The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Celebrates Pioneering Musicians and Trailblazing Artists This Black History Month


Upcoming concerts emphasize continued inclusive programming initiatives by highlighting the contributions of Black musicians, artists, and composers.

(January 26, 2023) – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is excited to get an early start to Black History Month by highlighting the works and contributions of classical composer, Florence Price, the first African American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. African American Pianist, Michelle Cann, a leader in the revival of Price’s work, joins the world-class orchestra on Thursday, January 26 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (JMSH) and Sunday, January 29 at the BSO’s second home, The Music Center at Strathmore (Strathmore).

Throughout the month of February, music lovers can look forward to various programs that focus on the great musical contributions of various Black artists spanning the African diaspora such as Kwamé Ryan, James P. Johnson, William Still Grant, Jonathan Rush, Wordsmith, Anthony Parnther, and Josanne Francis. Families and students get an opportunity to attend a music education program, Midweek: The Jazz Age, that explores the music and poetry of the Harlem Renaissance era. Concertgoers can also revisit Marvel’s “Black Panther” movie with the epic film score played by the Orchestra and led by the go-to Hollywood conductor, Anthony Parnther (Wakanda Forever, Encanto).

With an exciting month ahead, guests can enjoy the following performances to celebrate Black History Month:


Thursday, January 26, 8 PM JMSH
Sunday, January 29, 8 PM Strathmore

Shostakovich’s transcendent Fifth Symphony uses the coded language of musical irony that was off limits in the repressive Soviet regime. The trailblazing Finnish conductor Eva Ollikainen conducts this nuanced score with characteristic thoughtfulness, and her steady hand navigates the turbulent scenes from Britten’s dark tale of social isolation. Michelle Cann, a leader in the revival of Florence Price’s long-overlooked canon, is known for delivering a “stirring and authoritative performance” that maximizes the “technical sparkle and probing humanity” of Price’s action-packed concerto (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

This concert is eligible for the Kids Listen Free program.

BRITTEN Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes
PRICE Piano Concerto in One Movement

Eva Ollikainen, conductor
Michelle Cann, piano


Thursday, February 2, 8 PM Strathmore
Saturday, February 4, 8 PM JMSH (Late Night)
Sunday, February 5, 8 PM JMSH

The sensitive and charismatic young Spaniard Pablo Ferrández brings out all the passion and earthy folk music embedded within Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, a crown jewel of the solo repertoire. Kwamé Ryan conducts with the broad perspective of a true world citizen. He turns his keen gaze to Become Ocean, a once-in-a-generation masterpiece of swelling waves and rapturous immersion that earned John Luther Adams a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy® Award.

This concert is eligible for the Kids Listen Free program.

DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto

Kwamé Ryan, conductor
Pablo Ferrández, cello


Wednesday, February 8, 10 & 11:30 AM JMSH
Thursday, February 9, 10 AM JMSH

Explore the music and poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, a period in American history in which the creativity of African Americans left its mark on generations of civil rights activists, artists, and thinkers including Harlem and Negro Dancers by Langston Hughes and Heritage by Gwendolyn B. Bennett. The BSO’s Midweek Series includes STEAM-activated, arts-integrated orchestra concerts for student’s Pre-K through Middle School and beyond.

 Baltimore City Title 1 schools may attend for free, including transportation. Free and deeply subsidized tickets for County Title 1 schools are made available through the major support from generous donors and partners.

GERSHWIN Introduction from Porgy & Bess
JAMES P. JOHNSON Harlem Symphony, Movt. III
GERSHWIN (arr. Hershey Kay) “I Got Rhythm” from Girl Crazy
PRICE “Juba Dance” from Symphony 1
STILL “The Blues” from Lenox Avenue
STILL Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American,” Movt. II

Jonathan Rush, conductor
Wordsmith, spoken word artist


Thursday, February 9, 8 PM JMSH
Friday, February 10, 8 PM JMSH
Saturday, February 11, 8 PM Strathmore

In 2018, Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” quickly became a global sensation and cultural phenomenon, showing a new dimension of what superhero films could be. Rolling Stone raved, “The film lights up the screen with a full-throttle blast of action and fun. That’s to be expected. But what sneaks up and floors you is the film’s racial conscience and profound, astonishing beauty.” Now you can relive the excitement of T’Challa becoming king and battling Killmonger all while the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar® and Grammy®-winning score live to picture.

This concert is eligible for discounted children’s tickets.

Anthony Parnther, conductor


Saturday, February 25, 11 AM JMSH

Drums, Drums, Drums – including steelpan drums – are the focus of this Family Concert. Josanne Francis, steelpan artist, joins the BSO for an exploration of percussion instruments, especially those with pitch. Other traditional orchestral percussion instruments, like xylophone and timpani, share the spotlight.

JAN BACH Concerto for Steelpan and Orchestra
STRAVINSKY Infernal Dance from The Firebird

Jonathan Rush, conductor
Josanne Francis, steelpan artist
Steelpan Ensemble

“We are committed to highlighting Black artistry across the season, not just in February but through all of our ongoing programming and initiatives,” said Mark C. Hanson, BSO’s President and CEO. “We are fortunate to celebrate pivotal time periods like the Harlem Renaissance and today that encapsulate the evolution of Black music, spoken word, and film while highlighting talented composers, conductors, and musicians. The BSO actively works to create inclusive opportunities while evoking a spirit of connectivity through music and creativity.”

About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

For over a century, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has been recognized as one of America’s leading orchestras and one of Maryland’s most significant cultural institutions. The orchestra is internationally renowned and locally admired for its innovation, performances, recordings, and educational outreach initiatives including OrchKids.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs annually for more than 275,000 people throughout the State of Maryland. Since 1982, the BSO has performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, and since 2005, with the opening of The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, the BSO became the nation’s first orchestra performing its full season of classical and pops concerts in two metropolitan areas.

In July 2022, the BSO once again made musical history with its announcement that Jonathon Heyward would succeed Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder Marin Alsop as the Orchestra’s next Music Director. Maestro Heyward begins his five-year contract in the 2023-24 season.