The Gateways Music Festival, a gathering of classical musicians of African descent for concerts, lectures, and other events, is returning April 18 through 24, with a few changes.
The festival, which is produced in collaboration with the Eastman School of Music, has been based in Rochester since 1995, shortly after its founding by pianist and music educator Armenta Adams Hummings Dumisani. This year, the first three days of the festival will be in Rochester and the following four days in New York City, including a concert at Carnegie Hall.
The festival is also finding a way forward without Michael Morgan, its long-time music director and conductor who died last August at the age of 63.
Anthony Parnther conducting.
The Gateways Festival Orchestra will be led this year by Anthony Parnther, a conductor and bassoonist based in Los Angeles. He’s music director of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra and the Southeast Symphony, and frequently conducts and performs in studio orchestras for movies and TV, including “The Mandalorian,” “Encanto,” and the recent Pixar hit “Turning Red.”
Parnther has long admired both Morgan and the festival — especially its sense of community and the opportunity “to make music together in a safe and in a family-like environment.” He describes Gateways as a powerful statement in the face of the perceived challenges of diversifying classical music.
“We’re about to mount a hundred-piece orchestra at Carnegie Hall,” he says of the Black musicians participating in the festival. “And believe me, the 100 people that you’re gonna see on stage is just a fraction of what’s actually available out there.
“So it’s not a lack of availability. It’s not a lack of talent. It’s a lack of platform and access for a lot of Black classical musicians here in our country. So what I think is very important for people to see is that the excellence is there. The numbers are there. And we are there. And we look forward to sharing our sound and our hearts.”
Parnther will conduct the Gateways Festival Orchestra in music by Florence Price, George Walker, Johannes Brahms, and James V. Cockerham at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Panther and the orchestra will play a similar program at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, April 24, though for that performance they’ll premiere a new work by Jon Batiste.
The Rochester portion of the festival also includes two events at Eastman’s Hatch Recital Hall: a recital by five pianists — Mikael Darmanie, Tabitha Johnson, Artina McCain, Nnenna Ogwo, and Joseph Williams — at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 18, and a film screening and lecture about the life and music of Florence Price at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19. The full schedule is available online.