The Black Faces of Classical Music Explained

The Black Faces of Classical Music* is a movement seeking to champion and bring to light the many black individuals, ensembles, initiatives, charities and organisations that are affiliated with and represent progress for Black people within the domain of classical music. *Although the movement is called “The Black Faces of Classical Music”, and will focus primarily on music, it will include people of ethnic minorities and will also look at literature and arts. “The Black Faces of Classical Music” is a play on words: Black Faces = black people. This also represents the past forgotten figures, the presently up-and-coming figures and the achievements made by black people in the industry that have perhaps not been given as much recognition in the mainstream media.

The idea came to me  in the planning stages of my blog as I was thinking of the main themes to write about. One of the most obvious topics for me was the issue of the lack of diversity within classical music. In an industry dominated by caucasians and east asians, I think its important for me as a black person to see more people. Going to concerts and seeing the main orchestras, string quartets and other ensemble I found that it was quite  difficult to spot people who looked like me. In the rare occurrence that I did spot a face of a darker complexion, I would immediately smile jump for joy.

The Black Faces of Classical music is a movement that wants to see more talented black people and people of ethnic mintories excel in the classical genre addition to the genres pertaining to black culture i.e. Reggae, Rap, RnB, Soul etc. In the 21st century, where the world is so diverse, it should be a norm to see people of different complexions and cultural backgrounds in top orchestras and ensembles. In addition, the movement endeavours to create a dialogue and online platform to draw attention to and celebrate past, present and future talent in classical music that has its roots in African/Caribbean heritage.

If you’re interested in finding out more and reading some more articles follow the links below.

My Page – The Black Faces of Classical Music

Chineke! Foundation – Europe’s first professional orchestra comprised of Black and Minority musicians

The Black British Classical Foundation

Ritz Chamber Players – Chamber Music Ensemble comprised of African-American Musicians

Kinshasa Symphony – inhabitants of Kinshasa in DRC are not formally trained but have formed the country’s only symphony orchestra

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Introducing: Shannon-Latoyah Simon

I started playing the classical guitar at the age of 9 and naturally I became interested in the repertoire, which actually isn’t too vast or varied for the instrument. I think my involvement with classical music really grew when I started studying at the Northampton School for Girls (my secondary school), which was also a specialist music college. Classical music was played in nearly all of our classes to improve cognitive function and we were all encouraged to compose pieces, join the after school music ensembles and attend as many concerts and recitals as we could!

For me it’s very important to see more people of colour in the industry. Growing up I found it difficult because there were hardly any people of colour I could look up to as a role model. Due to this I have become involved with the BBCF (Black British Classical Foundation) an organisation that represents and provides opportunities to ethnic minorities within classical music. This year I was able to perform in the BBCF ‘Music inspired by Shakespeare’ concert at St Pauls Church in Covent Garden, which was an amazing experience. I love working with the BBCF because it inspires minority audiences and makes them see the possibilities for themselves and think, “I can do that too!”

I don’t feel as though being a black person in classical music has had any advantages or disadvantages as such. I’ve never been discriminated against of made to feel uncomfortable in any situation. I like to think that any opportunities or achievements I have gained have been down to hard work and determination.

 

 

For more information about Shannon visit www.shannonlsimon.com