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$800,000 Grant Awarded to Local Classical Music Collaboration

By Carol Elizabeth Owens

Gateways Music Festival orchestra perform in the final concert in Kodak Hall with conductor Michael Morgan at University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music August 13, 2017. Photo from the website.

The Gateways Music Festival in association with Eastman School of Music has received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“This award is a powerful confirmation of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s belief in Gateways’ unique mission, and it acknowledges our importance in today’s classical music ecosystem,” said Kearstin Piper Brown, chair of Gateways’ Board of Directors. 

The award will be used to assist Gateways’ on-going growth and development, as well as to help support the historic Carnegie Hall debut of the Gateways Orchestra on Apr. 24, 2022 as the first all-Black orchestra to perform on the stage of that famous 130-year-old venue. 

Gateways was founded nearly 30 years ago to help connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent.  

According to Gateways’ vision statement, the organization aims to be a multi-faceted resource primarily for classical musicians of African descent and a source of inspiration, enlightenment, and engagement for communities— especially communities underrepresented in classical music.

“The lack of Black classical musicians on American concert stages is concerning for all of us and Gateways is proud to provide a supportive and affirming artistic home for our musicians, enabling them to continue to thrive in their careers,” said Brown. 

The upcoming Carnegie Hall debut will be dedicated to Michael Morgan, the organization’s late long-time music director and conductor who passed away on Aug. 20, 2021.  

Morgan was “unapologetically Black,” and held “an astute and often acerbic view of the state of the classical music industry—especially in its mostly failed attempts to find a way to fully include everyone,” said Lee Koonce, President and Artistic Director at Gateways, in an Aug. 21, 2021 memorial statement in tribute to Morgan. “[His] influence on the Gateways organization and the musicians is profound; We are a stronger and better organization because of his efforts,” he said.

Gateways also will present several additional concerts and events in Rochester from Apr. 18 – Apr. 20; and in New York City, Apr. 21 – Apr. 24.

“We hope that this increased exposure, by way of the NYC Gateways Tour, will draw deserved attention to this remarkable organization and its talented artists, as well as honoring the memory of Michael Morgan, whose unparalleled dedication to Gateways brought it to this transformational moment,” said Susan Feder, Program Officer for Arts and Culture with The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

For more information about the 2022 Gateways Music Festival season check the festival website at: