Black Reflections: Experiences of Black Artists

Black Reflections is a three-part panel discussion on Black artistry in concert music hosted by Oberlin Conservatory and the New World Symphony.

Watch the webinar from October 8, 2020


Steven Banks

Steven Banks.
Photo credit: courtesy Steven Banks

Recognized for his “glowing mahogany tone” (Seen and Heard International) and “breathtaking” performances (Classical Voice of NC), classical saxophonist Steven Banks “is at the forefront of musicians of his generation in his display of the highest level of both artistry and pedagogy,” in the words of his former teacher, Northwestern University Professor of Saxophone Taimur Sullivan. Banks is the first saxophonist to earn a place on the Young Concert Artists roster in its 59-year history, capturing first prize at the 2019 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Banks is also the recipient of the special Korean Concert Society Prize (for support of his Kennedy Center debut), Buffalo Chamber Music Society Prize, Saint Vincent College Concert Series Prize, Sinfonia Gulf Coast Prize, Tannery Pond Concerts Prize, Usedom Music Festival Prize, and Washington Performing Arts Prize.

Banks is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in music education, performance, and newly commissioned works in the classical realm. He gave a talk at the TEDxNorthwesternU 2017 conference about creating change in institutionalized prejudices against women and people of color. Since the talk, Banks has written for WQXR and presented guest lectures on the history of black classical composers.

Banks serves as assistant professor of saxophone at Ithaca College. He previously served on the faculty at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music. He earned a master of music in saxophone performance from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music and a bachelor of arts in saxophone performance with a minor in jazz studies from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. His primary saxophone teachers have been Taimur Sullivan, Otis Murphy Jr., and Galvin Crisp.

Learn more about Steven Banks


Joseph Conyers

Josephe Conyers.
Photo credit: Nicole Roche

Joseph Conyers was appointed assistant principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2010 and now serves as acting associate principal bassist. He has performed with numerous orchestras as soloist across the U.S. and is an artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His honors include the Sphinx Organization’s 2019 Medal of Excellence and the 2018 C. Hartman Kuhn Award (the highest honor bestowed upon a musician of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and he was named one of Musical America’s 30 Top Professionals for 2018. In 2015, Conyers was the inaugural recipient of the Young Alumni Award from his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music.

Conyers is the executive director of Project 440, an organization that helps young people use their interest in music to forge new pathways and ignite change in their communities.  Additionally, he is the music director of Philadelphia’s All City Orchestra, which showcases Philadelphia's top high school musicians. He serves on the double bass faculty of the Juilliard School and Temple University’s Boyer College of Music.

Learn more about Joseph Conyers.

Nkeiru Okoye

Nkeiru Okoye
Photo credit: courtesy Nkeiru Okoye

Composer Nkeiru Okoye is a musical storyteller, researcher, and historian. Her best-known works incorporate social science themes and combine a wealth of influences and styles. Her music freely navigates between African American improvisatory and folk idioms and contemporary concert practices. Okoye is best known for her opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom and her 9/11-inspired orchestral work Voices Shouting Out.  Her suite African Sketches has been performed by pianists around the globe. The inaugural recipient of the International Florence Price Society’s Florence Price Award for Composition, Okoye has received commissions, awards, and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America, New York State Commission for the Arts, ASCAP, Meet the Composer, and three grants for female composers from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

In March 2020, the State of Michigan issued a proclamation acknowledging Okoye's extraordinary contributions to the history of Detroit for Black Bottom, a symphonic experience commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the centennial season of Orchestra Hall. Among Dr. Okoye's upcoming projects are a triptych of “sung stories,” Tales from the Briar Patch; a micro opera, 600 Square Feet; and a largescale work commissioned by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance.

Learn more about Nkeiru Okoye

Ann Hobson Pilot

Ann Hudson Pilot
Photo credit: courtesy Michael Kinsey

After 40 years with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, legendary principal harpist Ann Hobson Pilot retired at the end of the 2009 Tanglewood season. She joined the orchestra in 1969 and became principal harp in 1980.

Pilot recently retired from the faculties of the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University. She continues as director of the Young Artists Harp Program for the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. After officially retiring, Pilot returned to the stage as soloist with the BSO opening the Boston Symphony season and the Carnegie Hall season with the premiere of On Willows and Birches, a concerto written for her by John Williams. She continues to perform solos with orchestras and chamber music with various groups.

Pilot is the subject of the recently completed documentary A Harpist’s Legacy: Ann Hobson Pilot and the Sound of Change, which has aired on PBS stations nationwide.

Learn more about Ann Hobson Pilot.