Why Ebony Music
Leah began studying classical piano music at the ripe age of five. Like all children, with exposure and encouragement, her mind became a sponge for learning, and she quickly fell in love with the instrument. She was always curious about how beautiful melodies and soaring harmonies came out of this monstrous instrument filled with white and black keys. Yet, even with her devotion, dedication, and deep love for music, she quickly began to feel that there was no place in the classical piano world for someone who looked like her.
Throughout her piano studies, she never grew up having teachers who looked like her, nor did she study piano music by composers who looked like she did. She would often walk into classical music concert halls and often was the only Black person in attendance. Leah never even saw a Black classical pianist perform on a concert stage for most of her youth and young adult life.
Decades later, when deciding to earn degrees in piano at Manhattan School of Music and University of Michigan, not a single faculty member for Leah’s classes was Black. Moreover, in graduate school, no other Black students enrolled in the classical piano department during her six years of study at the institution. Leah’s studying classical music as a Black pianist was painfully isolating and often discouraging. She longed for community and sought to create one for other professional pianists and the next generation.
Planting the Initial Seeds
Leah planted the initial seeds of Ebony Music in 2015. She created a program for Black youth to learn piano while also exposing them to the significant contributions of Black composers in classical music. She also became more aware that there are and have been so many professional Black pianists making an incredible impact despite the industry’s lack of acknowledgment. Leah notes, “It is easy to believe that something does not exist if it cannot be seen.” Ebony Music seeks to spotlight the significant contributions of Black classical pianists and piano music by Black composers to normalize what classical music can look and sound like on concert music stages, in our schools of music, and our communities.