- To inspire Black students to begin and continue instrumental training by showing them that they are an integral part of classical music’s past as well as its future.
- To make the music of Black composers available to all people regardless of background or ethnicity.
- To help bring greater diversity to the ranks of performers, composers, and audiences, and help change the face of classical music and its canon.
Music by Black Composers (MBC) was born from the realization that young musicians learning classical music seldom, if ever, have the opportunity to study and perform music written by Black composers. This omission silences a rich vein of musical creation from global cultural consciousness. The effects of this erasure are most serious for aspiring Black classical musicians. Without access to the historic narratives of Black composers, these young musicians struggle to become part of an art form in which they do not appear to belong. Many give up; many more do not even start. The ultimate result is a lack of diversity in our concert halls, both on stage as well as in the audience.
MBC tells a different story. With a multi-pronged approach, we are spreading awareness of and access to music by Black composers to children and adults alike in ever-expanding ways.
In our pedagogical efforts, we are supplementing the current instrumental training methods by publishing books of music exclusively by Black composers from around the world. Starting with strings, each instrument will be the subject of multiple volumes, which will be graded by difficulty from beginner to advanced concerto-level playing. We also intend to publish music for wind and brass instruments, band, orchestra, and chamber ensembles. In addition to making this repertoire available, our books will also educate through articles and interviews. Each volume will include biographies for every composer, features on Black classical music making throughout history, and profiles of Black role models in classical music, past and present. Volume 1 for Violin (roughly equivalent in difficulty to Suzuki books 1-2) was released in October 2018.
MBC is also developing other educational and informational resources for students, performers, and members of the broader community. We have a coloring book that features 40 of the most important Black composers from the 18th-21st centuries, and a timeline poster that features more than 300 Black composers from around the world. We are also creating an online database which will provide information about works written by Black composers. Designed for use by students, teachers, performers, administrators, researchers, and librarians, it will contain facts about each composer and about individual pieces, information about where to find the music, links to recordings, and more. Other online resources include a bibliography of publications about Black classical music making, and a directory of living composers for those commissioning new works or simply seeking information.
Over recent years, many educational and performance organizations have helped the cause of diversity by providing the opportunity for aspiring young Black musicians to realize their dreams. We believe that our project represents the next step. By changing the story about the music of Black composers, we want to help children be able to dream their dreams in the first place, and for those dreams to resonate throughout our communities and beyond.
Our Composers Collage
Click or touch the collage to learn more about each of the composers pictured.