in the Black American experience, but also ask questions, watch carefully, listen intently, and connect with our community.

As we celebrate Black History Month this February, we—as arts organizations and community members—must also make a commitment to #MakeBlackHistory all year long.

ASK

In a pre-concert talk at the Morris Museum, Marianne S. Loeb Fellow, Janine Brown, facilitated a conversation on the topics of curating Black music, Black composers and the Black experience in classical music with contemporary composer Trevor Weston and ASO violinist, Philip Payton.
Click through the videos to find out how Pink Floyd, tiramisu and Japan relate to these two artists' experience of classical music.

I think a lot of people can say that when you’re growing up young, you’re not interested in classical music or classical arts and especially people of color. So how did you find your path and journey into classical music?

How do you find inspiration for the things that you play?

What musical styles outside of classical music influence your work?

What’s the most exciting thing you have done in your career?

What are some of the more challenging things you’ve encountered through this journey in the classical arts?

[As Americans] we mix things in a way that makes sense for us...it's a little challenging that we don't accept how diverse we are. And the music should be diverse too.

WATCH

String Quartet No. 1, “Calvary”

March 25, 2021

“When I sat down to write this string quartet, I was not trying to write something Black, I was just writing out of my experience,” said Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) about his String Quartet No. 1, Calvary, which was performed by a string quartet of ASO musicians in September of 2020 at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater in…

String Quartet No. 1, Lyric

March 4, 2021

In 1946, American composer George Walker (1922-2018) wrote what would become one of his most notable works at the young age of 24: String Quartet no. 1. Walker was introduced to music at 5 years old and was quite prolific in his lifetime; his works have been performed by almost every major orchestra in the U.S, and he achieved quite…

Juba for String Quartet

January 20, 2021

The latest ASO Online release was performed live this past September during a socially-distanced chamber music performance at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater in Sewell, NJ. A string quartet of ASO members performed Trevor Weston‘s Juba as part of a program of works by Black composers, curated by ASO violinist Philip Payton. The term “Juba”…

Spiritual In Nature

November 4, 2020

During a live socially-distanced chamber music performance at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater in Sewell, NJ, a string quartet of ASO members performed these two works by living composers Adolphus Hailstork and Jessie Montgomery in a program curated by ASO violinist Philip Payton to celebrate and explore the significant contributions to classical music by Black…

LISTEN

Composer in Context: William Grant Still

September 2, 2020

Ranked among the greatest American composers, William Grant Still was nicknamed the “Dean of African American Composers” for the many firsts he achieved during his substantial career. He was the first African American to have a symphony performed by a professional orchestra (Symphony No. 1 performed by the Rochester Philharmonic in 1931); conduct a major American…

MAKE BLACK HISTORY

"There is no point to play the music of the past if one is not playing the music of the present and pushing the boundaries of music," says Leon Botstein, Music Director of the ASO in response to conception of United We Play. We have a responsibility to chart a course forward for present and future generations to make history.

United We Play is a short film featuring three world premieres of works for strings, jazz instrumentals, and piano composed by renowned jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and commissioned by the ASO. The film features Marcus Roberts, The Modern Jazz Generation ensemble, and the ASO’s string section in a musical, visual, and narrative collaboration that explores the universal ideals of finding strength through adversity and community through division.

Help us make more projects like this by watching and sharing with your community. You will be supporting the ASO’s musicians as well as future collaborators like Marcus Roberts and the talented jazz artists who contributed to this production.