Gateways Music Festival Orchestra with Jon Batiste at Carnegie Hall

You might not have known it if you get your news from the New York Times or other major news outlets, but history was made last Sunday afternoon on the Carnegie Hall stage. In a sold-out concert, an all-black orchestra performed under conductor Anthony Parnther, with pianist Jon Batiste as soloist in his own composition titled I Can. The program included compositions by Florence Price, George Walker, and Johannes Brahms. The concert concluded with James V. Cockerham's Fantasia on "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a signature piece for the ensemble, whose distinguished members hail from leading orchestras and conservatory teaching faculties nationwide.

Jon Batiste
"Why an all-black orchestra?" you ask. Well, the sad reality is that most of these extraordinarily talented musicians are not hired by the vast majority of American symphony orchestras. "Why?" again, you ask. The answer: American racism.

The concert was broadcast by WQXR 105.9 in New York, and streamed on and The fact that this concert was sold-out is a testament to the demand to hear African American classical musicians in concert. But this is not enough to move white music directors and conductors to engage these musicians within their organizations. This is a scourge that has hampered black American musicians for decades.

As I write this, I am still waiting for a New York Times review of this concert. Conductor Anthony Parnther is known for his work as conductor of the Hollywood Studio Symphony. We have heard his work in Star Wars and countless other blockbuster films. When will he receive the credit he is due as a conductor of concert repertoire?

Just sayin'...


Nina Kennedy is a concert pianist, orchestral conductor, and award-winning filmmaker. She holds a master’s degree from the Juilliard School. Her memoir, Practicing for Love, is a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist. The sequel, Practice What You Preach, is available at


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