Join Clarion Concert’s Eugenia Zukerman and Board President Dave Hall for a lively discussion with young Black leaders in Classical Music. Featuring conductor and commentator Brandon Keith Brown, bassoonist and radio host Garrett McQueen, and composer and violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, our panel promises to be a frank, no-holds-barred conversation about race, racism (particularly in the Classical Music World) and how our organization and others can help dismantle systemic racism in our field and in our society.
A proud native of Memphis, TN, Garrett McQueen has performed in venues across the country, including Los Angeles' Disney Hall, Detroit's Max M. Fischer Music Center, and New York's Carnegie Hall. As well as performing as a member of the South Arkansas Symphony, Jackson Symphony, American Youth Symphony, Memphis Repertory Orchestra, the Eroica Ensemble, and most recently, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, he has worked with groups including the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Southeast Symphony, the Artosphere and Gateways Festival Orchestras, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has enjoyed giving multiple solo recitals, performing with the Godiva Woodwind Quintet, USC Scholarship Quintet, and Cooper-Young Winds, giving master classes, acting as a guest instructor for the Bahamas Music Conservatory and Idyllwild Arts Academy, adjudicating West Tennessee Band auditions, and teaching a studio of flutists/oboists/bassoonists consisting of middle school, high school, and undergraduate college students. He has performed in multiple Broadway Musicals in Memphis under the baton of David Spencer and keeps himself busy in other free-lance activities, including being featured in Indie Rock tracks produced by Goner Records (2009) and True Panther Sounds (2010). Garrett has been heard as both a performer and guest host on APM's "Performance Today", and was featured as the principal bassoonist on the Memphis Repertory Orchestra's inaugural CD of works by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky. He has also appeared on a wide array of television shows, including Oxygen's "Snapped: Killer Couples", TV One's "Fatal Attraction", and Fox's "Glee".
His affinity for contemporary music drives much of his passion for the art form, and continues to be his primary interest when it comes to playing the bassoon. In a performance of Eric Ewazen’s “Concerto for Bassoon and Wind Ensemble,” Ewazen noted his “wonderful playing” and characterized McQueen as someone who “gives a great performance of [his] piece”. In 2012, McQueen's playing earned him the title of one of America’s “most interesting classical musicians” by conductor and author of “The Real Toscanini: Musicians Reveal the Maestro”, Cesare Civetta.
In 2016, Garrett began transitioning into the field of public media and content creation, where he does most of his work today. As a strong advocate for the diversification of classical music and the advancement of Black musicians in the field, Garrett has used his platforms on local, national, and international airwaves to promote Black artistry in classical music. Additionally, he's spoken on diversity and equity panels presented by the Gateways Music Festival, the Sphinx Organization, the Kennedy Center's Shift Festival and others, and continues in this work in live and digital spaces. Some of his work has been published by organizations with parallel agendas, including his series on "The Relationship Between Race and Classical Music" by Arts in a Changing America. In an article produced by Current, McQueen was hailed as "a black talent in public media that you may not know, but should".
Garrett holds a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon from the University of Memphis, where he studied with Lecolion Washington, and a Master of Music in Bassoon from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Judith Farmer. In addition to working as Executive Producer and co-host of the TRILLOQUY podcast and owner of TRILLOQUY LLC, Garrett collaborates with arts organizations as an equity consultant, guest speaker, and curator. He serves on the board of the American Composers Forum as Equity Committee Chair, and spends his free time with his friend and podcast co-host, Scott Blankenship, and his boyfriend, Dell.
Performing with Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra as the third prize winner of the 2012 Sir Georg Solti International Conductors’ Competition, and was the standout audience favorite.
In April 2013, Brown gave a celebrated European debut with the Badische Staatskapelle, executing an "extremely demanding program which was mastered by the young conductor with flying colors. "(Klassik.com) This led to a debut with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSB), to which he was promptly re-invited. Other orchestras include the Staatskapelle Weimar, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. In 2018 he made his debut with the Nürnberger Symphoniker. At the 2018 Tokyo International Competition, he performed with the Tokyo Philharmonic. Forthcoming engagements include the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, WDR Funkhausorchester and the Bilkent Symphony.
As an accomplished opera conductor, Brown has directed, among others, performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte and Puccini's Suor Angelica. He has also assisted on Britten's Albert Herring and studied Puccini's Il Trittico under Lorin Maazel.
Chosen by the Vienna Philharmonic, Brown was winner of the Ansbacher Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival in 2012. In 2014, he won the Mendelssohn Fellowship to study with Kurt Masur in Leipzig. His primary mentor is David Zinman. Initially a violinist, he is a student of renowned teachers Roland and Almita Vamos.
A passionate educator, he has a wealth of experience as a university professor and youth orchestra leader. In addition, in 2011 and 2012 he conducted members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the opera camps for children of the Salzburg Festival.
Brown fights to change the racial conscience of society through classical music. His writings on race and classical music have been featured internationally including NPR's Here and Now, DIE ZEIT, The Medium, Deutschlandfunk/Kultur, BR Klassik, and the Berlin Tagesspiegel. Lectures include Humboldt University and the Berlin University of Art and Music. He is a frequent podcast guest, speaker, and consultant on the intersection of race and music. Contact here for speaking engagements.
Nokuthula Ngwenyama gained international prominence winning the Primrose International Viola Competition at 16. The following year she won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, which led to debuts at the Kennedy Center and the 92nd Street Y. A recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, she has performed with orchestras and as a recitalist the world over.
Ms. Ngwenyama joined violinists Jaime Lareda and Pamela Frank, cellists Sharon Robinson and Keith Robinson, and violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt in January 2020 for the premiere of Sexagesimal Celebration in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Phoenix Chamber Music Society. Additionally, she recorded both Brahms Sextets with the same ensemble and forms umama womama with fellow composers and instrumentalists Valerie Coleman-Page and Hannah Lash, which debuts and premiers a jointly written trio commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest, Phoenix Chamber Music Society and Clarion Concerts in the 2021-22 season.
Clarion Concerts has been bringing live classical chamber music to the Hudson Valley and Berkshires region for decades and we can only do that with your help. Won’t you please consider making a donation to our organization? We are an entirely volunteer-run non-profit so ALL of your donations go directly to paying musicians, concert hall fees and to our educational programs in area schools. While we suggest a $20 donation to enjoy this concert, any amount will be welcome. Thanks so much and enjoy the concert!
We thank the following foundations, businesses and individuals for their generous support of this concert. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.
* In memory of Josh Lipton