In Search of Black Violinists, Part 2 | 7 Black Violinists and Inclusive Music Organizations

Elijah McClain playing the violin.

Today, August 30th, 2020, is the one year anniversary of Elijah McClain's death. In context of the George Floyd murder and the BLM movement, people have been working tirelessly to find solutions to this issue of violence against Black people. So far, people have mentioned retraining or defunding the police, reallocating funds to community programs, training businesses and educational institutions and curriculum to reduce systemic racism. But when a non-Black person sees a ‘suspicious’ Black person walking in their neighborhood, is their education and training going to be enough to stop their implicit bias from having them call the police or reach for a gun?

As mentioned in a previous article I wrote, , I challenged myself to find seven Black violinists who play classical music just on Youtube without using extra resources and recommendations from groups who specifically promote Black classical musicians. I have friends who play music who I could have easily  asked, but I wanted to see for myself the barriers most people would have to find a Black violinist who plays classical music on Youtube.

Now, I love seeing hip-hop violinists. Many of them are and could have been classically trained after they’ve started in hip-hop and then there are some classically trained musicians who consciously choose to pursue and remain in hip-hop.  But the observations in this article are made by omitting hip-hop violinists, because I want to address the highly racist classical music scene as mentioned in this previous article: 7 Ways to Spot a Racist Orchestra | The Need for Diversity in Classical Music. 

My personal Youtube profile already has an algorithm that shows me a lot of content from Black violinists, so I started fresh with a different account I barely use. And because I wanted to not have results filled with famous violinists, who were also white or Asian, I searched for 'young violinists'. I had to scroll down for a long time and the majority of players are still either Asian or white. This ‘research method’ isn’t exact science per say, but I am imitating what an average person interested in the violin might be typing in the search bar. Here’s what I found:

1. Randall Goosby - Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3

2. Sean Bennett - Beethoven "Spring" Sonata

3. Leah Flynn - Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3

4. Gabrielle Stanback - Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Mov. 1

This entry is not from Youtube, but I saw it in my feed and felt compelled to include it.

5. Tanaeya - Bach Violin Concerto in A Minor

6. Akim Camarara - Dance of the Fairies

7. Gareth Johnson - Ysaye Sonata No. 3

I hope you enjoyed listening to the talented musicians above. However, I wish I could have found more and didn’t have to ‘dig’. The point of this article is to make light of the difficulty of finding Black classical musicians on the internet, while exposing more people to think about their expectations of Black musicians, since classical music is predominantly filled with white and Asian people. And while I don’t proclaim that exposure of Black classical musicians is the sole solution to fight racism, I do believe that the more we see Black people in cultural scenes that have a reputation for affluence, utilize high levels of skill and are in positions of power, the more we can fight those harmful stereotypes and implicit biases that get Black people like Elijah McClain killed.

Elijah playing music to animals in a shelter.

The following list of groups and organizations help develop the talents of young Black musicians. Please consider donating to them or sharing their information with others who could benefit from them.

Groups, charities, non-profits or other organizations that provide education, resources and support inclusion of Black and Latinx performers in classical music (subject to be updated and expanded):

Am I missing you or your group? Of course I am! Maybe, I had a hard time finding you. For questions, comments and concerns, please use this form to contact us.

Joanna Glass is the singer, guitarist, songwriter and violinist of the 2-piece Alternative Rock band Glasspirits. Along with her bandmate drummer and percussionist Abe Perez, they are signed to Gloucester Records along with artists Laura ValleMumkai and Dommme.