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Black Musicians Are Taking Over Classical Music

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Sterling ElliotBy Itoro Udofia

Sterling Elliot, teenage cellist and musical prodigy is preparing for the Sphinx Competition. The history of the U.S. orchestras is wrought with a tumultuous history. Although the orchestra is accepting more people of color, specifically Asian people, the orchestra is still predominantly white. Gone are the days of segregated performing, however, Elliot is still turning the tides of history as a 14 year old African American cellist. Currently, African American and Latinos comprise only 4 percent of orchestra members.

Even though Elliot must perform at such a high pressure event, the Atlanta Black Star reports that he and his peers still finds time to enjoy being a teenager. For example, Elliot listens to hip hop, jokes around with his friend (a fellow violinist) and is still keeping up with the latest cultural trends.   The Sphinx Competition is for young Black and Latino string players who show great potential and promise. Hosting violinists, cellists, and bassists that are some of the best string instrumentalists in Detroit.

The participants in the musical tournament show that classical music can reflect diversity. It shows a counter narrative to a tradition that defines the culture of classical music as white. Elliot and his peers are part of a rich legacy honoring the contributions of string players of color who have been contributing to this musical field. They are training to be the next generation of great string musicians. These participants are also a part of a shift in perception redefining classical music trends. Elliot remains calm as he takes a moment before the competition at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall in the 17th annual Sphinx Competition for strings. He states that, “The day of a performance, it’s too late to really practice,”  Elliot remains collected stating,. “I just warm up and try to relax.” Elliot is  a junior-division semifinalist.

Itoro Udofia is a first generation Nigerian writer, educator and singer/songwriter. You can find her work on http://thoughtsofmymind-itoro.blogspot.com.

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