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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Noteworthy collaboration of musical mix, disciplines in Fair Play
Showcase of classical and contemporary artists
Published Sunday, April 4, 2021 8:05 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Arsena Schroeder kicks off the “Noteworthy” showcase of classical and contemporary music on April 14 with Charlotte Symphony violinist Lenora Cox Leggatt, pianist Leon Mark Lewis and guitarist Chris Suter

Black and brown artists are pairing with classically trained musicians to launch a different kind of concert series.

FAIR PLAY Music Equity Initiative and WDAV (89.9 FM) created the Noteworthy collaborative to showcase jazz, soul, Latin, rock, hip hop, pop and R&B performers alongside classical music. The intent is to bridge the divide often associated with classical music and musicians of color.

The project received a $5,100 Cultural Vision Grant from the Arts & Science Council.  

FAIR PLAY co-founder David “Dae-Lee” Arrington wanted the project to be more than a flash. Diversity and inclusion efforts often include good intentions, but little follow through.

“There’s a lot of well-meaning people who want to do a lot of different things, but typically what you see is a splash in the pan, and then you never hear about it again,” said Arrington, who is also a Hue House co-founder. “Call it a black square on Instagram—those types of things.”

WDAV’s director of marketing and corporate support Will Keible approached Arrington with the idea for an in-person performance series. He credited Keible with being very hands off, adding that is something that needs to be done more—organizations and institutions with resources amplifying voices of color. Now the question became, how could they implement the concept in a sustainable way.

“Leveraging what Will came to the table with it was like, ‘great,’” Arrington said. “‘It is great you want to amplify Black and brown voices [and] music creators here in the city, but what does it look like for you to step further out of your bubble and invite some people in to what you do and actually create an opportunity to collaborate across the divides—classical musicians and, you say whatever genre Black and brown people may perform, which again is all of them, but what does it look like for you to create an opportunity for them to collaborate, to create that opportunity for exposure and proximity there?”

The six-week series kicks off on April 14 at 7:30 p.m. with vocalist Arsena Schroeder, Charlotte Symphony violinist Lenora Cox Leggatt, Leon Mark Lewis on piano and Chris Suter on guitar. It will be streamed on Facebook.

Schroeder combines R&B, pop and folk influences to sing about personal healing and empowerment. She immediately began charting her music prior to the recording process, which is something as a contemporary artist she does not always have to do. Contemporary artists typically work with music by ear, improvisation or what works in the moment.

“Working with classically trained artists, that is not their lingo,” Schroeder said. “We had to meet in the middle. I love getting details, so I sent them everything chart-wise, MP3s [and] all the different versions. I sent them rehearsal clips from other musicians I have worked with.”

Schroeder felt the musicians gelled well together, which was a perk considering their limited time.

“Sometimes it takes bands years, sometimes months, to have a great chemistry, to gel well, to know each other’s strengths,” she said. “We did not have that. I think we had just a natural love for the arts that for us it worked really well.”

Schroeder wants other creatives who are not in the singer-songwriter sector to have similar opportunities.

“We still have a long way to go in terms of exposing the audience that is willing to buy into and pay money for our music, exposing them to other styles, because typically, I have a lot of R&B in my music,” she said. “The R&B audience, they don’t spend as much as maybe the classical music audience or the singer-songwriter world.”

The first three concerts have been prerecorded at Blumenthal Performing Arts’ Stage Door Theatre. WDAV and FAIR PLAY will determine later this spring if the latter three will also be virtual or in-person.

The second concert is scheduled for May 26 at 7:30 p.m. featuring Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and rapper Greg Cox, violist Matt Darsey, Charlotte Symphony violinist Jane Hart Brendle and Charlotte recording artist A$H. The June 30 performance will also be at 7:30 p.m., featuring singer, songwriter and cultural activist Quisol, who blends pop and Latin influences. Quisol will be joined by Charlotte Symphony violist Kari Giles and Jeremy Lamb on cello.

“We are grateful for FAIR PLAY’s partnership in this project and believe that ‘NoteWorthy’ will contribute  to the collective effort to make Charlotte’s music scene more equitable and inclusive for musicians and  music fans,” Frank Dominguez, WDAV’s general manager and host of the bilingual classical music  program “Concierto” said in a statement.

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