A Musical Celebration of Black History

A quartet of musicians from Chicago Sinfonietta recently visited the school for their sixth Morning Ex during the last seven years as invited guests of Upper School History teacher Andy Bigelow.

Chicago Sinfonietta is a professional orchestra dedicated to modeling and promoting diversity, inclusion and both racial and cultural equity in the arts through the universal language of symphonic music. In the past, when the Sinfonietta visited Parker honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Bigelow opened the assembly with a brief history of MLK Day, why it took so long to endorse, who sponsored and supported the measure and who didn’t. Bigelow also reminded the audience that we have only two recognized national holidays named after a person: MLK and Christopher Columbus.

This year, Bigelow spoke to the emergence of Black History Month as we know it today. From the 1920s until the 1970s, Black History Week honored only the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Then, in the 1970s, the Black United Students at Kent State University petitioned for a commemorative month in honor of black history and the Bicentennial. President Ford agreed and it became official.

In terms of Black History Month, Bigelow spoke to the myriad ways Parker honors this commemoration, including a wealth of black history in its U.S. History courses, a current display on the fourth floor bulletin boards and this type of MX celebrating African-American artists, composers and musicians.

Following Bigelow’s intro, visiting musicians Kyle Dickson (first violin), Karla Galva (violin), Danielle Taylor (viola) and Victor Sotelo (cello) each took turns introducing themselves and the various selections they were performing, putting each piece in historical and cultural context for the benefit of all—a truly musical celebration of black history for all!

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