Onstage at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Blacknificent 7, a collective of Black composers. From left: Shawn Okpebholo, Dave Ragland, Joel Thompson, Jasmine Barnes, Damien Geter, Jessie Montgomery, and Carlos Simon. Photo courtesy of Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In Tuesday’s (12/12) Musical America (subscription required), Hannah Edgar writes, “Jessie Montgomery is beginning her final season as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composer-in-Residence, whose responsibilities include curating the contemporary series MusicNOW. A year before her appointment, Montgomery shared a cathartic public Zoom conversation with other Black millennial composers … The invitees created a group text thread to keep in touch: Shawn Okpebholo, an art-song luminary; Jasmine Barnes, Damien Geter, and Dave Ragland, all accomplished vocalists as well as composers; and Joel Thompson, the Houston Grand Opera composer-in-residence whose Seven Last Words of the Unarmed has become a 21st-century choral cornerstone. With the addition of prolific composer and keyboardist Carlos Simon, they dubbed themselves the Blacknificent 7. Initially, the group was mostly for its members’ eyes and ears only—until Dec. 3, when the Blacknificent 7 debuted as a ‘composer collective’ to open MusicNOW’s 2023/24 season. The concert smashed audience records in Montgomery’s residency so far, drawing nearly 800 attendees who, for once, looked like a true cross section of Chicago…. When the composers took the stage for their bows—all Black, all young—they were greeted by a deafening chorus of cheers. It sounded like history being made.”