Congratulations go to Rhiannon Giddens – a trained opera singer, virtuoso fiddler and banjo player, founding member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, MacArthur Genius grant winner, and composer who is pictured above. Giddens was just announced to be the artistic director of Silkroad, the cross-cultural music organization founded by Yo-Yo Ma. Read more at The New York Times.
Last week we shared a piece from The New York times calling for an end to blind auditions to allow for deliberately inclusive ensembles. This week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responded saying that blind auditions – and pure musicianship – should stand, but that there are other ways to thoughtfully and purposefully be more inclusive.
Black musicians are speaking out about their experiences facing racism while working in the field of classical music. In a series called “Educate Yourself”, WQXR challenges listeners to pay attention to the abhorrent comments and criticisms Black musicians face regularly that white musicians have never experienced. Read Black Musicians Take to Social Media to Tell Their Stories as well as Black Musicians of the Previous Generation Share the Racism They Faced.
This week the problem of discrimination in classical music made national headlines through NPR for two separate incidents. The first was the accusation of racist comments made by pianist Yuja Wang and violinist Leonidas Kavakos after a joint recital which was revealed via an Instagram account called OrchestraIsRacist. The second was a shocking number of racist comments that sprung up in a discussion by music theorists in the Journal of Schenkarian Studies. All of which shows just how much work classical music has to do in coming to terms with the embedded white supremacy in the field.
Ethel Smyth was a composer profoundly concerned with the human condition and social justice. This is emphasized by the first-ever recording of her 1930 “The Prison” where a condemned prisoner debates with his soul. A monumental work for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra, Chandos Records is releasing the recording, by The Experiential Orchestra (dir. James Blachly) on Aug. 7. Enthusiastic reviews are already beginning to come in, such as this one by Joshua Kosman at the San Francisco Chronicle, and by Jon Sobel at Blog Critics here.
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