Last month the Classics a Day team made #BlackLivesMatter the theme. Systemic racism in classical music has limited exposure to composers of color. So for August, the team opened up the focus even further.
#WeWriteSymphonies is a hashtag used by composers of color, and it seems like a logical extension of #BlackLivesMatter.
For my contributions to the feed, I found examples throughout music history. The problem isn’t new. There are talented composers of color underrepresented in every era — not just in contemporary music.
Here are my #ClassicsaDay posts for the fourth and final week of #WeWriteSymphonies
08/24/20 Valerie Capers (1935-) – Song of the Seasons – Winter
After graduating from Julliard, Capers had difficulties finding a teaching position because she was female, Black, and blind. But as both an accomplished classical composer and jazz composer/pianist, she enjoyed a successful career.
08/25/20 Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) – Rain Spell
Japanese composer Takemitsu wrote hundreds of works, as well as over 90 film scores and 20 books. He blended both Eastern and Western aesthetics to create his unique style.
08/26/20 Zenobia Powell Perry (1908-2004) – Clarinet Sonata
Perry was more than a composer — she was also an activist, joining the NAACP in 1962. Perry spent most of her career teaching at black colleges.
08/27/20 Eleanor Alberga (1949 – ) String Quartet No. 1
Alberga is a Jamaican-British composer and pianist. Her music often features Jamaican cross-rhythms.
08/28/20 Margaret S. Bonds (1913-1972) The Bells (Spiritual Suite for Piano)
Bonds was a pianist, composer, and active member of the National Association of Negro Musicians. She was also a close friend of Langston Hughes and set several of his poems to music.