First All-Black Classical Symphony Orchestra Makes Debut At Carnegie Hall

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The Gateways Music Festival Orchestra made history earlier this year, becoming the first all-Black classical symphony to perform in the famed Carnegie Hall in its 130-year history. 

On April 24 of this year, the 125 instrumentalists of the orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall, showcasing a commission from Oscar-winning and Grammy-nominated Jon Batiste, music director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The concert also included a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The group also performed Sinfonia No.3 to honor the late composer George Walker, who was the first African American to earn the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

The landmark performance was led by music director Michael Morgan.

Gateways Music Festival Orchestra was founded in 1993 by prominent pianist and educator Armenta Adams Dumisani. The group was originally based in North Carolina but later moved to Rochester, New York in 1995 after its founder joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music. 

“Gateways Music Festival’s journey to Carnegie Hall has been 28 years in the making. To be the first all-Black classical symphony orchestra to headline a performance there is momentous, especially at this time of racial reckoning in our country’s history,” Gateways President and Artistic Director Lee Koonce said in a statement. “Hearing and seeing the Gateways orchestra on Carnegie’s revered main stage will show Black children that they can perform classical music at the highest level, while reminding people of all backgrounds that this music belongs to everyone.” 

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