The classical genre originated around the 11th or 12th century in Europe, but was introduced to the African American community by the “Black Mozart”, Chevalier de Saint-George in the 1770’s.  African Americans were only seriously introduced to the classical genre after the civil war (also known as the antebellum period), but were taught by European immigrant musicians previous to this.  During the antebellum period African Americans were able to make great strides in classical music. For example, those who wanted to become composers were able to attend and receive an education from the Philadelphia school, paving the way for future involvement of African Americans in classical music.  Also, these educated African Americans now had the opportunity to make headway in their careers as officially trained composers, and gain an income through performing all around. This progression even gave inspiration to African American artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Thankfully, because of their enrichment to the genre, contributions, and ability to create sophisticated/complex compositions, those praised black composers were able to create a different outlook of African Americans as a whole.  

African American Composers

As opposed to most, though not all, of the genres we have studied before, classical music is preserved through written instead of oral transmissions.  Key characteristics of the classical genre include glee’s, ballads, hymns, overtunes, variation as opposed to repetitions, a variety of keys, tunes, and rhythms, and finally, often fluctuation in mood (changing the speed).  African idioms and folk characteristics were added to the European style of classical music in order to intertwine some African American culture into the music. Key instruments include violins, pianos, flutes, horns, clarinets, organs, and so on (aka what composes an orchestra).  Most modern genres are influenced by classical musics compositions and chorus such as rock music. Key performers of the classical genre include, Beethoven, Johann Bach, and Marian Anderson. Examples of classical music are linked below