The bassist is the orchestra’s first black principal musician
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The US-born double bassist Joseph Conyers has been appointed principal double bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with immediate effect. He succeeds Harold Robinson, who was Conyers’s teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
The 42-year-old musician has been the Philadelphia Orchestra’s assistant double bass since 2010 and was appointed acting associate principal in 2017, but still had to win his new role by taking part in a final audition and trial week, competing against around 100 other international applicants. ‘It’s a long time since I’ve taken an audition,’ Conyers told the The Philadelphia Inquirer. ‘One thing that came back is that I can be a little bit obsessive about the process, so the bar gets really, really high.’
The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the US’s ‘Big Five’, alongside the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra. Conyers is the orchestra’s first black principal, and one of the few black instrumentalists to occupy a principal position in a major US orchestra.
In addition to his outstanding and versatile musicianship as an orchestral and ensemble player and soloist, Conyers is a dedicated community leader and advocate for music education in Philadelphia through his work at Project 440, the All City Orchestra, and as a faculty member at the city’s Temple University.
Conyers grew up in Savannah, Georgia, studied at Curtis Institute, and was a prizewinner in the 2004 Sphinx Competition in Detroit, MI. He is also an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
He plays an English-made 1802 double bass by Vincenzo Panormo that he calls Norma.
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