Does Anyone Know of Any Famous Black Violinists?

March 5, 2004 at 06:48 AM · I am a black female taking violin lessons, and I haven't heard of any famous black violinists. Does anyone know of any?

Replies (100)

March 5, 2004 at 08:01 AM · Regina Carter is a quite famous jazz violinist. I have a friend who thinks she's great.


March 5, 2004 at 11:45 AM · Greetings,

there is at least one who occupied a front desk position in a top American orchestra and performed and/or recorded a modern cocnerto with them.

I can recall seeing a photographin the Strad about a year ago.

There are also a couple who achived soloist status in violnistic history but Mattias is probably the man to dig them out as opposed to up,



March 5, 2004 at 11:39 AM · Stuff Smith was another famous black jazz violinist. Then there's Boyd Tinsley from the Dave Matthews Band. Louis Farrakhan is famous and plays the violin, although he's not famous for his violin playing. Rachel Barton has recorded an album by little known black composers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

March 5, 2004 at 01:12 PM · I can count of a couple in history, the most famous must be the the original dedicée of Beethoven's 9'th sonata, nope not Kreutzer ;)

There are a few today as well, but what do you mean by black?

Black like Nelson Mandela or black as Buri's conscience?

March 5, 2004 at 01:51 PM · The violinist who premeired Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata was a negro violinist named George Bridgetower. Kreutzer himself rejected the piece and called it "unintelligable". Subsequently Beethoven turned the manuscript over to Bridgetower, another accomplished violinist of that era, who agreed to perform it.

There is a young rising star named Tai Murray. She is an excellent violinist who has already performed quite extensively around the world. Try to hear her if you have a chance.

March 5, 2004 at 02:24 PM · You have it almost right :)

Bridgetower (A mulatt, Polish mother African Father) visited Vienna during a very succesfull concert journey in 1803, Beethoven was impressed and wanted to play his, not at all finished sonata with him before he moved on on his tours.

So Bridgtower and Beethoven (improvisin mostly) premiered the sonata in 1803.

Beethoven wanted the sonata to be played more, but Bridgetower did not want to take on a new sonata that wasn't even completed on his tour, so Beethoven completed the work the following year an dedicated it tho the (then) most famous violinist in Europe, Kreutzer, whom Beethoven knew since they met in 1798.

March 5, 2004 at 02:44 PM · John Blake jazz violinist from Philadelphia is black. Started in 1980's still going strong today! I hear he is an outstanding violinist.

March 5, 2004 at 06:54 PM · hey teresa, rachel barton recorded a album of violin concertos by black composers, its amazing stuff, and of course there is regina carter, stuff smith, john blake..not as many as there should be. Take a look at i think you'll like it. Don't worry, not too many mexican violinists for me to look up to either ..haha

March 5, 2004 at 07:16 PM · Hi Teresa,

There have been some great black jazz and swing fiddlers over the years. They include:

Stuff Smith

Eddie South

Claude Williams (I think he's still playing)

Ray Nance (played with Duke Ellington)

Joe Kennedy

Check out for more details.

Best regards, Marty

March 6, 2004 at 10:04 AM · Hey Teresa! Here are two links for you to read up on:

1. This link showcases Clarence Cameron White, an African American violinist and composer.

2. gives you a comprehensive history of black people in classical music.

And Teresa, you must realize that your search for black violinists will turn up some, but not many names--particularly because blacks have borne 500+ years of racist tendencies on an international level, slavery, etc. Although stringed instruments were founded in Africa, classical music grew out of a long push towards high European art music, away from folk, religious, etc. To this day, many people want to keep it this way, a high European art form, but thanks to people like Rachel Barton who have been bold enough to perform works by early black violinist-composers, we may now see that black people were not absent in the evolution of pre-20th century classical music.

The Sphinx String competition , today, serves as a way to get across to the overarching "establishment" that believes classical music is a high art for white people, that there are black (and latino) students who are just as great and who can understand and appreciate this music as any other human being can. In addition, the competition is finally pushing into national recognition, talented black and latino students from all over and giving validity to the breadth of outstanding black composers, from George Walker to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. (You may also note that Oberlin has been a bastion of black classical music talent for over 100 years!)

You pose a topic that obviously requires much more scholarly research. Yet, as evinced by the Berlin Phil, Vienna Phil, and even Chicago Phil, it is a struggle in progress for blacks to make inroads into the industry--from an audience, musical and commercial viewpoint.

March 5, 2004 at 08:57 PM · i have some friends that entered the sphinx competition and they all said that it was great. its a really good cause and their definetely should be one. alot of talent has come out of that competition. regina carter is great too. she was on tv some time ago i think playing in the same program with nadja salerno sonnenberg

March 5, 2004 at 10:30 PM · Greetings,

Mattias, my conscience may be black, but my heart is as pure as the driven snow. thus I have the strength of ten.



PS Ten what?

March 6, 2004 at 12:20 AM · We are having a violin soloist with our orchestra next season named Tai Murray who is apparently (gasp) black. She is playing the Korngold.

Maybe she has a website?

March 6, 2004 at 12:24 AM · Well here is her management's website:

March 6, 2004 at 05:55 AM · I am simply speechless and thrilled at all the information provided. I am so touched because i just did not think there were a lot of black violinists out there. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

March 6, 2004 at 07:38 AM · Mattias,

I heard Beethoven and Bridgetower quarreled over a woman, and Bridgetower left in a huff, leaving Beethoven to remove the dedication to Bridgetower and transferring it to Kreutzer. I don't know who got the girl in the end...


March 6, 2004 at 09:09 AM · You might do some research on Joseph Boulogne, a composer from Haiti known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He was known in Paris as ''the black Mozart.'' I performed the ripieno part to his C major in New York in Nov 2003. It's a nice piece.


March 6, 2004 at 09:46 AM · Hey! The documentary/film on the life of Joseph Boulogne, otherwise known as "Le Mozart Noire" or "The Black Mozart" is being shown on PBS stations around the country this year. I missed it in my area! :( Here is the website with info on the film. Look out for the DVD this Spring! Also, you can listen to a whole program based on his life and music at this link! How interesting!

Here is a quote on Joseph Boulogne from the Director of Tafelmusik, Jeanne Lamon: "He was not a simple man. He was a complex man. And it shows in his music. His concertos--all his concertos--are more demanding than anything Mozart wrote in the time."

March 6, 2004 at 10:11 AM · Hey! Tai Murray is excellent! Not only is she a fixture at the prestigious Marlboro Festival, she was concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra! No small feat! And to top it off, she tours with compositions by black composers, like the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (also known as the "Black Mahler") violin concerto! Here is a small bio:

Tai Murray

Tai Murray has performed extensively as a soloist with orchestras and in recitals across the United States and Europe since making her debut with the Chicago Symphony at the age of nine. Born in Chicago, she has been seen on such concert stages as Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl, Salt Lake City's Abravanel Hall, and Chicago's Mandel Hall. Concerto performances include appearances with the symphonies of Baltimore, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Utah, and Washington, DC. Ms. Murray was the only solo artist invited by the Chicago Symphony to perform a recital in the Rotunda of Chicago's Symphony Center during its Inaugural Festival. An accomplished chamber musician, she has collaborated with Rostislav Dubinsky, Luba Edlina and Menahem Pressler. A participant in the 2002 Marlboro Music Festival, Ms. Murray performed with such artists as Lydia Artymiw, Philip Naegele, David Soyer, and Marcy Rosen. Among the honors and awards, Ms. Murray has received top prizes in The Juilliard School and Indiana University Concerto competitions and the Inaugural Sphinx Competition. She was awarded a Certificate of Honor for outstanding musicianship by the Academia Chigiana in Siena, Italy and a semi-finalist in the 2002 Indianapolis Violin Competition. Ms. Murray has performed in master classes given by Josef Gingold, Lorand Fenyves, Joseph Fenyves, Joseph Silverman, and Isaac Stern. She also studied with Yuval Yaron, Franco Gulli, and Samuel Ashkenasi. Ms. Murray holds an Artist Diploma in music performance from Indiana University. She is currently studying with a full scholarship at The Juilliard School under Juilliard String Quartet's first violinist Joel Smirnoff.

March 6, 2004 at 04:28 PM · I just heard a Joseph Boulogne, piece on the radio today! Definetly a composer worth checking out.

March 6, 2004 at 07:12 PM · I wonder if i could be famous? I'm black, hmm I don't think it would happen though.

March 6, 2004 at 07:29 PM · You are famous to me :)

March 6, 2004 at 08:59 PM · i'm planing on putting out a bach cd one day... that is what I'm transpiring to.

March 6, 2004 at 09:02 PM · thanks mattias for the compliment, at least somebody knows i'm good.

March 6, 2004 at 10:04 PM · Regine Carter was here a few months ago

No one mentioned Karen Briggs of vertu

March 7, 2004 at 05:21 AM · Some more black fiddlers:

Don "Sugarcane" Harris, played blues and jazz with Frank Zappa in the late 1960's.

Papa John Creach, played blues with Hot Tuna, early 1970's

Numerous Cajun Fiddlers

were black men. Check out Canray Fontenot (spelling may be incorrect).

The Mississippi Sheiks, popular in the 1930's, featured a black fiddler. They played country blues.

March 7, 2004 at 02:08 PM · Regina Carter is a all accomplished black violinist, she got to perform on Paganini's violin (my great-great grandpa)lol!!! And Tai Murray, she is a graduate student at Juilliard. You should visit

I'm going to do that competition in a few years!

March 7, 2004 at 02:41 PM · man thats some easy repertoire!!! for the juniors list. I wonder if I should go up for that... and I wonder if could play the chaconne in place of my two contrasting bach movements? oh well if I can't i'll play the Giga and the Sarabande. Look at me i'm already planning what I'm going to do!

March 8, 2004 at 03:24 AM · Early prep is good Vernon! :) Beware though, the requirements may be doable, but the level of talented kids that enter all think so. Most are unbelievably good! They are usually previous winners in some of the most challenging junior concerto competitions in America. Good luck!

March 8, 2004 at 11:37 PM · Rick Baccare, suggested John Blake Jr., and I second that.

Mr. Blake is a guest at my university this semester and he is incredible by all accounts both as a jazz violinist, and a person. I've been to one of his lectures so far and there are 3 more to go before the semester is out.

He is classically trained and has orchestral experience in addition to being one of the world's best jazz violinists.

March 9, 2004 at 01:52 PM · I can think of 3 black violists at the moment that are well-established chamber musicians-

Chauncey Patterson of the Miami string 4tet

Marcus Thompson of the Boston CHamber Music Players (among others)

Amandi Hummings of the Innuendo 5tet

Plus Owen Young a black cellist with the Innunedo 5tet & the Boston symphony

I've always wondered whether Astrid Schween, the cellist of the Lark 4tet, had some Carribean in her background

this site may have some useful links for you:

March 9, 2004 at 06:37 PM · Sanford Allen is a wonderful violinist and was with the NY Philharmonic for many years.

The first and only Black violinist that the NY philharmonic had he resides in the westvillage in NYC.

I have heard him play and he is very talented.

May 24, 2004 at 05:19 PM · On this day in history...1803-George (Auguste Polgreen) Bridgetower (black concert violinist) premiered Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata in Vienna, Austria.

May 24, 2004 at 08:54 PM · And no one mentioned Noel Pointer! Great jazz violinist.

May 25, 2004 at 02:58 AM · Sanford Allen - first Afro-American to join the New York Philharmonic (many years ago).

He has also premiered many contemporary pieces and has made a big carrer in the Broadway show circuit as concertmaster and contractor of gingles (recording studio work).

May 25, 2004 at 03:01 AM · sorry for the spelling error of CAREER.

May 25, 2004 at 04:15 AM · In rock, blues, etc, Papa John Creech was a famous personage.I think he's passed on, but he was both quite black in skin tone, and very talented musically. He performed with Jefferson Airplane, as well as many other acts during his long career. I saw him play up close and personal in the Hamptons some years ago, and he gave quite a show. He was far above the guy who plays with the Dave Mathews Band (S.T.).If he'd had access to training as a youngster,and the racial barriers had been down( the US, after all), he could have done well as a classical player. He had huge hands, a good sense of intonation, and busy ears.

May 25, 2004 at 09:33 PM · Nigel Kennedy

May 25, 2004 at 10:06 PM · maybe i misunderstood your post but nigel kennedy isnt black

May 25, 2004 at 10:42 PM · hmm one day... I'll be on this list...

May 25, 2004 at 11:19 PM · tai murray just won the avery fisher award.

May 25, 2004 at 11:33 PM · or maybe not...

May 26, 2004 at 04:55 PM · i have an Itzhak Perlman dvd of the Tchaikovsky v. concerto with Ormandy and Phil. orchestra. There is a black violinists in the firsts. But thats was like 30 years ago.

May 26, 2004 at 05:28 PM · if you want i'll put you on the list right now vernon

May 26, 2004 at 05:28 PM · Vernon Kirby is an excellent black violinist i've heard

May 26, 2004 at 05:48 PM · thanks owen... I can play a mean Chaconne, and a nice Wieniawski no2, and the beethoven.

May 26, 2004 at 08:33 PM · anybody who can play chaconne and beethoven well is better than me

May 27, 2004 at 12:01 AM · Teresa,

I live in Brazil and there are many black or part black people who play the violin simply because they like the instrument and the sound. Before Kyung-Wha Chung, there were no famous Korean violinists but, when she came to the US to study w/ Galamian, she would practise 14 hrs a day. Today she is not only the most famous female Korean violinist, but possibly one of the very best violinists period. So I think that hard work is the most important thing, not whether the media have promoted enough violinists of our specific ethnic group. Some ethnies have adopted the violin because it suited the kind of emotional expression they sought in music. African music has always been more percussion-oriented, so the violin is less prominent. Maybe the media owners are to blame, I don't know. But every time I think about this issue, I don't see how ancestry can help if one does not study. It is useless for me to have a surname ending in i if I don't practise every day. And I tend to think more and more that Paganini must have been some kind of genetic aberration. So being Black, Italian, Gypsy, Jewish, Arab, Hindu etc. should not be IMO your major concern in playing the violin. RE: what kind of music you will want to play, that is also a personal choice that is up to you and it may make sense to relate that to your identity. But I don't think your motivation should be affected by how _famous_ Karen Briggs or others are. Fame is not the purpose of music, at least IMO.


May 27, 2004 at 03:20 AM · Greetings,

I just remembered there is a famous viola player from Zimbabwe who was recently feautured in the Strad.



May 27, 2004 at 07:51 AM · I couldn't agree more with Tristan! But my initial reaction when reading the original question was "why does she want to know?" If it's because she wants a role model, why pick one who is necessarily of the same ethnicity? If she want to know whether music has some racist glass ceiling, then I'd like to be the first to say "emphatically not".

As Tristan said, with enough hard work and talent, there's no reason why anyone of ANY background shouldn't become a success as a violinist. After all, what odds would you give a person from this background:

1) poor family

2) musically unconnected

3) musically ignorant, except in the father's natural ability to strum folk songs on the mandolin

4) born and grown up in a highly non-musical town

5) access to second or third rate teachers until in his teens

6) no access to recordings or radio/TV broadcasts from which to learn independently of those teachers

7) no money for going to concerts, to learn from great violinists' examples (and not many concerts in his hometown in any case)

I'd give someone like that pretty long odds of becoming the person he became: Nicolo Paganini.

January 16, 2007 at 07:06 AM · Having taken up the violin myself and being I have been wondering the same thing. I've recently come across this website,, were the was a photo of a black violinist, the name was spelled, Jean-Mare Betrix. However, I can't seem to find any information of this person anywhere. Also, just for further info to any non-black violinists out there. Regardless of the time, place or era neither the word NEGRO (nor it's alternative) is in anyway aceptable. Thank you

January 16, 2007 at 08:05 AM · Perhaps the most famous of all has not been mentioned: Louis Farrakhan.

January 16, 2007 at 07:49 AM · There have been and still are many fantastic black violinsts. Although, most of them were never able to make it to the professional level, there are some black classical violinists from the 1800's. Unfortunately black violinists during early and middle 1900's were unable to find work anywhere other than jazz. In any case this is just a little something that I found about a jazz violinst named Eddie South.,,495637,00.html

His albums can be found on

January 16, 2007 at 09:22 AM · I realize this is an old thread that has been revived.

Nevertheless, on the topic of Afro-American violinists....Sanford Allen was the first Afro-American violinist in the New York Philharmonic.

Wonderful violinist with whom I worked with on Broadway.

After many years spent in the orchestra, he left (NY Phil) and decided to go into the commercial side of things including session work and Broadway shows.

January 16, 2007 at 10:57 AM · Darwyn Apple of the St. Louis Symphony.

January 16, 2007 at 11:48 AM · Tai Murray is fabulous. I've heard her in solo recital as an Avery Fisher artist and with the Ritz Chamber Players. Truly stellar both times.

January 16, 2007 at 02:54 PM · There's also Samuel Thompson, a fellow v.commie. :)

See: or


January 16, 2007 at 04:18 PM · Keith Cook is in the first violin section of the Louisville Orchestra. I don't know him personally, but I have met him, and he is just the nicest man. Good violinist too...he also runs a huge Suzuki studio.

January 16, 2007 at 08:15 PM ·

January 16, 2007 at 10:12 PM · The black composer Joseph Boulogne (Chevalier de Saint Georges) in the time of Mozart is mentioned here. He wrote many good violinconcerto's. Another black composer (and violinist) was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who wrote a beautiful romantic violinconcerto. It has been recorded by Philippe Graffin with the South-Afrika Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (with a lot of black members).

Anthony Marwood has also recorded the violinconcerto of Coleridge-Taylor (mother was English, father was a doctor from Sierra Leone). Hyperion CDA67420.

The booklet of Philippe Graffin says: "She (Maud Powell for whom Coleridge-Taylor wrote this piece) agreed to give the premiere on 4 june 1912- though the event was almost scuppered when the orchestral parts were shipped to the USA on the Titanic. Fortunately Coleridge-Taylor was able to produce a new set in time."

January 16, 2007 at 10:41 PM · Having been a Black History Month team leader for the USAF, one of the things I found, was that often it's not that blacks or African Americans do not exist in a particular field--it's more the critical mass of effort in researching where they do or did exist that creates the questions. We tend to look at the obvious when writing history (or the path of least resistance which may equal laziness in some cases), to such areas as politics, sports, civil rights and so forth. And more poignantly, we might look at Theodore White's remarks on how history is written in general.

It would be interesting to research the degree to which black musicians aspired to the classical world, contrasted to the number of those who had an impact and were considered 'the greats'. Given the odds of being a Menhuin, Perlman, ..., the same questions might be applied to women as well. James Weldon Johnson's 'moving' narrative, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" has as it's main character a classical pianist for instance.

As a black violinist, it would be extra meaningful to define one's own opportunity rather than to look at the obvious areas for inspiration, or as in the move Braveheart, "Follow your heart...". Marian Anderson and Jessye Norman comes to mind.

Just within these responses, many examples of excellence were communicated, though not particularly violinists exclusively. The symbols and images, rhythms and richness, of black's contributions to the world of music is more than justification to simply "Follow your heart...".

Though of course if you are a good researcher too, it should be clear that there is a need to comb history for the things shared here for a more scholarly approach to your question. Greatness is sometimes indicated by the toughness of the question.

I personally haven't researched blacks in the classical world as a subject, but even that may have already been done. I did find an interesting site that may help:

January 17, 2007 at 12:42 AM · Does it matter whether you are black or female?

January 17, 2007 at 02:19 PM · To the people that have wondered about the importance of this question: Obviously none of you have thought about the fact that the question was more than likely generating from pure curiosity. In any case, you are probably not a member of the black community, or you wouldn't be asking something so ridiculous. Of all the races of people, it is black people that are the least common in the classical arts world. This can make things somewhat difficult, or at the very least extremely annoying for those (blacks) that are a part of it. Sometimes, sadly some of the stupidest comments come from black folks themselves, they believe anything from the classical world to be white and as for those blacks that are a part of it, to be "Uncle Toms". Thankfuly there are some black violinists that are trying to make this instrument relate more to the average black person, I do not at all care for their music but I do whole heartedly applaud them for their efforts. Nonetheless, these problems can at times be distracting, especially if one's having to deal with the ignorance of the non-black community as well. Although this is more than likely difficult for many of you to relate to, had any of you been a minority in a particular field and had to deal with severe ignorance because of it, you would probably also would wonder if there are any others such as your selves.

January 17, 2007 at 12:27 PM · Diane Monroe:

Nokuthula Ngwenyama (b. 1976) (The violist Buri referred to):

Marcus Thomson (viola)

January 17, 2007 at 12:24 PM · Mary Corbett is an excellent African-American classical violinist:

I mention her because she was the concertmaster of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra a number of years ago when I was a sophomore second violinist in that same group. She won the concerto competition that year, played the Vieuxtemps concerto, and went on to the Eastman school of music. I didn't know her well in the orchestra--she went to a different high school--but she was an inspiration to the others in the orchestra and the audience. As far as I can remember, she may have been the only African-American in the group, and she was leading it.

January 17, 2007 at 05:12 PM · Whites have been taught the right way to think of race is to ignore race, which is why they wonder why you bring it up, I think. Their assessment here of the situation is probably good though. Btw, a high percentage of the classical singers I've encountered have been black.

January 17, 2007 at 04:58 PM · The question of race/gender influence is extremely complex.

To make a complex question relatively short, it shouldn't matter if one is black or female if selection for jobs/housing/etc were race/gender "blind." (i.e. if selection was truly only based on qualifications)

However, it has been demonstrated by a lot of experts and nonexperts that it isn't. (based solely on qualifications)

January 17, 2007 at 05:57 PM · Interesting factoid:

Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam started out in life as a serious violin student, if not a child prodigy.

January 17, 2007 at 06:45 PM · Whites have also been taught that even to ask innocent questions based in honest curiousity can sometimes be offensive. Being a person of great curiousity (as I'm sure others on this board likely are as well), I find this troubling. How are we to learn about each other if we can't ask questions?

I find it interesting, though, that while some people lament the comparative lack of prominent black women and men in classical music, other people in classical music seek to embrace styles that were traditionally reserved for black musicians -- jazz, spirituals, etc. It may take awhile, but eventually, cultures blend and in at least one more area, what you look like and where you come from becomes less important than who you are and what you do.

Speaking of curiousity, I think I'll go look up that Farrakhan article now. :)

January 17, 2007 at 11:45 PM · The music sections in the Farrakhan wiki entry are fascinating. They and the references included in them will be inspirational to people white and black.

January 18, 2007 at 03:18 AM · The sections in the wikipedia site re Farrakhan's virulent antisemitism are also fascinating - and hardly inspirational.

Re the original question, I don't know if there have been famous black classical violinists in our time, but I have personally known any number of first rate black classical musicians, including a number of excellent violinists.

Re fame, however, the Chevalier de Saint George, referred to by someone else, was indeed famous - at least as much as a swordsman as he was as a violinist! There is a book about him by Alain Guede. I myself have written cadenzas to one of his concertos.

January 18, 2007 at 04:05 AM · I'm surprised no one has mentioned Bridgetower yet. Not modern, but hey.

January 18, 2007 at 04:14 AM · Eh, someone did mention Bridgetower. :-)

The deal with Bridgetower is that he insulted the morals of a woman who turned out to be Beethoven's friend; the composer tore up the dedication and dedicated No. 9 to Kreutzer instead. If it weren't for that, we'd be making everyday references to the "Bridgetower Sonata" for the rest of eternity...

... which goes to show, what you say really can come back to bite you. Even when you've died.

January 18, 2007 at 01:32 PM · I would have probably written can come back to haunt you after you've died.

January 18, 2007 at 08:08 PM · Patty it isn't what white people tend to say it is the way that it is said, and when reading something posted in a chat room or a discussion board it is sometimes difficult to tell what they're getting at exactly. As for the whole blending of cultures thing, it will only really be that way when there is more than one racial majority of people partaking in certain musical genres. For instance, I'm a huge fan of heavy metal and rock music, as surprising as that may be. However, other than the very few out there like Lenny Kravitz, I can't think of even one other black person in really any of the rock genres. Ha, poor Theresa and all she wanted was information a very basic question.

January 18, 2007 at 11:36 PM · Juanita, there's no telling what might get said in a chatroom. That doesn't necessarily represent anyone's real thoughts certainly not the predominating thought.

As for no blacks in rock and roll, I have to laugh. Blacks created rock and roll. If not for blacks we'd be dancing minuets. Hendrix is tied with the Beatles for best rock and roll ever. Prince is maybe the best rock songwriter of his generation. Heavy metal is white music, like R&B is black so there are no blacks in it. It isn't because they're excluded though. Also, it comes directly from black music.

I want you to watch this movie. It's free and an hour long. You can watch it even on dialup.


Incidently, the man playing at 3:00 minutes is R. L. Burnside, who I was able to see in Bloomington when he was over 70 years old. He sounded exactly the same. I've never seen any crowd so moved or so dancing. The best rock and roll ever and the crowd was close to half and half white/black.

January 19, 2007 at 12:53 AM · But there has never been a famous black classical violinist on the scale of Joshua Bell or Itzhak Perlman or Hilary HAhn or Anne-Sophie Mutter. Although it is great about all the above mentioned, they are either jazz violinist or classical violinist who aren't really famous. But hopefully there will be one someday! I hope to be one, if not famous at least performing and getting some gigs.

January 19, 2007 at 07:07 AM · Obviously there are blacks in rock'n' roll, because as Lennon said, "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'." Further, more if metal is white people's music, than maybe I should recheck the definition of black as well as my birth certificate. Although, I could just try to "Be Like Mike" (minus the whole nasaty perv thing)and see if I could get myself adopted by some rednecks out their in Alabamy. When a black person such as myself, has grown up with her parents as the only black people she's ever known and been forced to deal with white people's asinine comments about how where all "brothers" and wondering why do we (as in me), even need to talk about "the black thing" it gets a little hard to determine exactly what one is trying to get at. However, as certain people seem to have been bothered at the suggestion of a different meaning to their statment, I will retract mine, as I believe I have previously tried to do. Lastly, although your film suggestion had a certain appeal to it and I wouldn't have to worry about the exsessive loading time, as I have cable internet, I will have to decline, but thanks.

January 19, 2007 at 07:07 AM · Whatever. I say that just as human to human:)

January 19, 2007 at 07:51 AM · Part of the reason for the lack of well known black violinists today is because Jazz has lost a lot of it's appeal, even amongnst many blacks. As for fame, well, Brittney Spears is famous, so fame doesn't have to do so much with talent, as it does album sales. That and television and radio air time. Although, as I've mentioned, there are some up and coming black violinists some of them are part of the hip-hop scene and even though I'm not altogether sure how I feel about hip-hop violin, it's a nice effort in any case.

January 19, 2007 at 01:53 PM · Jasmine - I would say Bobby McFerrin is up there with the folks you cited. It may be true, however, that in terms of publicity and being well-known, there is no black violinist with stature comparable to that of Andre Watts' in the piano world. Certainly, during my lifetime, he has been the pre-eminent black classical musician.

January 29, 2007 at 12:48 AM · The black violinist in Philly Orchestra was Booker Rowe, and he was still continuing his Olympian job there only a few years ago when I was in Philly-- might have retired by now, I'm not sure.

Overlapping topic / slightly off-topic: Jeri Lynne Johnson is an up-and-coming black woman conductor-- I really enjoyed and appreciated her work in one casual orchesta reading session led by her. Wingspan, indeed. Fabulous hands. Many links out there, but I stumbled into this one

January 29, 2007 at 01:04 AM · BTW,

we (Seattle Symphony) had a visitng soloist:

Juan-Miguel Hernandez, viola

Winner of the Sphinx competition. He is a wonderful player, studying with Paul Coletti in LA.

He is also a member of the Harlem String Quartet

Harlem String Quartet

February 12, 2007 at 09:57 AM · Akim Camara, a 5 year old guy who played with André Rieu, see

February 12, 2007 at 01:17 PM ·

Check that out.

As much as people want to say that the world isn't racist anymore, things are the way they are from decades and centuries of stereotypes and racial biases that were once part of a "social norm." People who weren't white for a long time were banned from playing in professional orchestras (and women too) a great deal did find other ways of expressing themselves musically, and of course African Americans have a strong role in the jazz tradition.

There just aren't as many black musicians playing classical violin and opera and such. I know a girl (black/caribbean) who got into the opera program at my school and it was a big deal for her, and she had support and people bashing her from both sides.

The sphinx organization is to help recognize talent from black and latino orchestral string instrumentalists.

Good luck in your search, and don't be afraid to be someone's role model one day! :)

February 12, 2007 at 06:51 PM · I am not sure if it has been mentioned but William Fitzpatrick is a well known violinist/soloist.

February 12, 2007 at 10:04 PM · A violinist who I think happened to be black once posted a seriously good Mozart sonata on vcom, perhaps he has already been cited here.

February 12, 2007 at 10:52 PM · Another angle on this is black fiddlers. Though I wasn't sure, I looked a little, and as I suspected they were as much and more so part of early bluegrass--it appears even moreso than the contribution of the banjo as an African instrument.

A family member is a friend of the late Etta Baker, famous blues guitarist from the mountains of North Carolina. I should have just gone on instinct on the one, because I already knew.

February 13, 2007 at 01:24 AM · >From teresa rhodes: I am a black female taking violin lessons, and I haven't heard of any famous black violinists. Does anyone know of any?<

there have been some great names mentioned above. most of them haven't been of famous black violinists, but simply of black violinists. some of them (such as louis farrakhan) aren't even famous for their playing. louis farrakhan was actually more well known as a calypso singer than as a violinist in his youth, but i digress.

the fact is that no black violinists have been able to maintain fame beyond their careers and none have been posthumously celebrated. maybe that will change one day but as of now the statement i've just made stands.

there have been violinists who were famous in their time. i'll mention most of them here. some may have been mentioned above. i'm sure you've never heard of many of the players i'm about to mention, for reasons i stated above.

ok, here goes.

joseph antonia emidy (1775 - 1835), a contemporary of beethoven who in his youth played for haydn. he was most well known for introducing the most modern works of his day to his musical societies in cornwall, england.

joseph boulogne (le chevalier de saint-georges) (1745 - 1799) was known as the 'black mozart' and 'god of arms' for his supreme fencing ability. he was also one of the first composers in france to write string quartets and concertante styled concerti.

george bridgetower has been covered in the threads above.

joseph white (1836 - 1918) was considered to be the 'black paganini' and was a contemporary of ernst. his violin concerto in f# minor is occasionally performed to this day and it bears resemblance to ernst's own concerto and the wieniawski 1.

jacques constantin deburque (1800 - 1861) was musical director at the negro philharmonic society of new orleans, an all-black orchestra at a time when america had no other world class orchestras. it wasn't until louis moreau gottschalk's bamboula became a hit in europe (and the resulting wieniawski/rubenstein american tour) that americans were even considered to be musically inclined!

probably the most famous black violinist of all time is fredrick douglass (1817 - 1895), the black abolitionist. his grandson joseph douglass (1871 - 1935) was also an accomplished violinist.

john thomas douglas (1847 - 1886) was a well-known player in new york city in his day and taught david mannes, who established the mannes college of music 'for colored people' in upstate new york in douglas' honour after he passed away.

will marion cook (1869 - 1944) studied with joseph joachim in leipzig and composition with antonin dvorak at the national conservatory. cook inspired dvorak to write the 'american' string quartet (which originally was titled 'the negro string quartet,' but as we all know, that title was changed). he was too sensitive to deal with racism and he faded away into obscurity later in his career.

bandleader james reese europe (1880 - 1919) was very well known in his time.

hezekiah le roy gordon 'stuff' smith (1909 - 1967) is a legendary violinist, as is his contemporary eddie south (1904 - 1962).

free jazz violinist leroy jenkins may be the most well-known violinist in the black community.

the quartette indigo was founded by 1st violinist gayle dixon. it has a rotating roster and has had some incredible players over the decades.

of course i can't forget about regina carter, who has also spent time in the quartette indigo. ms. carter has had as many accolades as any black violinist has ever received in their lifetime.

the uptown string quartet is pretty well-known in new york city circles. their violist is maxine roach, daughter of jazz drummer max roach.

February 13, 2007 at 02:55 AM · >Juanita Marion: I'm a huge fan of heavy metal and rock music, as surprising as that may be.<

I'm not surprised. So am i.

>However, other than the very few out there like Lenny Kravitz, I can't think of even one other black person in really any of the rock genres.<

There are a bunch of black rockers.

Slash (guitarist, Guns 'n Roses, Velvet Revolver)

Tony MacAlpine (shrapnel artist, currently in Steve Vai's band)

Uffe Cederlund (guitarist, Entombed/Nihilist)

Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine)

Bob Marley (guitarist, The Wailers)

Pat Smear (guitarist, The Germs, Nirvana, The Foo Fighters)

Richard Julian (guitarist, Richard Hell & The Voidoids)

Arthur Lee (singer/guitarist, Love)

Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins (techno/industrial pioneers)

Kim Thayil (ex- guitarist, Soundgarden, No WTO)

Chaka Malik (singer, Orange 9mm)

Mick Thompson (the Gories, the Dirtbombs)

DH Peligro (drummer, the Dead Kennedys)

Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust)

Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone, Jaleel Bunton (multi-instrumentalists, TV On The Radio)

Ben Kenney (bassist, The Roots, Incubus)

Skin (singer, Skunk Anansie)

Longineu Parsons (drummer, Yellowcard)

Derrick Green (singer, Sepultura)

Dwayne 'Blackbird' McKnight (ex-guitarist of Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Danko Jones (guitarist, Danko Jones)

Lisa Kekaula (singer, the Bell-Rays)

Maxim (The Prodigy)

Cee-Lo Green (singer, Gnarls Barkley) name a FEW.

and these all-black bands:

Public Enemy

Living Colour

God Forbid

Body Count


the Bad Brains

...are pretty well-known in rock circles. Lenny Kravitz is just the tip of the iceberg. There's way more out there than Chuck, Bo, Hendrix, Prince, and Kravitz.

February 13, 2007 at 07:36 AM · Georges Octors, Belgian violinist and teacher. During World War II, he suffered from racial discrimination by the Nazis. Afterwards he became concert master of the Belgian National Orchestra, and even chief director. In the seventies, eithies and nineties, he also conducted this orchestra during the finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition. Many live records of these concerts are available as CD or vinyl. Octors was also violin professor at the Royal Music Conservatory in Brussels, and is still a jury member in the Queen Elisabeth Competition for violin.

His son, Georges Eli Octors, is a conductor of mostly contemporary music.

February 13, 2007 at 06:02 PM · Although this violinist isn't world wide (but she is in training, I have high hopes for her) Have you heard of Melissa White? She won the Sphinx Competition (jr) a few years ago. She now studies at Curtis (last I heard). She has been featured on From The Top a couple of times. Very promising player.

February 13, 2007 at 06:23 PM ·

February 13, 2007 at 06:45 PM · how about Karen Briggs from vertu, ive always loved jazz fusion

March 21, 2007 at 02:04 AM · teresa rhodes,

I hope the current 94 posts have inspired you, in knowing that you are not alone :)

March 21, 2007 at 04:52 AM · Nokothula Ngwenyama (also mentioned above) is a fine violist and violinist. Her website is:

March 23, 2007 at 05:42 AM · Here's a grouping of contemporary people to check out:

Nuttin But Stringz

Daniel Bernard Roumain

(an old youth symphony friend of mine who is conducting the Vermont Youth Symphony now brought in DBR to collaborate with the symphony not long ago and gives very good report!)

Black Violin

And then,

Is Miri Ben-Ari Black?

(kidding-- sort of) (no-- and yes) (arguable?)

She does have now the first instrumental to hit the R&B and Hip-Hop charts since Herbie Hancock's "Head Hunters"-- she hit number three, and stayed in the top ten for at least ten weeks straight! (These factoids taken from the AFM journal "International Musician" cover article on Ms. Ben-Ari late last year-- sorry to lose exact month!-- and from her website)

:-) Enjoy!

March 23, 2007 at 07:17 AM · Miri Ben Ari is jewish.

BTW, RIP to Leroy Jenkins who died recently.

March 23, 2007 at 02:42 PM · Karen Briggs is a black violinist and absolutely amazing. She used to play jazz with Yanni's touring orchestra. She is now on her own, I believe. Look her up on some old Yanni DVDs. Absolutely incredible!!!!

March 24, 2007 at 03:55 AM · Mariana - I saw her play the Sinfonia Concertante with the Mobile Symphony a few years ago. i can't remember if she was on violin of viola, but it was really nice.

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