Brooklyn, New York — At Brooklyn's Ryder Elementary School, students in the Harmony Program got a front row seat to world-class violinist Rachel Barton Pine. She plays music you may have never heard, by composers like Ignatius Sancho, a self taught British slave, and Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who was once the envy of Mozart.
"This music, a lot of it hasn't been published. A lot of it was published but is long out of print due to historic discrimination," Pine said.
In 1995, Pine suffered severe injuries and lost part of her leg in a Chicago train accident. While she was on the road to recovery, she started researching black composers whose works were not widely known. Now, the classical music of more than 350 black composers spanning four centuries has resurfaced thanks to her determined research.
"Our primary motivation behind doing this work is to inspire young African American students that classical music is part of their history and that you know they're an important part of classical music's future," Pine said.
It seems to be working. Pine's initiative, Music by Black Composers, has created a music book and even a coloring book. It's inspiration composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery would have welcomed when she was younger.
"Knowing about these performers and composers probably would have eliminated the question in my head. Am I odd for being black and interested in classical music?" Montgomery said.
It's a question young violinists have already answered.
"I want to be a composer so I can share my feelings with the world," said 9-year-old student Jayni Reid.
Pine said Tchaikovsky didn't expect his music to be only "played by Russians."
"We're all supposed to play all the good music 'cause that's how we learn about each other," she said.
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