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Acknowledging the Gains Minorities Have Made in Classical Music

I am one who has a long awareness and who has long-been supportive of Sphinx and the efforts of Aaron Dworkin (see “Bringing Diversity to the World of Classical Music, June 26). Things have not been ideal in the world of classical music, however, I am concerned that readers of this article may come away with a limited impression.

For example, most are not likely to know and be aware of the approximately 500 Black classical music composers spanning several centuries and continents. In addition, there have been groundbreaking Black professional musicians in major professional orchestras since the 1960s. And though it has been extremely limited, Black composers have been heard in our symphony halls since the early 1900s. This overall lack of awareness encompasses our entire society including our college/ university music departments, professional and amateur performance groups, history and Black studies programs, the recording industry and the general public.

The civil rights era also improved awareness and opened doors within classical music. A very significant development was CBS Records’ Black Composers Series recorded on nine LPs between 1974 and 1979. This was groundbreaking. Furthermore, we are seeing and hearing increased numbers of Black classical music soloists, chamber ensembles, conductors and composers. So Aaron Dworkin’s achievements stand on the shoulders of an imperfect but evident history of others. I know he will agree when I encourage everyone to have this expanded historical awareness.

—Richard Greene, Temple University

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