About Us -> Reviews
1 New York Times
Apr. 2, 2009
"Poet's Muse: A Footnote to Beethoven"; Felicia R. Lee writes:
Rita Dove, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former United States poet
laureate, has now breathed life into the story of that virtuoso,
George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, in her new book, “Sonata
Mulattica” (W. W. Norton). The narrative, a collection of poems
subtitled “A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play,” intertwines
fact and fiction to flesh out Bridgetower, the son of a
Polish-German mother and an Afro-Caribbean father.
While Bridgetower failed to find a prominent
place in the musical canon, his story is nevertheless recorded in
the major musical histories, like The New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians, as well as on Internet sites like
AfriClassical.com and its companion, africlassical.blogspot.com,
which document black contributions to classical music.
“Rita Dove does a wonderful job of humanizing the story,” William J.
Zwick, the creator of AfriClassical.com, said of “Sonata Mulattica.”
The “Kreutzer” Sonata is one of Beethoven’s most well known, he said,
and shows that a work that has been valuable for centuries “was done
to show the genius of a black composer.”
2 Michigan Messenger
Celeste Whiting writes:
"It isn't right for people to grow up thinking that
classical music is all white men in wigs." These are the words of
Bill Zick, who wants people to know that minorities played an
important role in the history of classical music.
Zick's AfriClassical.com website
documents the history of minorities composing and performing
classical music. His work combines a love of classical music with a
commitment to racial equality.
Kyle Norris writes:
AfriClassical.com launched in 2000 and has become the premiere
website of its kind. It features in-depth biographies of musicians
and composers, black history quizzes, and over one-hundred audio
clips. (Listen to H. Leslie Adams’ “Since You Went Away,” sung by
Darryl Taylor, for a lush, melodic awakening.)
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma discovered the website several years
ago and signed its guest book. De Lerma and Zick began an ongoing
correspondence and now share their knowledge with one another on a
regular basis. Zick maintains the website from his home base in Ann
Arbor. He wants to keep the information that is already posted as up
to date as possible, but he says he will not expand the site to
include new profiles.
Professor de Lerma speaks with the utmost regard for the website,
and for what he calls Zick’s sophisticated efforts. “This website
has no competition. If anyone is interested in the information Bill
has, they won’t find a better source.”
4 Michigan Radio
Jan. 26, 2007 The Arts page of the
Michigan Radio website provides the
audio and transcript of a story by Arts Reporter Jennifer Guerra
which has this caption: "AfriClassical
music is often associated with white, European composers. One
website sets out to highlight the contributions people of color have
made to classical music."
An article by Ana Clark is entitled: Classical Music: Black
and Latino musicians hope to change the image of the art form".
"William Zick, a white man, has made it his full-time work to
Blacks in classical music as a historical and global phenomenon at
6 Detroit Public TV
& Feb. 2007
The website of Detroit Public TV features a page on Black History
Month. Under Sites to See it lists: "AfriClassical.com - A
Resource on Black History & Classical Music".
7 CBC Radio
The CBC Radio Two program "Music & Company", hosted by Tom Allen,
posted a Black History Month Link to AfriClassical.com at its
Website: "This site was
launched in 2000 as a nonprofit educational venture promoting
awareness of African Heritage in Classical Music. It features news,
history essays and audio links - a must-visit for classical music
fans who want to know more about Black and African contributions to
8 Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Jan. 29, 2006
Under the title "New Website Features
Interesting Black History Facts", the paper wrote: "After years of
celebrations of Black History Month, it is still not widely known
that Black composers and musicians have been making enduring
contributions to classical music for centuries."
9 Teaching Tolerance
The magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center called
AfriClassical.com: "Harmony and Heritage: Black History and
Classical Music". It was listed as one of seven "Must visit
destinations on the Internet".
10 JBHE Weekly Bulletin
Jan. 19, 2006
The Weekly Bulletin of The Journal of Blacks in Higher
Education published an article entitled "New Online Resource on
Black History in Classical Music". It began: "A
new online resource on blacks’ contributions to classical music has
recently been launched at
http://www.AfriClassical.com. The site is the project of William
J. Zick, a white man who has retired from positions as an
administrative law judge and as a training officer for the Michigan
Department of Civil Rights."
11 WDET-FM Detroit
Dec. 28, 2005
Listen to audio of the
8-minute interview (mp3). "WDET'S Craig Fahle
recently spoke with Bill Zick, Webmaster for www.africlassical.com.
His website has become one of the premiere resources for those
interested in Black composers of Classical
12 Chicken Bones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African- American
Mar. 5, 2005
Amin Sharif writes: "Africlassical is an
extraordinary experience in black music. That it was
constructed by a cool white cat (Bill Zick) makes it all amazing.
Well done, Bill!"
13 Washington Post
Feb. 25, 2005
Britt profiles The Imani Winds, an African American classical
"The group is part of a long, little-known tradition of black
classical musicians and composers, many of whose bios can be found
at africlassical.com, a vibrant Web site created by Bill Zick, a
retired Michigan lawyer."
14 Metro Times
Feb. 9, 2005
"Rhapsody in black: Locally produced Web site explores classical
composers of color," is a feature story by Khary Kimani Turner.
It mentions several of the people profiled at the site, then adds:
"Zick's efforts have been recognized by some of the Detroit area's
foremost proponents of ethnic inclusion in the classical arts.
Aaron Dworkin is the founder and president of the Sphinx
Organization, a multifaceted group dedicated to encouraging
classical music training among young people of color ("Mystery of
the Sphinx," Metro Times, Feb. 26, 2003). He says
Zick's site is the most comprehensive that he knows.
'Unfortunately, there are very few sites with information about
black contributions to classical music,' Dworkin says. Zick's
site 'has a lot of information. It's a fantastic thing, and a
resource that should be supported.'
15 Maine Sunday Telegram
Jan. 23, 2005
Excerpts from the Classical Beat
column by Christopher Hyde:
A column last year mentioned the huge number of musical works
inspired by Maine’s great poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an
outpouring unmatched by settings of Whitman or other runners-up.
One of those inspired by “Hiawatha” was the African-British composer
Taylor first become prominent
in 1898 because of two works: his Ballade in A-Minor, composed for
the Three Choirs Festival at the suggestion of Sir Edward Elgar; and
“Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast,” a setting of that section of
Longfellow’s popular poem. Coleridge-Taylor conducted the
first of hundreds of performances throughout England and the work,
for about two decades, was one of the most popular pieces of choral
music in the world.
I am indebted for this tidbit of information to William J. Zick,
whose website on the contributions of Africa toward western
www.africlassical.com, was first mentioned in this column in
2003. It seems appropriate to revisit it at the beginning of Black
History Month in the U.S. and Jamaica.
The site has expanded tremendously in two years, and is now
accessible in both French and English. The translation to French may
have something to do with the Association of the Friends of the
Chevalier St. George on the Island of Guadeloupe. St. George, born
to a plantation owner and a slave on that island, became France’s
premiere swordsman just before the Revolution, as well as a major
violinist and composer, known as “The Black Mozart.” Many of his
works are available on CD, and a DVD about his fantastic life, “The
Black Mozart,” was produced by the Canadian Broadcasting System in
2003. It has recently become commercially available from the
CBC. (Links to sources of recordings and information are available
on Zick’s web site.) Probably the best introduction to St.
George’s work is “Violin Concertos of Black Composers of the 18th
and 19th Centuries,” with Rachel Barton (Cedille 90000-035). The
recording also includes a work by Coleridge-Taylor and St. George’s
contemporary Meude-Monpas, who revised Rousseau’s “Theory of Music.”
St. George was a good friend of Alexandre Dumas (Pere), who was the
also the victim of the same anti-black laws agitated for by French
plantation owners. He led a regiment of 1,000 during the
French Revolution, and later spent some time in what is now Haiti,
although whether he was part of that nation’s successful revolt
against the French is unknown.
There’s a recording of Haitian classical piano music illustrated on
Zick’s site that I want badly. Just as St. George was known as
“The Black Mozart,” The Haitian pianist and composer Lamothe was
sometimes called “A Black Chopin.” I began thinking about
nicknames, intended to be compliments, that wind up as pejoratives.
Why isn’t Mozart known as “The White St. George?” Mozart
apparently stole one of his tunes. Just asking...
16 Seattle Times
Jan. 19, 2003
"African-American site hits missing notes of history" by Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times music critic: Everybody knows
about the huge debts owed to African-American musicians in the jazz
and popular music genres. And almost everyone could name at
least one great African-American opera singer of the past century,
from Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price to two artists in Seattle
Opera's current production of "Don Pasquale" (soprano Harolyn
Blackwell and tenor Lawrence Brownlee.
"But take another step backward into classical-music
history, and black composers/performers virtually disappear.
An eye-opening new Web site, however, makes an excellent start at
addressing this issue by presenting a wide array of musicians of
African descent whose contributions haven't received enough public
notice." The site,
offers a long list of compact discs - complete with photos of the CD
covers - that give readers a chance to hear the works composed (and
many cases played) by black musicians.
The site was compiled with the
following philosophical statement: "The
idea behind the website is that the lives and music of composers and
musicians of African descent prove that people of color have made
enduring contributions to society throughout history, even under the
most difficult conditions."
Webmaster William Zick notes the reason for this compilation of
resources: "Few people know that people of African descent have been
composing and performing fine classical music since Mozart's time."
Many, though not all, of the site's
musicians are noted in such standard
reference books as the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music, but
is the first comprehensive site to pull together a broad spectrum of
musical references in the classical genre.
A few details might surprise even regular concertgoers who know a
lot about music:
• George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860), of West Indian
and Polish/German parentage, toured as a child violin prodigy who
played for English royalty and became a protégé of the Prince of
Wales. In 1802, he visited his mother in Dresden, and in
Vienna met Beethoven. With Beethoven at the piano, Bridgetower gave
a concert May 24, 1803, which included the world premiere of
Beethoven's famous "Kreutzer" Sonata (Op. 47). We'd be calling
this work the "Bridgetower" Sonata to this day, if it weren't for a
disagreement between the composer and the violinist (over a woman,
according to Bridgetower). Beethoven then substituted Kreutzer
for Bridgetower as the sonata's dedicatee. Little is known about
Bridgetower's last three decades in Europe.
• Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1739-1799): Born on
the island of Guadaloupe, the son of a slave, the Chevalier was a
composer and violinist who also was famous for his fencing, riding,
dancing, swimming and skating. Little is known about his early
violin training, but he made his violin debut with the Paris Concert
des Amateurs in 1772, and the following year he became musical
director/leader of that group. He composed several operas; founded
the ensemble for which Haydn's Paris symphonies were commissioned;
toured in London and moved back to France to become captain of the
national guard and head of a corps of light troops. Among his
musical output are symphonies, operas, violin concertos and string
These are only two of the scores of musicians encountered on this
Web site, which has four main focal points: "Black History and
Classical Music," "Composers of African Descent," "Musicians of
African Descent" and pages devoted to individual composers and
Some of the life histories are particularly fascinating, jumping
from country to country. Consider Edmond Dede (1827-1903), a
New Orleans Creole of color who started out as a clarinetist, later
becoming a violin prodigy. He moved to Mexico to escape white
hostility against African-American musicians, then returned to work
as a cigar maker in New Orleans until he earned enough money to
travel to Belgium, then to France. He studied composition at
the Paris Conservatoire with Halevy, a teacher of Gounod; settled in
Bordeaux; married a French woman and produced a son (Eugene Arcade
Dede), who also became a classical composer.
The elder Dede served for 27 years as conductor of the orchestra at
the Theatre l'Alcazar, and also conducted light music at the Folies
Bordelaises. Dede returned only once to New Orleans, where his
performances were a success, though he encountered "implacable
prejudice" at home (a term immortalized in his song "Patriotisme").
He died in 1903 in Paris, and many of his compositions rest in the
National Library there.
Not surprisingly, black women composers are few in number — a double
minority status that must have made opportunities impossibly small
for all but the most gifted. Florence Beatrice Smith Price
must have found many obstacles in her musical training and career:
Born in Little Rock in 1887, she nonetheless published her first
composition while in high school. She went on to graduate from
the New England Conservatory of Music as a pianist and organ
teacher, and to teach at two colleges in Little Rock and Atlanta.
After her marriage and move to Chicago, Price found herself in the
unenviable position of being a single black mother in the 1920s and
'30s, so impoverished that she had to move in with one of her piano
students. Yet she still produced what researcher Rosalyn Story calls
"an impressive body of vocal work for all voices, and cultivated a
budding passion for symphonic music." It was in the latter genre
that she found her greatest success, becoming the first
African-American woman to have a composition performed by a major
symphony orchestra: Her Symphony in E Minor was premiered at the
Chicago World's Fair in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,
under the direction of Frederick Stock. (That work is recorded
on Koch International Classics.)
One of the most helpful aspects of this Web site is the long list of
available recordings, many of them on the budget Naxos label (where
you'll find an assortment of Dede's works). The CDs' numbers and
dates are also given, a help in ordering them online or in person
from CD stores.
This page was last updated
January 3, 2021