BoiseQueen.Com Composer, pianist :chicagobestpiano2@att.net / Blog

Afri-Classical composers,performers,deserve better show of support

Afri-classical composers,conductors & performers deserve a better show of support.

On August 01,2012 I made the painful decision to start removing many of my performance works from websites that they had occupied since 2002. This decision did not come easily as many of these works were original compositions of mine that had somehow ,lost its appeal with music fans even to take advantage of being invited to download the material even ..for free!

Upon surveying you tube site performances of other creative and very accomplished Afri-classical piano soloists performing extremely difficult works by a variety of composers e.g Rachmaninoff,Tchaikovsky,Scriabin or Ravel. I took notice that the listening community did not pay as much attention to performances by people of color as much as they did other ethnicities. In fact; I recently had the distinguished pleasure of engaging in a short 30-minute discussion with an Afri-classical piano soloist (whose name was requested not to be disclosed)that recently performed with a very prestigious major symphony orchestra in such works as Prokofiev,Shostakovich and Vaughn Williams .

He reiterated that he was leaving the performance arena simply because of the show of the lack of support he was getting from his performances in general. His performances have been reviewed by top rated critics and have been given extremely high approval in music publications and other forms of media as excellent. He has won several awards both domestic and international in music competitions over the past 15 years. He has composed and published several works of his own for both solo piano and orchestra. Yet despite such an impressive array of credentials and accomplishment; I was floored to learn that the support level for this remarkeably accomplished artist would even drive him to even remotely think about leaving such a beloved treasure.

He attributed much of the problem to innate prejudices for people of color venturing into a realm of music genre that has had a history of ethnic exclusion but also to taboos and disinterest coming from his own peer group of color as well. In his words: "Your the wrong color performing music people like on one end and the right color performing the wrong type of music on the other." Both extremes cancel you out as a success in the middle. Since you can't change the color of your skin then you'll have to change the music you play altogether into something less preferable.

What all of this is leading up to is an appeal to people of color to expand their horizon outlook in the appreciation of music to include classical as well as contemporary music in their daily lives. Its an appeal to educate your young people by discarding the stereotype taboos associated with people of color involved in this genre and see the beauty inherent within the scope of the music itself and not judge it on an ideological basis associated with the kind of racist "exclusionary" history its had regarding people of color. Besides, if you have a gifted seven year old piano student at the piano who received a standing ovation for playing his or her first Chopin or Beethoven work during a recital; if they were to come back to you at age seventeen or at twenty seven after accomplishing a much advanced stage at their endeavors at the piano and realize the support of their peers have grown thin in support compared to what they experienced in their first recital; are you prepared to tell them that the show of support and encouragement at seven years old was just a "process of encouragement" rather than anything that was going to be genuine and permanent? ...that you yourself don't even like classical music! You've encouraged them to love and pursue excellence in a field of endeavor that will show little support for them because of the color of their skin performing it on one hand and little support and appreciation for the artform on the other. (To be continued:)

Rose Marie James
Rose Marie James  (over 4 years ago)

Hello BoiseQueen,

This is such an excellent blog post! I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. I have aspired to be a classical pianist and am disheartened that this is what I have to look forward to. But of course the world is changing its views of stereotypes at a historically rapid pace due to the speed and accessibility of true stories like this one online. Thank you for starting this conversation. I look forward to reading your upcoming articles on this topic.

~Rose Marie James