Celebrating Black Musicians on Juneteenth

Jun 16, 2020

This Juneteenth, we're marking the occasion with music by Black composers, musicians, and conductors throughout the day. 

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and his men issued an order to Galveston, Texas, that all enslaved people were free. The Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect two years prior throughout most of the United States, but certain landowners had chosen not to follow it; Galveston was the last holdout. Ever since, African Americans have made Juneteenth a holiday for commemorating freedom and celebrating community and achievement. Learn more about Juneteenth from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on The Root.

At WCRB, we're celebrating Juneteenth, too, by playing music written by Black composers, and performed by Black artists and conductors, throughout the day. Here are a few of the composers, artists, and conductors you'll hear.

Florence Price, composer: the first African American woman to achieve national acclaim for her compositions. She was also the first African American woman to have a symphonic work performed by a major American symphony orchestra. 

Learn more about Florence Price.

Leslie B. Dunner, conductor: a fantastic conductor and music educator, composer, and clarinetist, best known for his time as Music Director of the South Shore Opera Company in Chicago. Alongside music, he is dedicated to humanitarian and environmentalist work.

Learn more about Leslie Dunner.

Demarre McGill, flutist: Principal Flute of the Seattle Symphony, as well as an acclaimed soloist, chamber musician, and music educator. He is a founding member of the Myriad Trio, and, when he and his brother, Anthony, were young, they guest starred on "Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood."

Learn more about Demarre McGill.

William Grant Still, composer: the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, to have a sympony performed by a major orchestra, to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and to have an opera performed on national television. 

Learn more about William Grant Still.

Paul Freeman, conductor: co-founder of the Chicago Sinfonietta, which is known for performing a wide and diverse repertoire. Over the course of his career, he conducted more than 100 orchestras in 28 countries and made more than 200 recordings.

Learn more about Paul Freeman.

These are just a few of the artists, composers, and conductors you'll hear on WCRB this Juneteenth. Tune in throughout the day for more.