Black History Month 2023
February is Black History Month, also known as African American History Month. In 1976 U.S. President Gerald Ford officially designated February as Black History Month to honor the history and achievements of African Americans and their vital contributions to our country. During this month, let us pay homage to Black history-makers, celebrate Black modern-day change-makers, and support the continual pursuit of equality and equity for Black people in our country.
Increase your cultural awareness by learning more about Black history, heritage, culture and music:
- Find out more about Black History Month here.
- Explore the history, arts and culture of Black experience in the United States here.
- Discover ways you can celebrate Black History Month here.
- Watch the informative and inspirational video Black Classical Music: The Forgotten History here.
- Learn more about Sphinx, a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts here.
Join the DSO Black History Month Celebration:
- Attend the free DSO event on Feb 9 – A Fireside Chat with Terence Blanchard, moderated by Laura Harris, NBC 5 news anchor. RSVP here.
- Volunteer with our Mosaic Community on Feb 11 at Minnie‚Äôs Pantry, a Black-owned nonprofit making a significant impact in the community. Sign up here.
- Listen to a Spotify playlist curated by our Mosaic Community group that pays homage to Black composers, musicians, and artists in classical/choral music here.
- Support¬†Black-owned businesses. See a list of Black-owned businesses here.
DSO Black History Month Reflections
Dr. Jessica Shepherd
DSO Board Member
Who is a modern-day Black changemaker that inspires you?
I have really appreciated and followed the profound leadership of Stacey Abrams. Her work and efforts to ensure the African American voice in voting is truly outstanding as this is where we can see significant changes in how laws are written and carried out. As the first African American female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the United States, her tenacity has given a voice to black people in politics. She was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in the 2020 election.
Glyne A. Griffith II
Vice President of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Social Impact
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month provides a wonderful and necessary opportunity to reflect on the history of Black people in our country and to acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable contributions that Black people have made and continue to make in our country.
Vice President, Dallas Symphony Chorus
Who would you consider one of the most inspirational figures in black history, and why?
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most inspirational figures in Black history because he did not let his fear hinder him from doing what he knew was right. He led with peace in the face of violence, kindness in the face of hate, and courage in the face of injustice. That is how we should all strive to live our lives today and every day.
DSO Young Strings Student
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month means the world to me because it is all about celebrating Black culture and the impact we‚Äôve had in history. There have been countless achievements made by Blacks, in education, STEM, sports and of course music, so it‚Äôs such an amazing thing to honor the past and acknowledge the achievements that are currently being made today.
DSO Young Strings Student
Who would you consider one of the most inspirational figures in black history, and why?
I think Benjamin Banneker displayed the importance of education and showed the ability to learn independently. As a result, he was an astronomer who wrote almanacs that helped farmers. Fun Fact: He even built watches and took them apart. He also invented the striking clock!
Remembering Dwight Shambley
Black History Month is a time to pay homage to Black history-makers and change-makers. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra remembers our very own Black changemaker, long-time bassist Dwight Shambley. He passed away on January 27, 2020, and is survived by his wife of 40 years, Dallas Symphony violinist Sho-Mei Pelletier, and their two children, Aaron Joshua and Alexis Jessica. Shambley dedicated his career to raising up the next generation of musicians and changing the face of professional orchestras. After learning that African Americans made up two percent of professional orchestral musicians, he knew that he had to be the catalyst for change. Shambley was determined to give underrepresented musicians in Dallas serious classical music training and genuine access to an orchestral career.
Young Strings: DSO
Young Strings: New Faces
Young Strings: WFAA
In 1992, Shambley co-founded the Dallas Symphony‚Äôs Young Strings program. Young Strings develops the talents of exceptional and underrepresented string players in the City of Dallas by providing its students with the skills, lessons, opportunities and resources essential for success both in college and careers in music.
Shambley said, ‚ÄúYoung Strings was founded to bring music to the lives of those who have never thought it could be an option for them. Through its history, it has continued to nurture our youngest musicians in Dallas, launch the careers of many players and inspire the imaginations of music lovers. I am honored to have established this tradition, and I know that as it continues to grow, we will see even more students and young adults have music as the center of their lives.‚ÄĚ
Mosaic Community Group Playlist
Curated by the Mosaic Community Group of the Dallas Symphony, enjoy this playlist that pays homage to Black composers, musicians, and artists in classical and choral music. The Mosaic Community Group is comprised of DSO family members from various races, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and allies dedicated to championing diversity within the DSO.
Celebrating Black artistry throughout the Season
During the 2022/2023 season, the DSO stands firm in its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion through inspired programming that gives voice and space to Black creatives representing various facets of the artistic landscape, including singers, musicians, conductors, and composers.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones
New York Times¬†columnist Charles M. Blow‚Äôs widely acclaimed memoir is the source for this extremely moving story of his traumatic youth in Louisiana. What an amazing collection of talent: composer Terence Blanchard, one of the most influential figures in American jazz; librettist Kasi Lemmons, director of such remarkable films as¬†Harriet¬†and¬†Eve‚Äôs Bayou; and a top-flight cast including many of America‚Äôs most brilliant singing actors.¬†Fire Shut Up in My Bones¬†is an opera for today, revealing the black experience in this country as few other operas have done.Get Details
Meet the Artist: Terence Blanchard
Two-time Oscar¬ģ nominee, six-time Grammy¬ģ-winner and 2018 USA Fellow trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements concerning pivotal moments in American culture ‚Äď past and present.
From his expansive work composing the scores for Spike Lee films ranging from the documentary When the Levees Broke, about Blanchard‚Äôs hometown of New Orleans during the devastation from Hurricane Katrina to the epic Malcolm X; and the latest Lee film, Da 5 Bloods which was released by Netflix in June 2020, Blanchard has interwoven melodies that created strong backdrops to human stories.
Blanchard received Oscar¬ģ nominations for his original scores for Spike Lee‚Äôs films BlacKkKlansman (2018) and Da 5 Bloods (2020). He was also BAFTA nominated for his original music for the 2018 film. He won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for writing ‚ÄúBlut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)‚ÄĚ a track from BlacKkKlansman.
More recently, Blanchard has composed his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on the memoir of celebrated writer and The New York Times columnist Charles Blow. The libretto was written by Kasi Lemmons and commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where it premiered in June 2019. The Metropolitan Opera premiered a revived version of Fire Shut Up in My Bones in September 2021 to open their 2021-22 season in New York, making it the first opera composed by an African American composer to premiere at the Met. Blanchard‚Äôs first opera, Champion also premiered to critical acclaim in 2013 at OTSL and starred Denyce Graves with a libretto from Pulitzer Prize Winner, Michael Cristofer.
With his current quintet The E-Collective, featured on the score to BlacKkKlansman with a 96-piece orchestra, Blanchard delivered a ‚Äúsoaring, seething, luxuriant score,‚ÄĚ The New York Times. In Vice Magazine, Blanchard elaborates, ‚ÄúIn BlacKkKlansman it all became real to me. You feel the level of intolerance that exists for people who ignore other people‚Äôs pain. Musically, I can‚Äôt ignore that. I can‚Äôt add to that intolerance. Instead I have to help people heal from it.‚ÄĚ Blanchard‚Äôs E-Collective has now released three acclaimed records on Blue Note¬ģ: GRAMMY¬ģ-nominated Breathless (2015), LIVE (2018) and ABSENCE (2021) which also features Turtle Island Quartet.
Meet the Artist: Karen Slack
Hailed as possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, celebrated American soprano Karen Slack is a recipient of the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, Artistic Advisor for Portland Opera, Co-Chair of the Women‚Äôs Opera Network with Opera America, and serves on the board of the American Composer‚Äôs Orchestra. In January 2022, Slack was appointed Creative Partner with Brooklyn‚Äôs National Sawdust.
Meet the Artist: Nicholas Newton
Hailed for his ‚Äúpolished vocal technique‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúheart-tugging emotional communication‚ÄĚ (San Diego Story), Nicholas Newton is garnering due attention as an up-and-coming bass-baritone in the classical music world. During the 2022-23 season, he makes a Dallas Opera debut as Monterone in Rigoletto. Other operatic highlights of the season include a Detroit Opera debut in Handel‚Äôs Xerxes in a Tazewell Thompson production led by Dame Jane Glover, Salome at Houston Grand Opera directed by Francisco Negrin and under the baton of Eun Sun Kim, and an engagement with the Lyric Opera of Chicago to cover the role of Peter in Richard Jones‚Äô acclaimed production of Hansel und Gretel conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
Damon Gupton: A John Williams Celebration
Damon Gupton is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he served as American Conducting Fellow of the Houston Symphony and held the post of assistant conductor of the Kansas City Symphony. His conducting appearances include the Orchestra of St. Luke‚Äôs, Detroit Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Florida Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Princeton Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, NHK Orchestra of Tokyo, Orquesta Filarmonica de UNAM, Charlottesville Symphony, Brass Band of Battle Creek, New York University Steinhardt Orchestra, Kinhaven Music School Orchestra, Vermont Music Festival Orchestra, Michigan Youth Arts Festival Honors Orchestra and Sphinx Symphony as part of the 12th annual Sphinx Competition. He led the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra on two national tours with performances at Carnegie Hall, and has served as conductor of the Van Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition. Musical collaborations include work with Marcus Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Common, Leslie Odom Jr., Byron Stripling, Tony DeSare, Capathia Jenkins, The Midtown Men, Kenn Hicks, and Jamie Cullum.
Six Brother On Sax
Blending a montage of fusion, smooth and standards jazz tunes, six soulful jazz saxophonists, Keith Anderson, Mark Allen Felton, Jason Davis, Joseph Vincelli, Tom Braxton and Art Sherrod, Jr. return to Dallas at the Meyerson for a power-driven music performance.
Darren Lorenzo: Kings of Soul
Darren Lorenzo is a veteran performer, hailing straight from Atlanta, Georgia. Darren has appeared in numerous productions both nationally and internationally. He received his B.A. in Mass Communications at Clark Atlanta University and further trained with Broadway Theatre Project at the University of South Florida, and with Theatre Emory of Emory University. He has wowed audiences with roles on Cruise Ships; in Vegas; multiple regional, off Broadway, Broadway, national, and international touring productions of After Midnight, Vegas the Show, Legally Blonde, Saturday Night Fever, Madagascar, Smokey Joes Cafe, No Strings, Fosse, Hair, Tony and Tina‚Äôs Wedding, Once on This Island, What The World Needs Now, and several gospel tours throughout Europe. In addition to acting and singing, he also works as a writer, producer, teacher, director and performs with various club date and corporate Top 40, R&B/Soul and Jazz bands.
Chester Gregory: Kings of Soul
Chester Gregory was last seen portraying Berry Gordy in Motown the Musical, a role where he received critical acclaim and held for 2 years. In addition to Motown the Musical, his Broadway credits include Hairspray, Tarzan, Cry-Baby, and Sister Act. He has toured nationally with Dreamgirls, Sister Act, and his one-man show The Eve of Jackie Wilson. Chester has received numerous awards, including the Jeff Award and an NAACP Theatre Award and he had the opportunity to sing for the legendary ‚ÄúKing of Pop,‚ÄĚ Michael Jackson, in which Jackson gave Gregory a standing ovation for his performance.
Michael Lynche: Kings of Soul
American Idol Michael Lynche is a new breed of soul singer with completely classic influences. Traces of Donny Hathaway, Al Green, Luther Vandross, Sam Cooke and James Brown all seem to flash in this uniquely talented performer. Undeniable charisma, well-crafted song arrangements and a voice soaked in soul give the big man class all his own. ‚ÄúBig Mike‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒas he was known while winning over the hearts of a nation during his stint on American Idol‚ÄĒhas talent so versatile, he‚Äôs played intimate jazz & blues clubs, 20,000 seat arenas and opera halls with 100 piece orchestras backing him. Through it all ‚ÄúBig Mike‚ÄĚ has always had one singular goal: to spread a message of love wherever he goes.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
For 60 years, South Africa‚Äôs five-time Grammy Award winners, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has warmed the hearts of audiences worldwide with uplifting vocal harmonies, signature dance moves and charming onstage banter. Paul Simon‚Äôs 1987 Graceland album introduced Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the world and late former South African President Nelson Mandela designated the group ‚ÄúSouth Africa‚Äôs cultural ambassadors to the world,‚ÄĚ a title the members carry with them with the highest honor.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has performed for millions of people, singing a message of peace, love and harmony.
Shayna Steele: Nothin’ But the Blues
There‚Äôs no need to sugar coat it, since her impressive credits speak for themselves. Her colleagues praise her ability, her dedication and drive to perfecting her craft as a professional singer and knockout performer. On stage and in the studio, New York City based vocalist and songwriter Shayna Steele proves she is a vocal force to be reckoned with.
After appearing on Broadway in Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar and the original cast of Hairspray, Steele started writing music with partner David Cook in 2002. The two quickly developed a creative synergy, collaborating on Steele‚Äôs eponymous debut EP in 2004. Though self-released, the album‚Äôs breakout soul-funk single ‚ÄúHigh Yella‚ÄĚ achieved the attention she needed to raise her solo profile. She and/or her band have since shared the stage with luminaries Ledisi, opening for George Clinton and the Sugar Hill Gang, a featured singer with Bjorkestra and GRAMMY¬ģ winning conductor/composer/trumpeter Dave Douglas, featured with two time GRAMMY¬ģ winner Snarky Puppy in 2014 at the Nice Jazz Festival, the Estival Jazz Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival, Java Jazz Festival and the Singapore Jazz Festival. Steele is a vocalist with the GRAMMY¬ģ-nominated Broadway Inspirational Voices and has worked as a sideman with Lizz Wright, Bette Midler, Natasha Bedingfield, John Legend, Matthew Morrison, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Rihanna and Kelly Clarkson.