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.


*Per venue guidelines, proof of vaccination (card or photo of card) or proof of negative COVID test within 3 days.

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

Thank you to our funders and sponsors:

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