Black Conductors, a belated addendum


Due to the popularity of my earlier black conductors article I was feeling the need to expand this piece a bit.  Again this is by no means comprehensive and I welcome comments, additions and corrections.

 

The original article was just an occasional piece, far from comprehensive so I have decided to add a few names.  First the black conductors who are no longer with us:

 

Charles-Richard Lambert (d. 1862)- Born in New York (no date given), settled in New Orleans and was a music teacher and conductor for the Philharmonic Society (the first non-theater orchestra in New Orleans).  He died in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Edmond Dédé (1827-1903) Born in New Orléans, he moved to Europe to study music and settled in France where he had a career as a conductor and composer.

Edmond Dede

Edmond Dede

William Grant Still photographed by Carl van Vechten

William Grant Still photographed by Carl van Vechten

 

William Grant Still  (1895-1978)- In addition to being a major American composer and the first black composer to have a symphony played by a major symphony orchestra to have an opera premiered by a major company (Troubled Island, written in 1939 was premiered by the New York City Opera in 1949), the first black composer to have an opera broadcast on television (Bayou Legend, 1941, not performed until 1974 and broadcast 1976 by the Mississippi Educational Television Authority) he was also the first black conductor to conduct a major American orchestra in the deep south  (New Orleans Philharmonic, 1955)

Calvin E. Simmons

Calvin E. Simmons

 

Calvin E. Simmons (1950-1982) The first black conductor to be appointed conductor of a major American orchestra (Philadelphia Orchestra).  He died in a canoeing accident near Lake George in New York.  The Calvin Simmons theater at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, CA is named in his honor.

 

 

 

And now to those who remain on the earthly plane:

 

-Thomas Jefferson Anderson (1928- ) Better known perhaps as a composer is an educator he is also an accomplished conductor, educator and orchestrator.  He is well-known for his orchestration of Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha (unfortunately this has yet to be recorded).

 

-Leslie B. Dunner (1956- )Born in New York City, he attended the Eastman School of Music, Queen’s College and received a Master’s Degree in 1979 from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  He was the first American (of any color apparently) to win the Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition in 1986.  Currently a conductor for the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Mr. Dunner has conducted the Chicago Symphony, the Grant Park Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, L A Philharmonic and many others world-wide.

 

Leslie B. Dunner

Leslie B. Dunner

 

William Eddins

William Eddins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

William Eddins (1964- ) Both a pianist and a conductor, Eddins was a founding member of the New World Symphony in Miami, FL and is currently the principal conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra since 2005.  He regularly performs music by 20th and 21st Century composers and host a podcast called Classical Connections.

 

 

 

-Robert Keith McFerrin, Jr. (1950- ) Better known as “Bobby McFerrin” is a ten time Grammy award winner.  He is also a popular guest conductor with orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Israel Philharmonic and many others.

Bobby Mc Ferrin in 2011

Bobby Mc Ferrin in 2011

 

As I said this is hardly comprehensive but these omissions have bothered me more each time I see that the original post has been read again.  Hopefully this will assuage my guilt and provide useful information.

 

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9 comments on “Black Conductors, a belated addendum

  1. […] Classical Part Two) This is a 2013 article which continues to be popular. I did an addendum called: Black Conductors, A Belated Addendum  and received a note from Tania Leon who remarked quite correctly that she is indeed a black […]

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  2. If you have included Thomas Wilkens before, you must have included one of my favorite conductors of all time, black or otherwise, James DuPriest! I see Bobby McFerrin has grown a beard like his teacher (DuPriest). 🙂 McFerrin is one of the most musically gifted people I have ever encountered!

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    • perkustooth says:

      DePreist has been one of my favorite conductors as well over the years. His attention to new music was amazing. And his connection to his aunt Marian Anderson, whom he cared for til the end of her life, adds poignancy to his legacy. His passing was a major loss for the arts community.

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  3. Tania Leon says:

    Just returned from conducting the Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra for the the second time in the last three years.

    The concert was held last night June 13, 2014, in Guanajuato, Mexico.

    The program: Leon’s Horizons, a work commissioned by the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Concerto Elegiaco for Guitar and Orchestra by Cuban composer Leo Brower, with soloist Mauricio Hernandez and Sinfonia Sacra by Panufnik, Polish composer. 2014 is Panufnik’s 100 birthday anniversary.

    There are black female conductors that should also be mentioned in your article.

    For your reference, please visit http://www.tania leon.com

    Thanks so much for your article and contribution to the field.

    With best wishes

    Tania

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    • perkustooth says:

      Ms. Leon I am honored that you have read and commented on my blog. I do know and have enjoyed your work as a composer. I was not aware of your work as a conductor. You are correct, of course, in pointing out my failure to list any women in my brief surveys. I will correct this omission in a future article.
      As it happens I am a fan of Leo Brower’s music as well as that of Andrzej Panufnik. Both are poorly represented in the concert hall so I applaud your progressive programming.
      Very sincerely,
      Allan

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  4. Paula Peebles Bonds says:

    Please include Thomas Wilkins, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony, Youth and Family Concerts conductor for the Boston Symphony and the newly appointed Principal Conductor at the Hollywood Bowl. A serious brother and a super person!

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    • perkustooth says:

      I didn’t include Thomas Wilkins because I had included him in my previous black conductors blog. He is indeed a fine musician. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  5. Kevin Scott says:

    There are so many conductors of color that your article and addendum couldn’t even begin to cover the entire spectrum from the 19th century to the present. Since D. Antoinette Handy’s book was published, many more conductors of color have emerged – some quite prominent, some on the verge of prominence, and many more barely known at all, and as I write this, a future generation is on the verge of coming to the fore. While we hold the orchestral conductor to be the most prevalent and personified figurehead in classical music, we should not forget the many choral conductors of color such as Hall Johnson, Leonard dePaur, Eva Jessye and Anton Armstrong, as well as a dearth of wind band conductors from Francis Johnson and Alton Adams to Anthony Parthner, Quincy Hilliard and Marcus Brown.

    This is a wonderful introduction indeed. It is up to the individual to find out much, much more.

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    • perkustooth says:

      Thank you kindly for the reference. My articles are usually fairly light, occasional pieces but the more depth I can provide the better they can be. I will look this up.

      Like

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