The famed orchestra is one of the nation’s oldest contemporary majority African-American community orchestras; its mission is to showcase Black artists and composers while setting an example to the Black community that orchestras can include people that look like them
DALLAS – The African American Museum, Dallas (AAM) will present An Evening with Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra of Houston on Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 5 p.m. at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, 1309 Canton St. in Dallas. The orchestra’s sixth Dallas appearance is in memory of revered musician, accompanist and educator Billie K. Roberts. Sponsored by the African American Museum’s Friends of Music, the event benefits the Youth Programs of the AAM. Tickets – $15 and up with a limited number of VIP tickets at $75 each – are available at the Museum and Ticketmaster.com.
Honorary co-chairs are Dean Hill, retired Dallas ISD band director, and Gloria King, retired Dallas ISD educator. The event chair is Dr. Vivian Bradley Johnson, senior vice president of clinical services for Parkland Health.
One of the nation’s oldest contemporary majority African-American community orchestras, the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra (SJCO) was formed in 1983 under the umbrella of the nonprofit Community Music Center of Houston (CMCH). Founder and Music Director Anne Lundy says its three purposes are to give African American instrumentalists opportunities to perform together; to explore and perform music written by Black composers; and to be an example to the Black community that orchestras can include people that look like them.
Since its inception, the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra has performed mainstream works such as Handel’s Messiah as well as significant, lesser-known music by Black composers. These pieces have included works by African Americans, African-French, African-English and African-born composers, some of them world-premiered by SJCO. Though most performances have been held in Black churches, a few concerts have been performed in renowned venues.
The SJCO evolved from Lundy’s awareness that African American musicians rarely get the opportunity to play in string orchestras and her revelation that there were many pieces written by Black composers for orchestras, yet seldomly performed in front of an audience.
In 1982, Lundy brought together 25 Black string players for a concert at Houston’s Good Hope Baptist Church. Other Black churches began to call, such as Antioch Baptist, Wheeler Ave, Baptist and Trinity East Methodist, to name a few. Their support helped to maintain and sustain the orchestra.
In 1986, the CMCH’s orchestral performance of “Free At Last” at the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration grabbed such public attention that it served as the theme of Dan Rather’s CBS primetime newscast.
The Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra and the Houston Symphony had a joint rehearsal in 1988, which led to the William Dawson Concert on July 1, 1989. With this, Lundy became the first Black woman to conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra. A second joint concert led by Lundy was presented in 1990.
In 1991, CMCH presented the first major Juneteenth concert at Houston’s Wortham Theater. In 1995, the daughter of William Grant Still – who is considered the dean of African-American composers – chose to celebrate her father’s 100th birthday with a workshop and performance of his music performed by the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra.
In later years, the orchestra began touring and performing at major national events such as the Links National Conference and Super Bowl XXIII in 2004, when the orchestra accompanied Beyoncé during the national anthem.
Lundy has presented numerous lectures and had articles published on finding and performing music written by Black composers. In 1990 she became the first Black woman to conduct the Houston Symphony in a performance at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theater.
One of the African American Museum Youth programs is the Children’s Choir. The Choir was established as a result from the Museum’s long-running, award-winning Summer Camp. Choir members range in ages from 8 to 15 and are from varying racial, economic and religious backgrounds. The Children’s Choir is dedicated to the philosophy that through the learning and performance of excellent choral literature, the lives of the choir members, as well as the lives of their families and the community, will be enriched artistically and personally.
The Choir has performed at the Fair Park Blues and Jazz Festival, the opening of the 2015 State Fair of Texas, The University of Notre Dame Choir and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Candle Lighting Ceremony.
Major sponsors of the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra are the North Texas Cluster Links (Dallas Texas Chapter, Fort Worth Chapter, Mid-Cities Chapter, Plano North Metroplex Chapter, Trinity Chapter and Greater Denton County Chapter); Big Thought; Dallas Mavericks; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; Alpha Xi Omega; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Dallas Alumnae Chapter; Dr. Albert Roberts and Family; Michelle Simpkins; The Links, Greater Denton County Chapter; D-FW Florida A&M University National Alumni Association; Grambling University Alumni Association, Dallas Chapter; Confidence Group and BuyANiceShirt.com.
WFAA is the media partner. The event is also presented in part by the City of Dallas Office of Arts And Culture.
For more information, go to aamdallas.org or call 214-565-9026.