Is Classical Really Classic?

Classical music is considered one of the most peaceful genres of music. Originating in the mid-1700s in what was considered the Classical period, classical music’s defining characteristics include its soft expressions and melodic tones. The harpsichord was the main instrument of classical music until it was replaced by the piano. When performed by an orchestra, instruments such as violins may also be present. The United States was introduced to classical music in the early 19th century with the increase of productions of classical compositions from its citizens. Some of the most popular classical composers of all time include Ludwig van Beethoven and Fredric Chopin.

It is no secret that African-Americans have influenced almost every genre of music, but there is little acknowledgement of our contributions to classical music. The renowned classical composer, George Gershwin, in addition to other 20th century composers, was said to have been influenced by folk and jazz, which he then incorporated into his classical compositions. He, along with many others, never gave the Black community any of the profit that was gained from our contribution. However, classical music is still widely considered to have originated and been composed by musicians of European descent.

Today, there are a growing number of African-American classical composers/pianists. During  the Civil War, some African-Americans were given the opportunity to be professionally trained in classical compositions and played in Black symphonies. Notable black classical composers throughout history include Joseph Boulogne Chavalier de Saint George, Florence Price and William Grant Still. Classical music has influenced the likes of Ben Carson, one of the world’s greatest physicians, who would choose to listen to it when performing surgery.

Personally, I was raised listening to classical music, so I have a deep respect for its various compositions. I wish that there were more modern Black classical composers, but there is often a lack of focus on the genre in our communities. Classical music is timeless and has a way to bring peace to any space that you may occupy. Hopefully, the younger will show the world that Black excellence is also present in classical music.

-Ivorie Farley-Cook

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