Black Voices In Classical Music

Classical music has historically been dominated by white voices. Black composers and musicians have been silenced and barred from musical careers, with a long history of not receiving proper credit for their contributions, and even so far as being kept from being audience members for much of music history. But the future of classical music is diverse and inclusive and African American Music Appreciation Month, as well as Juneteenth, has inspired NWPB Classical to compile a list of black voices in classical music that need to be heard.  

Hear multiple experiences from several different  professional singers with Black Voices in Classical Music – a panel by the True Colors Theater Company and Atlanta Opera.  

For issues of Black representation in classical music, try Black Voices-Classical Music, the first of a three-part series from Fordham University, featuring Lakewood native J’Nai Bridges.  

Speaking of Bridges, she also served as a moderator for a conversation hosted by the LA Opera called Lift Every Voice, highlighting racial disparity and inequality, and sharing five different experiences within the opera community.  

Gain perspective with Trilloquy, a podcast with the goal of decolonizing classical music, its traditions and the conversations surrounding it. Suggested episode: a talk with Kalena Bovell, one of the few Black woman conductors serving as Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.  

Two orchestral musicians share their experiences and center the conversation around being black in the procession in the podcast Classically Black. Suggested episode: Suspiciously Black – listen to their take on racial profiling and the experience of a black student at a U.S. music university.  

If you’re looking for a place to learn about works composed by, for and about Black people, the podcast Melanated Moments in Classical Music is just that. Check out their recent episode about Spirituals with the founder of the American Spiritual Ensemble. (And if you’re interested in learning more about spirituals, check out the Spirituals Radio Project from our friends at Colorado Public Radio.)  

NPR’s Amplify provides both conversations and performances from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) musicians and host Lara Downes, offering perspective and identity in the inclusive and diverse future of classical music  

This is a just small sample of African American and Black voices in classical music. We would love to hear from you if you have media suggestions highlighting black voices. Please help us grow this list by emailing us here. 

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