As part of the celebrations during Black History Month this month, the DC-based DC Strings Workshop, “DC Strings” will present two concerts titled, "Living the Dream: A Celebration of the March on Washington" to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington that advocated for civil and economic rights of African Americans. It was during that event that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his immortal address, "I Have A Dream".

Each concert will feature musical works by African American composers, and will be presented on two consecutive days: an orchestral concert February 18 with the Accord Symphony Orchestra led by Music/Director & Conductor Dr. Juan A. Gallastegui, and a recital February 19 featuring soprano Ayanna Freelon and pianist Trey Walton (details below).

I asked Artistic Executive Director Andrew Lee for his insight into this program, and the overall mission of DC Strings Workshop.

DC STrings

Linda Carducci: Some audiences may not have been born or were too young to experience the impact of the March while it was unfolding in 1963. How will these concerts inform those listeners of the significance and emotional effect of that event?

Andrew Lee: The March on Washington was a seminal moment of the Civil Rights movement. It was a multi-generational, multi-ethnic coalition of more than 250,000 people organizing around freedom, justice and equality for all. Music of that day blended not only modern music, but songs of marchers, hope, unity and the importance of using your voice to fight for social change. The African-American spiritual is foundational to that part of that movement as it is fundamental to the belief that better days lie ahead and the dream of a more equitable future is within reach.

This march was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, and the music that accompanied it is still iconic. People who were there—and even those who weren't—remember that day as a moment of hope and solidarity.

These concerts will serve as a reminder of what can happen when we work together to fight for what we believe in. That the past is not the past but is alive and well. There will be an opportunity for people to come together and experience the power of music to bring us together in our communities, despite our differences.

The composers we are highlighting are voices that have all too often been left out of the canon that many orchestras and ensembles program, but they deserve to be shared and their stories told.

LC: What African American composers will be presented on the Living the Dream programs?

AL: The opening piece will be by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor a composer who has been

performed by the Accord Symphony Orchestra many times, who’s works have been more recently performed and . Maestro Juan Gallastegui actually wrote the arrangement of Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade in A minor for Wind Ensemble.

We all can take lessons from Coleridge-Taylor’s life. A child prodigy, born in London who enrolled in London’s famed Royal College of Music as one of its first Black students - who later fell in love with composition. His lush melodies and stylistic panache shine through.

Adolphus Hailstork has composed major works in nearly all musical media, from musical comedy to solo piano and choral works. His compositions have been performed by many major orchestras including the Baltimore, Detroit and Chicago symphonies among others, and we are proud to feature his work in our program.

LC: The Workshop hosts the Accord Symphony Orchestra. Will you tell us a bit about that ensemble?

AL: The Accord Symphony Orchestra, formerly DC Strings Orchestra, is the flagship ensemble of DC Strings Workshop. Comprised of both professional and amateur musicians alike, the ensemble made its Kennedy Center debut in September 2019 under the baton of Jeri Lynn Johnson and has performed over 100 concerts since its founding in the 2016-17 season. The orchestra has a mission to bring music to all communities, particularly underserved areas and has featured hundreds of emerging artists, conductors and musicians in the region. Through petting zoos, workshops and engaging the community, the ensemble offers an eclectic mix of classical masterworks, music from Spain and other cultures, go-go, sacred music and more. Collaborations include performances at The Smithsonian Museum, National Park Service, DC Parks & Recreation and more.

LC: DC Strings Workshop is now in its 7th year, continually presenting varied musical performance in the D.C. area, even during the pandemic. What is the mission of DC Strings Workshop, and how does its programming further that mission?

AL: DC Strings Workshop presents opportunities for neighborhoods across DC, Maryland, and Virginia to experience the power of music through year-round youth education and programming and performances from the Accord Symphony Orchestra. Our ensembles are focused on creating equitable and comprehensive access to the arts, while centering underserved communities. Through our youth programs we regularly are serving hundreds of students across piano, strings, guitar and percussion among other instruments. The Accord Symphony is pleased to be one of the few ensembles to have kept the power of live music alive throughout the pandemic, performing outside in amphitheaters, street corners and in recreation centers.

Our programming is a reflection of the community to which we serve as an orchestra. There are so many local voices that need to be centered and a part of the conversation of the music local and national orchestras perform.

At DC Strings, we believe in the orchestra being a large part of the community and driving social change through not only our voices but our instruments. We have hosted flash mobs and concerts speaking out against the lack of music education in our public schools, the rise of gun-violence and the war in Ukraine.

The inclusion of BIPOC composers and themes is important as our core foundational mission is embedded in the community we serve in DC. We offer the classical canon along with marginalized voices, including women and composers of color because we believe they all deserve the same podium, their stories told and the audience deserves to know about and listen to them.

"Living the Dream: A Celebration of the March on Washington" concerts will be presented:

● Saturday, February 18, 2023 at National United Methodist Church, 3401 Nebraska Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. at 5:00 p.m. More info here.

● Sunday, February 19, 2023 at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, 1334 29th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. at 3:00 p.m. More info here.

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