African American Tenor, African American Tenors, African American Classical Music, Henry Hugh Proctor, Dwight Andrews, Jessye Norman, Meridian Chorale, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Festival promotes African-American classical works

More than a century ago, a small cohort of African-American classical music lovers desperately wanted to hear a touring group from the Metropolitan Opera sing during a rare Atlanta performance. As the story goes, the group considered dressing up as servants to slip into the segregated concert.


Whether or not the costume change actually occurred, the patrons were turned away from the performance. When Henry Hugh Proctor, the pastor of First Congregational Church of Atlanta, heard about the rejection, he started a musical movement, sponsoring a series of inclusive concerts showcasing African-American performers.

The Atlanta Music Festival, a descendant of Proctor’s concerts, aims to create a larger audience for classical music performed and composed by African-Americans.

Artistic Director Dwight Andrews, senior minister at First Congregational Church and an associate professor of music at Emory University, began the concerts anew 15 years ago with Music Director Steve Darcy. Andrews said he sees the Atlanta Music Festival as an extension of those early performances.



Emory University is a private research university in metropolitan Atlanta, located in the Druid Hills section of DeKalb County, Georgia, United States. The university was founded as Emory College in 1836 in Oxford, Georgia by the Methodist Episcopal Church and was named in honor of Methodist bishop John Emory. In 1915, the college relocated to metropolitan Atlanta and was rechartered as Emory University. The university is the second-oldest private institution of higher education in Georgia and among the fifty oldest private universities in the United States.

Emory University has nine academic divisions: Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Oxford College, Goizueta Business School, Laney Graduate School, School of Law, School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Rollins School of Public Health, and the Candler School of Theology. Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Peking University in Beijing, China jointly administer the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. The university operates the Confucius Institute in Atlanta in partnership with Nanjing University. Emory has a growing faculty research partnership with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Emory University students come from all 50 states, 6 territories of the United States, and over 100 foreign countries.