Black community orchestras in the US: Hidden histories

Orchestra noir Night at the Symphony Shot - FINAL

During America’s 20th-century social inequalities, African American musicians set up their own community orchestras, Eliesha Nelson traces their history and legacy

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Professional orchestras in the United States are known not only for their precision and beauty of sound, but also for their more recent push to create diversity and equality initiatives. There is an increasing interest in having orchestras that reflect the communities in which they exist, and welcoming under-represented audience members. According to Aaron Flagg’s magazine article ‘Anti-Black Discrimination in American Orchestras’ (Symphony, summer 2020), black musicians make up 1.8 per cent of American professional orchestras. Additionally, 14 per cent of orchestral staff and 6 per cent of boards identify as non-white, which means even fewer of them are of African descent…

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