Poster Conductor Kellen Gray
Conductor Kellen Gray is the first associate artist of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Rhapsody in Black

Conductor Kellen Gray brings music from the African diaspora into concert halls

Rhapsody in Black - Kellen Gray

“When I took my basic conducting class in college, I never thought about being a conductor actively,” violinist Kellen Gray says. “My teacher asked if anyone had any conducting aspirations. In that moment I thought, ‘Maybe I do,’ and he said, ‘We’ll see if we can talk you out of that.’”

Gray now finds himself leading ensembles like the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He’s the orchestra’s first associate artist. That means he has the freedom to curate and conduct programs that deal with African-diasporic composers, their place in music history and their relation to the classical canon.

Growing up, his love of music was handed down from his parents, and became a part of everyday life. The most impactful of all those musical styles was the folk music of his Southeastern roots. Gray’s knowledge of Lowcountry music and Gullah culture led to the Aurora Project, an important music series he created when he was associate conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in 2022. The project has now become integrated into the orchestra’s overall mission.

In his position with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Gray’s mission includes helping musicians and audiences understand the aural history of this music. He said that getting ready for concerts and recordings of Black composers often included doing a little extra to help the musicians of the ensemble fully understand the notes on the page.

Gray emphasizes that for real change to happen, there needs to be more people of color on the stage, in the back offices, on the boards and in the audience.


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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About Rhapsody in Black