Color to the classics: Recognizing Black classical music during appreciation month

As we celebrate Black music appreciation month, we can’t forget the contribution that Black people have made to the classics.

One local organization specializes in bringing color to the classics. Executive Director of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts, Terri Allen, said the organization was founded by her children Pamela and Victor Simonson.

“They wanted to bring color to the classics by giving back to the community,” Allen said.

Classical music is often thought of as music for the elite. Allen said, “If given the opportunity to play the violin or play the piano or flute in a concert forum setting, they gravitate to the music in addition to hip hop, and R&B and jazz.”

Terri Allen, Victor and Pamela Simonson. (Courtesy Terri Allen)

The native New Yorker said there’s a rich history of Black classical musicians and that young people should be made aware of it.

Although Allen is not a trained musician, for her and her children, music has been a family affair.

During the early years of Allen’s children’s musical journey, “They were the first and only classically-trained African American siblings performing concerts along the Eastern seaboard.”

They both received their undergraduate degree from the Eastman School of Music, then veered off into their own careers.

Victor is currently a musical director, conductor, composer and pianist. His accomplishments have spanned many genres. He has traveled with Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple and “The Lion King.”

Pamela is an opera singer (soprano) with the Washington National Opera, musical director for Camp Arena Stage and a teacher for Prince George’s County Public Schools. She received her masters degree from Manhattan School of Music.

The organization offers CAAPA music scholarships for youth, and a variety of programs including OPERAations Virtual Music Sessions for Kids and CAAPA Camp, all in an effort to cultivate young musicians and performers.

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