The CCChronicle - OMC Celebrates Black History Month - Article by Jennifer Sexton-Riley Feb 16, 2022
On Sunday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. Open Mic Classical will present a program via Zoom featuring Linking Legacies, a group of Ohio-based performers presenting works by Black composers with ties to Ohio and the greater Cleveland area. This event, held in celebration of Black History Month, will be presented as part of the Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio grant.
Open Mic Classical is an intergenerational open mic event launched in 2015 and held on the third Sunday of every month from September to June. The group was co-founded by Transylvanian-born clarinetist Monika Woods, winner of the Cape Symphony's 2013 soloist competition; amateur violist and sculptor Robert Marcus; and collaborative pianist Lucy Banner. A variety of other collaborative pianists have taken part since, including Sylvia Karkush Furash, Ana Glig, Ben Healy, and volunteers Barbara Lambdin, Felice Coral and Donna Pihl.
The performers who make up Linking Legacies share ties to Oberlin College and Conservatory, located southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. Pianist Dianna White-Gould is a graduate of Oberlin and daughter of composer Dolores White. Viola player Christopher Jenkins is an associate dean at Oberlin and doctoral student at CIM; and lyric coloratura soprano Anastasia Rainbow is the daughter of an Oberlin alumni.
Although Ohio’s legacy of educating Black composers is not as well known as it could be outside of the region, accomplished and acclaimed composers William Grant Still, Nathaniel Dett, Hale Smith, Dolores White, and H. Leslie Adams were all educated at Oberlin Conservatory and/or the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Linking Legacies' program will include “The Whole World in His Hands” by Margaret Bonds, “Watch and Pray,” arrangement by Undine Smith Moore, “Spirituals” by Dolores White and “Ecstasy of Love” by H. Leslie Adams. Three of the works in the program were written by female composers, an underrepresented group in classical music.
Woods said that music making thrives on the energetic connection between performer and public, and Open Mic Classical gives the chance to all levels of players from the very beginning to experience that connection.
“To perform in front of an audience is the highest goal of learning to play an instrument,” Woods said. “Many beginners can not yet play a whole hour program, or don’t even get a chance to step onto a stage to play with a pianist until they reach a certain professional level. At Open Mic Classical we give the chance to all levels, and all ages to be on the stage with a short piece or a movement of a piece, solo or with a collaborative pianist, to experience that connection with the public, which makes music come alive.”
Open Mic Classical is for classical musicians of all ages and levels, serving both classical musicians and classical music lovers. The group's mission is to help classical musicians from both amateur and professional backgrounds perform, network and form a community, as well as to promote classical music by providing an affordable classical music event for all. Each month, the organization features a musician or a chamber music group with a longer program. The monthly events also include interactive lecture elements. A pianist serves as an accompanist to anyone who signs up to play, and rehearsal with the pianist is available upon request.
Musicians with disabilities are encouraged to play at the events, and will be accommodated, including the presence of assistance dogs. Open Mic Classical doesn't discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability or age. As part of the Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio grant, Open Mic Classical is committed to presenting historically underrepresented and underfunded groups.
“The community welcomed our unusual idea from the start,” Woods said. “Professional musicians volunteered their time and effort to play as featured guests, musicians who haven’t played for years dusted off and picked up their instruments and started playing again, connecting with our collaborative pianists and other musicians to form ensembles. We have many amazing stories. Our public loves to learn about our musicians, music, and composers they play.”
Sign-up to play is open to classical musicians of all levels and ages. All you need to do is get on the open mic list by 2 p.m. on the day of the event, and you will be provided with a spot in the program. Time slots are filled on a first come, first served basis. The goal is to have 90-minute program with a featured guest performer who gets a 20- to 30-minute spot. Each performer is allotted up to five to six minutes per time slot. If time permits, musicians may play up to two time slots.
To request a sign-up sheet or to attend as an audience member, visit openmicclassical.org, email email@example.com, or call 774-353-0244. The cost to attend for the public is $10, but no one will be turned away due to inability to pay. This program is supported in part by a grant from the Brewster Cultural Council, Chatham Cultural Council, and Orleans Cultural Council, Sandwich Cultural Council, all of which are local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. This program is also supported by Mass Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio FY22 grant.