This article was included in the Summer 2022 Program Book. Pictured above: The Chevalier performance on July 1oth at Caramoor.
By Kathy Schuman, Artistic Director
Since joining the Caramoor team in 2016, I’ve been proud of the breadth and diversity of music presented on our stages. This summer, we’re taking an important step further: championing the music of artists whose voices have been ignored, forgotten, or dismissed due to pervasive systems of racism and discrimination.
While I’ve always been aware of the predominance of white men in classical music, it’s something I rarely questioned until a few years ago, when I became increasingly interested in the music of living composers. As I perused the brochures from major orchestras and institutions (including Caramoor), I started noticing the stark gender and racial imbalance. Thus began my own journey and exploration into this treasure trove of “overlooked” works.
Following the murder of George Floyd in June 2020, cries for racial justice and equity pervaded every facet of society. That summer, during our pandemic lock down, we live-streamed Listening to Tom-Tom, an event exploring Shirley Graham Du Bois’s 1932 opera which was “forgotten” following its premiere for 25,000 people. Over the past two years, I’ve joined many music fans and colleagues in “re-discovering” composers such as Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, “Blind Tom” Willie, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Joseph Bologne, George Walker, Julius Eastman, and so many others from the past whose works are now being programmed alongside their more recognized peers. And let’s not forget those living and creating music now, like Daniel Bernard Roumain, Tania León, Angélica Negrón, Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery, Carlos Simon, George Lewis, and more. What a rich feast of music this is.
This summer, The Chevalier, Bill Barclay’s concert-theater work about Joseph Bologne, will anchor Caramoor’s ongoing exploration of racial equity in classical music, with programs from J’Nai Bridges, Lara Downes, Imani Winds, Anthony McGill, and the Kronos and Thalea Quartets also championing this less familiar repertoire. We hope these works will become part of a new classical music canon that is more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive.
Thank you for joining us on this journey.