Classical Music By African American Female Composers Thrills Audience

The National Philharmonic recently presented a program at Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, exposing classical music lovers to composers Valerie Coleman and Florence Price.

 Performed were Coleman’s “Umoja, Anthem of Unity” and Price’s “Violin Concerto No. 2.” Under the direction of Maestro Piotr Gajewski, these selections by two African American female composers continue NatPhil’s commitment to performing works from diverse composers and musicians. 

Last year, NatPhil premiered “America’s Requiem: A Knee on The Neck,” an opera commemorating the life and tragic loss of George Floyd.

Featured performer on “Violin Concerto No. 2” was violinist Melissa White, a NatPhil favorite. The petite, barefoot woman moved effortlessly, transitioning from an easy flow to digging in with intent on her violin. Inside the last third of the Price composition, it sounded like White was “riffing” while the orchestra laid back.

“It’s called a ‘cadenza,’ a moment where everyone else drops out, and the soloist gets to be alone,” said White, who confirmed it is like jazz improvisation.

The audience’s appreciation for White’s performance resulted in an extended standing ovation. Her third time coming back to acknowledge the applause, she performed a solo by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Learn more about the National Philharmonic at, including the “When I Fall in Love: The Music of Nat King Cole” concert on April 27.

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Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a…
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