Music Treasures from Black Culture Opens National Orchestral Institute and Festival

The Clarice Spotlights 'Porgy and Bess' and Works from Black Composers

One of America’s best-known folk operas opens a monthlong music festival on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.

“Porgy and Bess,” by composer George Gershwin, will be performed at The Clarice on Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m. Maestro John Morris Russell, conductor with the Cincinnati Pops, will lead the orchestra for the opening concert for the 2019 National Orchestral Institute and Festival (NOI+F). Featured vocalists for “Porgy and Bess” are soprano Alyson Cambridge and baritone Joshua Conyers.

For the month of June, NOI+F will host a variety of music events that include masterclasses, pre-concert conversations and open rehearsals. The festival is also considered as an intense training institute. Conservatory students, college students, and graduate students at the very beginning of their careers are put through the pace of a professional performance schedule. Preparation for the concert is done in a quick turnaround that includes three rehearsals over two days. The result are performances on a grand scale for audiences.

Joshua Conyers
Joshua Conyers (Courtesy of The Clarice at the University of Maryland)

“We start every year of the orchestral institute with a concert of American classics,” Russell said. “Students may not get to perform these in the university setting, but in the professional world, you are playing them all of the time.”

There will be selections from “Porgy and Bess,” but not the full opera. For the second part of the concert, Russell will lead the orchestra in music by Black composers from the U.S., Canada and Europe. Spotlighted will be American composers Scott Joplin, James Reese Europe and Jessie Montgomery. American Canadian composers include Nathaniel Dett and Shelton Brooks. Englishman Samuel Coleridge-Taylor rounds out the group of featured composers. Russell is excited about the entire group as he is happy to tell the backstory for each featured composer.

“These are all extraordinary composers and their stories have not been told,” said Russell. “We want to take the time to open the door to their music so that after the concert, people can find out more.”

From the group of composers, Jessie Montgomery is the only living artist. She is a native New York composer and violinist who is currently enjoying success by performing globally with orchestras and chamber groups. She is affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports the accomplishments of young African American and Latino string players.

The opening of NOI+I on June 1, is a musical experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

“Yes, we want to entertain your ears,” said Russell, “We also want to stimulate what is between your ears.”

For ticket information, go to

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