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American Roots Initiative

American Roots

PCE’s American Roots Initiative explores little-known chapters in the history of African-American music.

The central participant is our Resident Artist, Kevin Deas – a supreme exponent of the spiritual in concert.

American Roots began with a Dvorak and America festival at the Clarice Smith Center in 2012 – at which our “Hiawatha Melodrama” received its world premiere performance. The subsequent PCE recording, on Naxos, was named one of the best CDs of the year by Minnesota Public Radio.

Subsequent American Roots concerts and festivals include our multi-media Harry Burleigh tribute “Deep River: The Art of the Spiritual” -- which has generated a webcast, a film, and touring productions (most recently, at Virginia Tech University).

PCE American Roots programs with Kevin Deas have been presented at the Washington National Cathedral, the Phillips Collection, Georgetown University (“The Star of Ethiopia: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Historic Visits to DC”), Howard University, the University of the District of Columbia, and by the DC Youth Orchestra.

American Roots has generated educational visits to Howard University, the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, the AME Methodist Church, the DC Youth Orchestra, and Sandy Spring Friends School. It has welcomed the participation of choruses from DC public schools and churches.

PCE also participated in “Free to Sing” at the Strathmore Performing Arts Center in 2008. This landmark tribute to the first African-American opera company included a complete performance of the first American operetta: The Doctor of Alcantara by Julius Eichenberg (performed by the Colored American Opera Company in 1873). In addition to furnishing musical direction, PCE created an ancillary event exploring historical context.

More To Explore

WatchA PCE- Behrouz Jamali Film: The Black Virtuoso Tradition


WatchA PCE- Behrouz Jamali Film: Deep River: The Art of the Spiritual


WatchMore than Music Zoom Chat “A Porgy and Bess Roundtable


Read Joe Horowitz’s blog: Porgy Takes a Knee


Listen “PostClassical” webcast


ListenNPR Broadcast: “Why is American classical music so white?” Joseph Horowitz in conversation with Tom Huizenga


Listen NPR Broadcast: A ‘New World’ In 4 Movements And 41 Minutes


ReadJoseph Horowitz “The Best of the ‘Black Symphonies’” (Wall Street Journal)


ReadJoseph Horowitz “New World Prophecy” (The American Scholar)