Drew Peterson, pianist
Josephine Baker
John Edward Hasse, guest curator
Felix Conteras, conga
Ellington Carthan, pianist and narrator
Jeffrey Mumford, guest curator
Annie Jacobs-Perkins, cello
Katerina Burton, soprano
Robin De Jesús, actor
David Strathairn, actor
Kevork Mourad, artist
Derek Goldman, playwright/director
José Sacín, bass baritone (Don Quihote)
Israel Lozano, tenor (Master Peter)
Jennifer Zetlan, soprano (Trujaman)
Ricardo Marlow, Flamenco guitar
Philip Kennicott, guest curator
Hany Hassan FAIA, visuals
Pianist Steven Mayer

The Black Virtuoso Tradition

In partnership with Levine School and THEARC

A concert of virtuoso piano fireworks by composers Black and white drawing on the African-American vernacular. Pianist Elizabeth Hill and noted stride-piano specialist Steve Mayer take audiences on a musical journey playing Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Antonin Dvorak, Scott Joplin, James P. Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, George Gershwin and Margaret Bonds.

This concert is the second of three in PCE’s season-long project, The Rediscovery and Renewal of Black Classical Music, which seeks to elevate consequential composers who have too long been neglected for all their profound contributions to American orchestral music. PCE has long been a national leader in unearthing this buried history. By contextualizing this story– where the music came from, why it disappeared, and what to make of it today– we reflect on our nation’s complex cultural history and gain insight into how to nurture understanding and dialogue.

The project coincides with Joe Horowitz’s new book  Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music, to be released by Norton in November 2021.

“Piano playing at its most awesome”The New York Times on Mayer playing Tatum


George Shirley, the first Black tenor to sing leading roles at the Met Opera, writes:

"As Joe Horowitz puts it in "Dvorak’s Prophecy", classical music in America “stayed white.” PostClassical Ensemble’s Black Classical Music Festival explores how and why that happened – and also proposes remedies...

It will be a landmark event in excavating a part of the African-American cultural legacy heretofore barely even glimpsed. I am eager to be a partner in this vital activity.

Because of our current conversation about race, we now observe a seemingly desperate effort to make up for lost time, to present Black faces in the concert hall. I think that’s only fair. But if it’s going to become a permanent new way of thinking, there has to be new understanding.

Dvorak’s Prophecy is on time, it’s a bull’s-eye. As Mark Clague puts it, “the future of American classical music is very much at stake. We have been left unprepared for the current cultural moment.” Dvorak’s Prophecy explains how we got there. It proposes a bigger world of American classical music than what we have known before. It is more diverse and more equitable. And it is more truthful."

Mark Clague, my colleague at the University of Michigan, has called the American music story he himself was taught “malnourished.” Mark further describes an “impoverished disconnect between the rich history of Black American music and the all-but entirely white and European classical-music repertoire studied in American music schools and, not coincidently, heard in the nation’s concert halls.”


The Black Virtuoso Tradition

Saturday, February 26, 2021 at 3:00 p.m.

A free one-day-only concert in person at THEARC

THEARC | 1901 Mississippi Ave SE, Washington, DC
and live streamed on PCE’s YouTube Channel

Digital Program

Elizabeth G. Hill, piano

Steven Mayer, piano

Melissa Constantin, soprano

Produced by Joseph Horowitz, Executive Producer PostClassical Ensemble


  • Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869): The Banjo
  • Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904): American Suite, movement 3 (Allegretto) 
  • Antonin Dvorak: Humoresque in G-flat major
  • Art Tatum (1909-1956): Humoresque 
  • Art Tatum: Tiger Rag 
  • Steven Mayer
  • Scott Joplin (1868-1917): The Favorite: A Ragtime Two-Step 
  • George Gershwin (1898-1937): Two Preludes 
  • Elizabeth Hill
  • James P. Johnson (1894-1955): Blueberry Rhyme 
  • Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941): Frances 
  • Fats Waller (1904-1943): Taint Nobody’s Business 
  • Steven Mayer
  • Florence Price (1887-1953): Fantasie Negre No. 4 
  • Florence Price: Piano Pieces (1947) 
  • Harry Burleigh (1866-1949): Wade in the Water (sung by Melissa Constantin) 
  • Margaret Bonds: (1913-1972): Troubled Water 
  • Elizabeth Hill

Post-Concert Discussion

The concert is free, but donations are welcome.

Special Thanks to the Leadership Council

  • Terri Allen
    Executive Director
    Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts
  • Dr. Gwynne Brown
    Professor of Musicology
    University of Puget Sound
  • Kevette Burwell
    Duke Ellington School of the Arts Alumni Association
  • Dr. Lorenzo F. Candelaria
    Professor of Musicology
    Vanderbilt University
  • Catherine Chieco, MS, MSW
  • Dr. Mark Clague
    Associate Professor of Musicology
    University of Michigan
  • Eugenia V. Colón, CFRE
    President & CEO
    Colón & Associates, LLC
  • Dr. John Michael Cooper
    Professor of Music
    Southwestern University
  • Christopher Cowan
    Director, U.S. International
    Development Finance Corp.
  • Isaac Daniel
    Assistant Principal
    Duke Ellington School for the Arts
  • Kevin Deas
  • Kehembe V. Eichelberger
    Associate Professor Voice
    Howard University
  • Regan Leslie Ford
    Director, SE Washington, DC, Campus
    Levine Music
  • Dr. Matthew Franke
    Master Instructor
    Howard University
  • Jennifer Hayman
    Director of Music and Arts
    All Souls Church Unitarian
  • Melvin and Juanita Hardy
    Millennium Arts Salon
  • Mary and Philip Kopper
    Advocates for the performing arts
  • Marty Austin Lamar
    Director of Music and Creative Arts
    Metropolitan A.M.E. Church
  • Jocelyn McClure
    Duke Ellington School of the Arts Alumni Association
  • Tony and Buffy Miles
    Advocates for the performing arts
  • Ronald Lee Newman
    Duke Ellington School of the Arts Alumni Association
  • Ricky Ramón
    Professor, Theater
    Howard University
  • George Shirley
    University of Michigan
  • Pamela Simonson
    Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts
  • Jeffery Tribble Jr.
    President and CEO
    Levine Music
  • Greg Watkins
    Music Director
    CAAPA Chorale
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So many thanks for that most inspiring, capacious evening. With PCE’s usual ability to surprise and delight… that symphony was astonishing…


Your leadership and dramatic shaping of the Symphony last night was truly masterful - and so inspiring. I know I’ll never forget this experience. Thank you, Maestro!


I loved the intimacy of the ensemble and the aching beauty of the melody repeating and recurring and turning up where I did not expect it .  And I found the quality of the sound thrilling.

That was my take on the concert --that and the tears that it brought to my eyes, simply to be there, to be present at the creation of something so beautiful..


What a perfect PCE evening, wonderful concert and lovely gathering


Angel, You are so musical! I've played the 4th twice, it was the first Mahler I heard as a kid, and I'm invariably disappointed that conductors don't let it breathe.  U nailed it.


Congratulations again to you and your superb ensemble on a wonderful and provocative performance in the Terrace Theater last evening.  As always, we learned something from this concert and it was fun, too.


Everything about it was sheer delight, including the lively and interesting talk at the end…