The Gateways Music Festival Orchestra at their Carnegie Hall debut in 2022, with Anthony Parnther on the podium. Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester.

In Wednesday’s (10/18) New York Times, Steve Smith writes, “Monica Ellis vividly recalls her first impression of the Gateways Music Festival, a gathering of classical musicians of African descent, at the University of Rochester in upstate New York in 2019. Ellis, a bassoonist and founding member of the quintet Imani Winds, was no stranger to working in exclusively Black groups. But that hadn’t prepared her for playing with an entire orchestra made up of friends and colleagues from across the country…. Ellis said … ‘This feeling of unapologetic Blackness…. You feel like you’re home.’… With Imani Winds, Ellis performed in the festival’s first concerts in New York City in 2022, which also featured the Carnegie Hall debut of the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra. The festival, now yearly, returns to New York City this week … The program is characteristic of a festival that has consistently emphasized the contributions of Black composers…. According to a 2023 report on racial, ethnic and gender diversity prepared by the League of American Orchestras, Black musicians account for just 2.4 percent of orchestra members in the United States…. Lee Koonce, president and artistic director of the Gateways festival, said that increasing visibility for Black musicians is paramount for Gateways, not only to provide a sense of community for participants, but also to help motivate younger generations.”