Poster Bassist Joseph Conyers
Bass player Joseph Conyers made history in 2023 when he became one of the few Black principal players in a major American orchestra.
Jessica Griffin
Rhapsody in Black

Bassist Joseph Conyers aims to help young musicians ignite change in their communities

Rhapsody in Black - Joseph Conyers
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In 2010, Joseph Conyers became the first Black musician hired by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 36 years. Three years later, he won the audition for principal bass in the same orchestra and made history again as one of the few Black principal players in a major American orchestra.

Conyers has been in the thick of the industry as a full-time professional for 20 years. He remembers studies and research that helped determine how much progress the classical music industry was making, if any, when it came to equity and inclusion.

“I look at where we are now, and I'm a little concerned because I don't know if by the end of my time in the profession I will see the change that everyone keeps talking about,” he says. ”The idea is that one day, if we want to see real equity, that in any major city, any kid in your area could one day end up on the stage of your orchestra. Because that means every kid has a chance. That is my challenge to the industry.”

Here’s what Conyers is doing to help build that pipeline so every kid has a chance at being on that stage. It’s a program called Project 440.

“Music is the entry point into what possibility can be,” he says. “We create a community of like-minded individuals using music and other paths to creativity as the tie that allows them to work together to do projects in their community. How can we in the classical music space embrace the music of other cultures, learn from each other and use those conversations to build bonds within the community.

“That's literally Project 440 in a nutshell. It’s using music as a tool to teach these young people the things they need to be successful.”

Credits

Host: Vernon Neal

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher

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About Rhapsody in Black

Where we turn up the voices of Black artists in the world of classical music, with host Vernon Neal.

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