Gateways Festival Orchestra

The Gateways Orchestra is an ensemble of the Gateways Music Festival in association with Eastman School of Music. Consisting of 100 musicians of African descent, the members of the Gateways Orchestra come from a variety of professional backgrounds and include players in top symphony orchestras, faculty from renowned music schools and conservatories, and active freelance artists. The orchestra members hail from locations across the United States, as well as Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Colombia and Caribbean islands.

Gateways Music Festival is a weeklong series of orchestra and chamber music concerts, solo recitals, panel discussions, talks, film screenings and more, presented to an in-person audience of more than 7,500 and a live radio broadcast audience of more than 100,000. In addition to the annual full-orchestra festival held in the spring, other Gateways initiatives include a yearly chamber music festival held each fall; the Daily Showcase, a social media campaign featuring a Black classical composer every day on Facebook and Instagram; the Gateways Brass Collective, the only all-Black professional brass quintet in the country; the Gateways Artists Residency, which presents Gateways musicians in recital, master classes and community-based activities throughout the year and across the country, and, Gateways Radio, a one-hour syndicated U.S. radio program featuring Black classical artists.

Founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1993 by African-American concert pianist Armenta Hummings Dumisani, Gateways was brought to Rochester, New York, in 1997 when Hummings Dumisani joined the Eastman School of Music faculty. The festival’s mission is to connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent and enlighten and inspire communities through the power of performance. Over the years, Gateways has become an artistic home for Black classical musicians and a welcoming destination for audiences of all backgrounds and ages.

In 2016, while remaining an independent non-profit organization, Gateways formalized its longtime relationship with Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester. Among other mutual benefits, this relationship provided many of the resources and infrastructure necessary for Gateways to increase its programming capacity, appoint its first paid staff member and broaden the impact that the organization has made in and beyond Rochester.

Michael Morgan served as music director and conductor of the Gateways Orchestra from its birth in 1993 until his death in 2021. In 2022, for its Carnegie Hall debut, acclaimed orchestral and Hollywood-based conductor Anthony Parnther led the Gateways Orchestra for the first time.

The orchestra’s repertoire covers major works from the Classical, Romantic, 20th and 21st centuries, with a special emphasis on large-scale works by composers of African descent, including Michael Abels, Joseph Bologne, James V. Cockerham, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Levi Dawson, Adolphus Hailstork, Florence Price, Coleridge-Taylor Perkins, Carlos Simon, George Walker and Olly Wilson.

Renowned musicians who have performed with the Gateways Orchestra include pianists Paul Badura-Skoda, Stewart Goodyear, Awadagin Pratt and Terrence Wilson; clarinetists Alexander Laing and Anthony McGill; French horns Jerome Ashby and Robert Lee Watt; violinists Brendon Elliott, Kelly Hall-Tompkins and Tai Murray; cellists Donald White and Owen Young; harpist Ann Hobson Pilot; singers Denyce Graves, George Shirley and William Warfield, and many others.

The Gateways Orchestra’s 2023-24 season includes performances in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.