Our Founder

Leah Claiborne, D.M.A.

Leah Claiborne, D.M.A., is a passionate advocate for diversity in the arts, particularly in piano music composed by Black artists. Her dedication to this cause is evident in her performances, research, and teaching.

Recently, Dr. Claiborne achieved a remarkable milestone by becoming the inaugural recipient of the prestigious Stecher and Horowitz Power of Innovation Award presented by the Music Teacher National Association. This award recognizes her outstanding artistic contributions, leadership in pedagogy, nurturing spirit, and commitment to community service. Notably, this accolade also marked the organization’s most significant monetary award ever bestowed upon an individual.

In addition to this honor, Dr. Claiborne was recognized as one of Yamaha’s “2023 40 under 40” most influential educators in America, a testament to her impactful work in music education. Her accomplishments didn’t stop there; she also received the University of Michigan’s Alumni Artist Award for her significant contributions to her field.

In 2022, she took a significant step by establishing the first-ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion column in American Music Teacher. Through this platform, she consistently publishes articles to provide resources and support to music educators nationwide. One of her articles, titled “What Ifs: Intentional Inclusion of Black Composers in Music Education,” was featured in the February/March issue.

Beyond her writing, Dr. Claiborne actively serves as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director for the Frances Clark Center and co-chairs the DEI track for the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy. In this capacity, she created an online course titled “Unsung Heroes: 20 Pieces by Black Composers To Use In Your Studio Now” and regularly contributes as a writer for Piano Magazine.

Her musical talents have not gone unnoticed, as she was awarded the Father Merlet Prize in the ProMusics International Music Competition in 2019 for her exceptional performance skills and unwavering commitment to social outreach. In 2016, she was also recognized as a top prize winner in the National Association of Negro Musicians National Piano Competition.

Dr. Claiborne’s artistic reach extends globally, with performances in the United States, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Japan. She is highly sought after as an adjudicator and clinician in national piano competitions.

As an educator, she has been a guest lecturer for master classes, seminars, and recitals in numerous states across the United States, sharing her expertise and passion for music. Moreover, she founded Ebony Music Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes Black pianists and the music of Black composers. This organization sponsors the Ebony Prize, awarded to the best performance of a piece of music written by a Black composer in the Music Teacher National Association’s Piano Competition.

Continuing to contribute to the music world, Dr. Claiborne recently published a two-volume book titled “Expanding The Repertoire: Music of Black Composers” with Hal Leonard, one of the world’s largest music publishing companies. She also has upcoming publications with esteemed academic presses such as Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press.

Dr. Claiborne’s educational journey began at the Manhattan School of Music, where she received her undergraduate degree and was honored with the Josephine Whitmore graduation award. She furthered her studies, earning her Master of Music and Doctorate of Musical Arts degrees at the University of Michigan, where she made history as the first pianist to receive the prestigious Rackham Predoc fellowship, the graduate school’s highest honor.

Currently, Dr. Claiborne holds the position of coordinator of keyboard studies and teaches the History of African-American Music at the University of the District of Columbia, where she achieved early promotion with tenure. Her tireless dedication to promoting diversity and excellence in music education and performance continues to inspire and impact the music world.

Our Board

Akilah Kidd

Dr. Gena Flynn

Alan Gibson

Beverly Lucas

Nick Luby

Our Partners