‘The Black Mozart’: Orchestrating a more diverse classical scene

Black Pearl conductor Jeri Lynne Johnson

This weekend, Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E-flat Major” will feature two female African-American soloists, along with a female African-American conductor. A conductor-soloist-soloist trio of African-American women is likely a first for any professional performance of this iconic piece.

The event is the brainchild of Jeri Lynne Johnson, the founder and conductor of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. Since 2007, Black Pearl has sought to create a Philadelphia-based ensemble that mirrors the ethnic and cultural diversity of the city in which they perform.

“If you attend classical music, you know you only see, basically, one type of person,” explains Black Pearl’s executive director, Julia Rubio. “But that’s not the only type of person that can enjoy the music. That’s silly. It means, as a community, we’re not connecting.”

The three-person staff of Black Pearl is proud to declare that their audiences are roughly 60 percent African-American and Latino, representing a true cross-section of the city.

Along with the Mozart performance, this weekend Black Pearl will present a rare performance of a work by Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George (sometimes referred to as “The Black Mozart”), a French composer with African ancestry, much heralded in 18th-century Paris. 

“We’re working toward a day when someone can go into the Kimmel Center or Carnegie Hall and step into an audience that is truly diverse,” says Rubio. “Orchestras aren’t just about putting on concerts. It’s about being a resource for everyone in the community, not just people with a certain socioeconomic background.”

Schools of thought

Much of Black Pearl’s efforts are focused on in-classroom workshops with K-12 Philadelphia schools, both public and private. They also encourage public school students to attend their rehearsals and connect with the more than 20 professional musicians in the company.  



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.