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Gateways Music Festival 2022:  From the Eastman Theater to Carnegie Hall

By Tracie Isaac
tracieisaac@minorityreporter.net 

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 esm.rochester.edu.

The Gateways Music Festival will present its 2022 performance season making history with several firsts including being the first all-Black Classical symphony orchestra to be featured in a Carnegie Hall season and for the first time extending the festival beyond Rochester.

After the extraordinarily successful Rochester season in 2019, which was the largest to date, with 17 public performances, and more than 40 community-based performances, an invitation was extended for the Gateways Music Festival to participate in the Carnegie Hall 2021-2022 season.

The upcoming schedule includes a series of recitals, talks, a film screening and panel discussions from April 18-20 at the Eastman Theater in Rochester, NY.  The festival series will be presented at selected venues around New York City from April 21-24 and debuting in concert at Carnegie Hall, a Gateways-commissioned new-work by Oscar winning and GRAMMY winning Jon Batiste, music director of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

For nearly 30 years, the Gateways Music Festival has convened in Rochester, multicultural, multi-lingual, multinational musicians of the African diaspora, who represent a world-class culmination of classical artists known as the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra.

According to their website, the formation of the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra is a lesson of diversity, equity and inclusion that challenges the status quo and preconceptions about classical musicians that began in Winston Salem, North Carolina in 1993.  

Founder, Armenta (Hummings) Dumisani, a noted classical concert pianist and educator, brought the Gateways Music Festival to Rochester in 1995 when she joined the Eastman School of Music as an Associate Professor.  Reproducing the original foundation of the grass-roots volunteer run organization, Gateways has survived victoriously under conditions that most would have fallen by the wayside.

Their mission is to connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent and to enlighten and inspire communities through the power of performance.

Gateways brings 125 select musicians to Rochester, New York, from across the United States and beyond for more than 50 performances at concert halls and community venues throughout the region. In May of 2016, the Gateways Music Festival was formerly associated with Eastman School of Music, a festival partner since 1995.  

Gateways Music Festival Board Chair, Kearstin Piper Brown,

In 2021, the Gateways Board acquired new leadership as former Board Chair, James Norman, past President & CEO of Action for a Better Community, passed the baton to new Board Chair, Kearstin Piper-Brown, a noted soprano and local resident, who has performed with the Gateways Music Festival in years past.  

“The extraordinary volunteer and financial support from our Rochester community has made this growth and opportunity possible for our Gateways musicians,” said Festival Board Chair, soprano Kearstin Piper-Brown.  “We are deeply grateful and look forward to celebrating this success and the 2022 Festival with all of you.”

As the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra prepares for their debut at Carnegie Hall, Conductor Michael Morgan will be remembered for his tireless dedication to the Gateways organization. 

Gateways Music Festival Conductor, Anthony Parnther.

The role of conductor for 2022 will be filled by Anthony Parnther, Music Director and Conductor of the San Bernardino Symphony and the Southeast Symphony & Chorus, both in Los Angeles.  Parnther began his career as a musician playing the bassoon and an array of gigantic woodwind instruments.  He comes with an extensive and wide range of credits that covers every genre, and has conducted artists ranging from Jessye Norman to Beyonce, from Imagine Dragons to the World Opera Forum in Madrid, Spain. 

For more information on performances and tickets visit https://www.gatewaysmusicfestival.org.