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Black Musicians & Classical Music
Co-presented with the Prince George's County Office of Human Rights
2023-02-07 19:00:002023-02-07 20:00:00America/New_YorkBlack Musicians & Classical MusicThe Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) and the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights (OHR) invite you to a Black History Month special event celebrating Black Musicians and Classical Music. Virtual Event -
Tuesday, February 07 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Add to Calendar2023-02-07 19:00:002023-02-07 20:00:00America/New_YorkBlack Musicians & Classical MusicThe Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) and the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights (OHR) invite you to a Black History Month special event celebrating Black Musicians and Classical Music. Virtual Event -
The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) and the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights (OHR) invite you to a Black History Month special event celebrating Black Musicians and Classical Music.
Join us in a virtual conversation with accomplished musicians Nevilla Ottley, founder of the Ottley School of Music, Alexander Strachan, Lelia-Michelle Walker, George Shirley, Operatic Tenor and University of Michigan Professor Emeritus, and Terri Allen, Executive Director of CAAPA in which we will discuss their own journeys as musicians, the state of classical music in the region and the world, and Black musicians’ deep contributions to classical music.
Nevilla E. Ottley is the founder of the Ottley Music School (OMS), established in 1973, eighteen months after she graduated with her Master of Arts in organ performance and music history from Andrews University in Michigan, where she had earned her Bachelor of Music in music education and piano performance. She came to Maryland after spending time in New York (accompanying the fledgling Boys Choir of Harlem) and New Jersey (teaching piano and organ at Garden State Academy) where she accompanied the now internationally known bass-baritone, Wintley Phipps, at age 17 at the beginning of his career.
The Ottley Music Studio existed at first out of her home in Maryland, while she taught piano and theory, and later added other piano teachers, violin, voice and clarinet teachers. Now it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit school which is 50 years old on January 17, 2023 with a dozen teachers. She adds into the curricula for all her students (from the preschoolers to adults), information about the classical music of Black composers from the Renaissance through the present day, which is not usually taught to children, teens, nor even college students. She makes sure her OMS students perform this music as well as that of the well-known masters.
This is as a result of a class she took at the Catholic University of America taught by Dr. Evelyn Davidson White of Howard University on “Choral Music of Black Composers”, as well as information from professors Dr. Laura Jeanette Wells of CUA and Dr. Virginia Gene Rittenhouse of Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, MD. Ottley produced and hosted “Classics of Ebony” a one-hour weekly show on WGTS 91.9 fm from 1976-1997 on classical music composed by Black composers, and also music performed by Black artists in the classical styles.
Ottley with a friend, Dr. Ellen Bunyan, founded the Takoma Park Symphony (1987-1995) which also performed the music of Black composers, and was part of the Washington Post’s “Critics Pick” in February, 1990. “Takoma Park Symphony Orchestra, presenting orchestral music of black composers, Sunday afternoon in the Takoma Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church.”
Ottley has also done seminars at various universities on the topic, Oakwood (Huntsville, AL), Columbia Union College—now renamed as Washington Adventist University (Takoma Park, MD), those back in the 1990s. She also presented seminar on orchestral music of Black Composers at the University of Nairobi to 26 conductors, and one on choral music of Black composers at Central Nairobi Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kenya back in 2006. She taught a weekly zoom class for the Encore Creativity University (choral) on Black composers in 2021 with 85 students.
Ottley is the author of several books on Black composers and performers and one co-authored by Mayme Wilkins Holt on her son, baritone opera singer, Ben Holt. Still’s Life in Pictures was written for the Centennial Celebration of William Grant Still she instigated in May 1995 in the Washington D.C. area. She has the outline of at least 6 more books on various aspects of this subject of Black Composers and Performers of Classical Music. Here are pictures of the books already released.
Officer Alexander Strachan strives to continue healing people of all walks of life through his violin playing while serving as a police officer. He is a long-time Bowie resident and performer in nursing homes, Hospice, Jails, and Schools. Officer Strachan currently patrols in District V in Clinton, Maryland. He still takes violin lessons from Holly Hamilton of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Lelia-Michelle Walker attended The Catholic University of America to pursue her bachelor's in Viola Performance and Pedagogy. She took a leave of absence to pursue music professionally and attend music tours outside of the country for work-study. She has played at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with the New England Symphonic Ensemble while maintaining regular performances at the Kennedy Center and Strathmore in the Washington DC Area. She recently opened up the DC Jazz fest playing newly featured and composed pieces from acclaimed composer Miho Hazama in a full jazz band. Ms. Walker has performed with John Rutter, Adam Blackstone, Tye Tribbett, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Holiday, Eminem, and other notaries in the music world. While her instruction has been in classical music, her interests have varied as of late. She has gone on to perform gospel, jazz, and classical cross-over. Her performance tours have included South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Graz, Brussels, Belgium, Paris, Salzburg, Mexico, Scotland, England, California, Canada, Luxemburg, Frankfurt, Thailand, New England, and Greece in that order. She credits her musical upbringing to her teachers and mentors, including Dr. Virginia Gene-Rittenhouse of the New England Symphonic Ensemble and Tsuna Sakamoto of The National Symphony Orchestra.
After returning from her tour assignments, Ms. Walker began her studies in Entertainment Law at The Howard University and continued in her Legal studies instruction at The University of Maryland University College. Her concentration of study is contract Law, IP, and Mass Media Law. She has supported herself by continuing to perform and arrange music in her free time. Her performances to date include the Grammy's, MTV Video Music awards with Panic At The Disco and Shawn Mendes, American Music Awards with Camilla Cabello, The Oscars, Robert Glasper and “The Black Radio Orchestra” and NPR Tiny Desk, where she arranged and performed as a string backup for Mac Miller. She has also provided legal administrative support to several teams in the Washington DC area. Her involvement with the Media as it involves performing and contracting has garnered her the experience that she hopes to put to good use in a career as a future entertainment lawyer. She currently works as a contracts specialist and PR Representative for an Entertainment Lawyer in the Atlanta area on the weekends (virtually) and is an active Production Manager in the DC, New York and LA markets. Ms. Walker holds the WEB DuBois awards for academic excellence, is the winner of the NAACP Act-So competition and The Washington Performing Arts Society Feder String Competition. On top of her high marks academically, she received full rides for her education at The Catholic University of America and The Howard University. Her passion is mission work and equity in not only the performing arts but in all work environments.