That "Black Music Month" Awards Dinner

The Black Business Association Salute to Black Music Awards Dinner is scheduled for June 20, 2017 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. With respect for the Black Business Association, honorary chair Quincy Jones and honorees Clarence Avant and Lee Bailey, Black Music Month is a self-serving industry creation to inflate record sales in only popular music, without consideration to achievements by people of African descent in classical and opera music. Similar to the NAACP Image Awards, the annual salute perpetuates or reinforces the false belief that classical and opera music are White genres. While the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Metropolitan Opera and other significant institutions cast, book, and showcase first-class international talent of color, they are being betrayed by Black organizations fostering limited racial pride. The current concept of Black Music Month does not show the full range of achievements by people of color and denies our children images of the full range of their human potential.

Black Music Month should be changed to Blacks in All Music Month. See soprano Latonia Moore.

John Malveaux, Contributor, via AfriClassical Blog


African-American Music Appreciation Month

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

May 31, 2017

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims June 2017 as African-American Music Appreciation Month

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During June, we pay tribute to the contributions African Americans have made and continue to make to American music.  The indelible legacy of these musicians    who have witnessed our Nation's greatest achievements, as well as its greatest injustices    give all Americans a richer, deeper understanding of American culture.  Their creativity has shaped every genre of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and rap. 

In March, rock and roll lost Chuck Berry, one of its founding fathers.  Berry's signature style on the guitar, on display in classics like "Johnny B. Goode," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Maybellene," and "Carol," came to define the explosive new sound of rock and roll.  As Keith Richards, guitarist for the Rolling Stones said while introducing Berry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:  "This is the gentleman who started it all."

We also take time this month to recognize the musical influence of two of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, as this year marks their centennial birthdays.  Gillespie, through his legendary trumpet sound and Fitzgerald, through her pure, energetic voice, treated people around the world to spirited and soulful jazz music.  Their work has influenced countless musicians, and continues to inspire listeners young and old.

The contributions of Berry, Gillespie, Fitzgerald, and other African-American musicians shine as examples of how music can bring us together.  These musicians also remind us of our humanity and of our power to overcome.  They expressed the soul of blues, gospel, and rock and roll, which has so often captured the hardships of racism and injustices suffered by African Americans, as well as daily joys and celebrations.  Their work highlights the power music has to channel the human experience, and they remain a testament to the resilience of all freedom-loving people.  We are grateful for their contribution to the canon of great American art.  

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2017 as African-American Music Appreciation Month.  I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and appreciation of African-American Music. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.


A Servant of Rhythm From Ghana, in Texas

NYT article by FINN COHEN profiles Ghanaian Master Drummer Gideon Foli Alorwoyie. (Photo credit Allison V. Smith for The New York Times). Drummer Alorwoyie's book & CD combo published by AM Publishers, a subsidiary of the African Musical Arts. For full article,

Master drummer Alorwoyie's book & CD combo published by AM Publishers, a subsidiary of the St. Louis based African Musical Arts.

APRIL 2 @ 3PM: The Season Finale at the Sheldon

April 2, 3:00 p.m, Sheldon Concert Hall
3648 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108
Celebrating Intercultural Music with chamber works by Gamel Abdel-Rahim, William Grant-Still, Kwabena Nketia, Adolphus Hailstork, Undine Smith Moore, Fred Onovwerosuoke, and other composers. A season finale concert featuring the IMI Chamber Players (quintet) with pianist Sunghee Hinners, flutist and pianist  Marie Jureit-Beamish. cellist Bjorn Ranheim and other special guest artists and friends at the “acoustically perfect” Sheldon Concert Hall. 

Intercultural Music Initiative: a commitment to black composers of classical music. As aptly put by composer Undine Smith Moore, "Art preserves life in a very special way....our memories die with us, but art preserves the values and experiences." 

Tickets $12-$25 now available at 314-289-4051 or click here to order tickets online

Undine Smith Moore

Undine Smith Moore

Cellist Bjorn Ranheim

Cellist Bjorn Ranheim

 ”Art preserves life in a very special way....our memories die with us, but art preserves the values and experiences.” 
— Composer Undine Smith Moore

Intercultural Music Initiative:
a commitment to Black Composers of classical music

William Grant Still, composers

William Grant Still, composers

Flutist Wendy Hymes

Flutist Wendy Hymes

Wendy Hymes, IMI Program Director

Wendy Hymes, IMI Program Director

Coro Allegro of Boston to Premiere New Piano Concerto by St. Louis Composer


Fred Onovwerosuoke

The 2-movement concerto is based on two short poems, Incolatus andEvigilans, also by composer Fred Onovwerosuoke. The first movement, the composer notes, "is a snapshot of one life's journey bedecked by reveries, mirages and intrigues. Of triumphs, echoes thereof often hazed by another drowsy night." The second Movement,Evigilans, opens suddenly with a tour-de-force passage inspired by "Sikuti" celebratory dances of the Massai and Samburu warriors of Eastern Africa. The middle section draws from a variety of imageries of African responsorial traditions. Then recapping through a series of tender musical  vignettes, reminiscent of childhood memories - of innocence, toys, playtime, etc., - the work closes with an annotated reprise, culminating in what the composer remarks, "is a befitting accolade to a beloved friend and a bold quest charting new musical frontiers!" The Caprice for Piano & Orchestra is scored for chamber orchestra and solo piano. It was commissioned by Coro Allegro of Boston, Massachusetts and published by the African Music Publishers, a non-profit publishing subsidiary of the African Musical Arts in St. Louis.

About Fred Onovwerosuoke, composer

Award-winning composer Fred Onovwerosuoke ("Fredo," as most friends and colleagues call him) was born in Ghana to Nigerian parents.  Onovwerosuoke grew up in both home countries and eventually naturalized in the United States. His influences are wide and varied, and is much at home discussing Handel, Mozart and Jazz, as he is talking about the African gonje, mbira, kora, kontingu and balafon riffs, or foremost exponents of traditional African music. FredO's works have been featured in a variety of recordings, films, documentaries and radio, including Robert De Niro's film, The Good Shepherd, Niyi Coker's Pennies for the Boatman, IMI Chamber Players' Dances & Rhapsodies: Works for Wind Quintet, William-Chapman Nyaho's CD, ASA, Hymes/Hollister's CD African Art Music for Flute, Peter Henderson's CD, Twenty-Four Studies in African Rhythms for Piano, among others. His book, Songs of Africa: 22 Pieces for Mixed Choirs published by Oxford University Press has quickly become a favorite among choral directors across the United States and globally, and his Twenty-four Studies in African Rhythms is acclaimed as one of the most-demanded African-rhythm influenced piano studies known. FredO is a Fellow of the Regional Arts Commission. For more information, please visit   

Fred Onovwerosuoke is represented by IMI Artists (

Darryl Hollister, pianist

Darryl Hollister, pianist

Darryl Hollister in St. Louis for the Intercultural Music Festival

Darryl Hollister
in St. Louis for the Intercultural Music Festival

About Darryl Hollister, pianist

Darryl Hollister was born in Detroit, Michigan. He attended Michigan State University, where he studied with Ralph Votapek and Deborah Moriarty. He received his Master’s Degree from New England Conservatory of Music, working with Patricia Zander. Touring with the program “Sharing a New Song,” Mr. Hollister performed as accompanist and soloist in Russia, Georgia, Estonia, Ukraine, and Armenia. Mr. Hollister is an active accompanist and performer with many well-known choral groups in the Boston area and regularly performs with Coro Allegro, Dedham Choral Society, the Heritage Chorale in Framingham, and the choruses of Commonwealth School. 

Mr. Hollister is considered one of the leading interpreters of African classical piano music. He has premiered works of many outstanding African composers such as Akin Euba, Joshua Uzoigwe, Fred Onovwerosuoke, and many others. He has performed recitals of African and African- American piano music in Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., St. Louis, London and Cambridge, England. He and flutist Wendy Hymes have recorded a CD entitled African Art Music for Flute,and has toured throughout the Caribbean, South Africa, and England with soprano Dawn Padmore in recitals of African and African-American music. He is founder of the world music ensemble Mundial whose performances highlight the works of African and African-American composers.

photo by Susan Wilson  

photo by Susan Wilson


About David Hodgkins
conductor & music director

Artistic Director David Hodgkins has delighted audiences in the greater Boston area for over 20 years with "creative programs, sung with enthusiasm and tonal beauty" (Ed Tapper, Bay Windows). Mr. Hodgkins is the Artistic Director of Coro Allegro in Boston, which Boston Globe critic Michael Manning deemed "one of Boston's most accomplished choruses,” Artistic Director of The New England Classical Singers in Andover, Director of Music at The Commonwealth School in Boston, advanced conducting instructor at the Kodály Music Institute,his ensembles have collaborated with the Boston Celebrity Series, Boston Cecilia, Handel and Haydn Society, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, The New England String Ensemble, and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

Mr. Hodgkins has conducted numerous world and Boston premiere performances of works ranging from Marianne Martinez to Arvo Pärt. Mr. Hodgkins with Coro Allegro received the 2012 Chorus America Alice Parker/ASCAP Award for their collaborative premiere performance of Kareem Roustom’s oratorio Son of Man, with The United Parish Church of Brookline and Music Director Susan DeSelms, a work commissioned by United Parish. That same year, Mr. Hodgkins with Coro Allegro released the critically acclaimed CDs Awakenings and In Paradisum on the Navona label, which feature contemporary composers Robert Stern, Ronald Perera, and Patricia Van Ness and soloists Sanford Sylvan and Ruth Cunningham. Gramophone magazine noted of Awakenings that "Coro Allegro, led by David Hodgkins, performs each score with fine balance and interplay."

Mr. Hodgkins has been featured in Choral Director Magazine, The Voice of Chorus America, UMass Amherst Magazine, and Haverhill Life. He has served as producer for three award-winning CDs by La Donna Musicale, Laury Gutiérrez, Artistic Director, In the Style of… for Terry Everson, trumpet, and Shiela Kibbe, piano on Albany Records, and a CD of trumpet concerti for the Boston University Wind Ensemble and Terry Everson, directed by David Martins. 

African American Spirituals, aka "Negro Spirituals"

"Negro Spirituals" - by Christopher Hyde

In the wake of last month’s Charleston, SC, tragedy, there has been a renewed interest in what used to be called Negro Spirituals. The a cappella choir, Vox Nova, sang two of them as encores after its recent concert in Yarmouth, in elaborate arrangements that nevertheless seemed to capture some of the flavor of the originals.

After deciding to write a column on the subject, I was surprised to discover that there is just as much controversy over the songs as there is about other aspects of race relations. There seems to be no consensus about their origin or definition, although most people think that they know one when they hear one. Unfortunately, what most white Americans have heard are adaptations written for public performance, which is not what spirituals are about.

I was fortunate enough as a boy to have heard what I consider to be the real thing, in some small churches of rural Maryland while visiting a friend there. Our parents not being church goers, we would take our bicycles on Sunday morning, ride to one or another of the local African-denomination churches and listen to the singing through the windows, open wide in the Maryland summer heat.

We found the music strange but exciting. We were often invited inside but were too frightened or embarrassed to accept. Perhaps that was a good thing, since the presence of strangers might have altered the songs (I didn’t think of them as hymns).
The primary controversy has to do with the origin of the Spiritual form, one major aspect of which is the call-and-response heard in “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

One school maintains that it is entirely African in nature, another that it is an amalgam of African and protestant hymn forms, and a third that it is modeled entirely on Scotch-Irish hymns sung at popular religious revival events (camp meetings) in the 19th-century rural South.

The latter view was backed by some purportedly anthropological studies of the 1930s, which analyzed rhythm, meter, harmony and use of the pentatonic (all black keys on the piano) scale in spirituals versus those of camp meeting songs, and found them virtually identical. The same view was advocated by earlier musicologists after Dvorak’s favorable comments on the songs led to international recognition in the early 1900s. It is almost as if the academic community, or at least some parts of it, could not accept the idea of an original Black art form.

Maintaining the exact opposite was musicologist Henry Edward Krehbiel, who, after analyzing 529 songs, wrote in “Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music” (1913) “… while their combination into songs took place in this country, the essential elements came from Africa; in other words… while some of the material is foreign, the product is native; and, if native, then American.” (Krehbiel wrote this study while living in Blue Hill.)

The problem with the African origin theory is that Africa is not a single entity. The enslaved were from many different tribes or nations, each with its own musical traditions and forms. The Bantu may sing in parallel fifths, while some nomadic herders have a polyphonic tradition that would put Bach to shame. Still, there may be some universal characteristics in communal singing, and in widely played instruments, such as the banjo and the wooden xylophone, that could have contributed significantly to the form. African drumming is universal, but was forbidden by fearful slave owners because it was a form of communication that they could not understand.

A description of the Spiritual, which comes closest to what my friend and I heard long ago, is that of African-American novelist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) in “The Sanctified Church:” “The jagged harmony is what makes it, and it ceases to be what it was when this is absent. Neither can any group be trained to produce it. Its truth dies under training like flowers under hot water. The harmony of the true spiritual is not regular. The dissonances are important and not to be ironed out by the trained musician. The various parts break in at any old time. Falsetto often takes the place of regular voices for short periods. Keys change. Moreover, each singing of the piece is a new creation. The congregation is bound by no rules. No two times singing is alike, so that we must consider the rendition of a song not a final thing, but as a mood. It will not be the same thing next Sunday. Negro songs to be heard truly must be sung by a group, and a group bent on expression of feelings and not on sound effects.”

Maybe Dvorak was prescient when he said: “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.” We’re still waiting.

Christopher Hyde is a writer and musician who lives in Pownal, Maine. For 20 years he was classical music reviewer and columnist (Classical Beat) for the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram.  He can be reached at