Voices of Diversity: A Celebration of Classical Music's Underrepresented Composers

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
February 10, 2023

Seattle University Performing Arts and Arts Leadership presents Voices of Diversity: A Celebration of Classical Music's Underrepresented Composers, featuring Christian Howes, violin, and Joseph Williams, piano, in a free concert, Friday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m., in the Chapel of St. Ignatius on the SU campus. No advance reservations needed.

The concert will also be broadcast live on Classical KING.

The program includes compositions by Florence Price (1887 – 1953), Irene Britton Smith (1907 – 1999), Adrian Gordon (b. 1983), Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745 – 1799), Dr. Immanuel T. Abraham (b. 1990) and Tomoko Omura (b. 1980.)

The concert is the first in a series of three produced by Dr. Quinton Morris, DMA, Associate Professor, Violin, host of "Unmute the Voices," on Classical KING and founder and executive director of Key to Change. The second of the series will feature Rachel Barton Pine on Wednesday, April 26 at 8 p.m. in the Chapel of St. Ignatius.

This recital is generously sponsored by the Pigott Family Endowment for the Arts.

Middle aged man holding two violinsArtist Biographies

Violinist, educator and composer, Christian Howes was voted #1 in the Downbeat Critics Poll (“Rising Stars/Violin”), named among the top three jazz violinists in the JazzTimes critics poll, and nominated for Violinist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association. He received the Residency Partner Award through Chamber Music America, earned a USArtists grant through the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and was invited by the U.S. State department to teach and perform as a cultural ambassador twice, in Ukraine and Montenegro.  His release on Resonance Records, “Southern Exposure” earned recognition in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Downbeat and Jazz Times, as well as a six-night run at Lincoln Center.  His release, “American Spirit” was named among the Best Jazz Albums of 2015 by the Huffington Post. Howes is the founder of “Creative Strings“, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to expand music education through the creation of online curriculum, an annual summer conference, and dozens of visits to schools annually teaching improvisation, contemporary styles, and related subjects. He endorses Yamaha violins and D’Addario strings.

Close up image of man with beardJoe Williams is a pianist and lecturer from Tacoma, WA. On April 4, he will present an artist recital at Seattle Opera alongside soprano Ellaina Lewis and tenor Martin Bakari entitled “From His Heart’s Deep Core: The music of Richard Thompson and others inspired by the life and writing of Paul Laurence Dunbar.” On April 23, Williams will appear as pianist and Guest Artistic Director for Byron Schenkman & Friends to present “A Contemporary Portrait: Brian Raphael Nabors” featuring pianist Jessica Evotia Andrews-Hall, violinist Caitlin Edwards, cellist Sterling Elliott and the composer himself. 

A recipient of Society for American Music’s 2022 Paul Charosh Independent Scholar Fellowship, Williams is currently researching several keyboard works by Florence Price as well as 24 Negro Melodies, Op. 59 by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Next month, Williams will present two lectures at MTNA National Conference, "WE OUT HERE: Millennial Black Composers" and “Intermediate Techniques in James Lee III's Album for the Young at Heart (2021),” a work he premiered. 

Williams serves on the Tacoma Arts Commission, appears on Washington State Arts Commission’s curator roster and is Director of Music and Arts at Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, he was mentored by Frances Walker-Solcum. Learn more here.

Black man holding violinThe Producer

Quinton Morris, DMA, Associate Professor, Violin, at Seattle University is a multifaceted teacher and performer. He is the inaugural Artist-Scholar-in-Residence at Classical KING, where he hosts “Unmute The Voices,” a radio show and video series celebrating the music and performances of BIPOC composers and performers with dedicated space for BIPOC artistry. He is the executive director and founder of Key to Change, a non-profit violin and viola studio serving South King County that focuses on creating opportunities for young musicians of color and those from underserved, lower socio-economic backgrounds. He recently graduated from the business management program at Harvard Extension School and received the Pathfinder Award from the Puget Sound Association of Phi Beta Kappa and the Outstanding Studio Teacher Award by the Washington State Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. He holds a doctorate in violin performance from the University of Texas at Austin and is a voting member of the Recording Academy (The Grammys). He has performed recitals and given master classes around the world including venues at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and the Louvre Museum. He is also a former co-chair of the Seattle Arts Commission and resides in Seattle.

The Composers

Florence Price (1887 – 1953) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on 9 April 1887. She began learning music from her mother at an early age and gave her first piano performance at age four, reportedly publishing a composition (now lost) at age eleven. She graduated high school at the age of sixteen and in that same year was accepted into the New England Conservatory (Boston), then as now one of the most prestigious musical academies in the U.S. became the first black female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra when Music Director Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played the world premiere of her Symphony No. 1 in E minor on June 15, 1933, on one of four concerts presented at The Auditorium Theatre from June 14 through June 17 during Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition. (Source:

Irene Britton Smith (1907 – 1999) was born and educated in Chicago, where she attended Wendell Phillips High School and the Chicago Normal School. Music and music composition were her avocation. Professionally, she taught reading in the Chicago Public schools for forty years. During her summer vacations she studied music in Chicago, receiving a BM from the American Conservatory in 1946, and a MM from DePaul University in 1956. She also studied composition at Juilliard, at Tanglewood, and with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France. Smith herself played violin, piano, and organ, and served as a church musician. After her retirement from teaching, she was active as a docent for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s youth concerts. (Source:

Adrian Gordon (b. 1983) ​is an active performer, composer, and music educator living in Charlotte, NC. His colorful compositions are captivating for musicians of all ages from very easy to advanced levels. Over the years Gordon has written several acclaimed works for string orchestra such as "Apocalypse" and "Song of the Ocean Winds" to name a few. Adrian takes pride in creating music that is fun and pedagogically sound at all levels. Mr. Gordon currently serves as the orchestra director at Providence Day School in Charlotte, NC. He received his B.A. in music from the University of Miami, and his Masters degree in Music Education at Florida International University. In addition to teaching, Mr. Gordon is a composer with Alfred Music Publishing and the founder of Leap Year Music Publishing which, publishes string music for elementary, middle, and high school ensembles. Mr. Gordon's compositions appear on the California, Florida, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia Orchestra Association Music Performance Assessment Lists. (Source:

Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745 – 1799) “A lauded composer, celebrity violinist and prominent conductor based in Paris, Bologne commanded a reputation that, some scholars believe, even fired up the jealousy of his younger contemporary Mozart. He performed at the royal court alongside Marie Antoinette, his pupil, and led the premieres of Haydn symphonies commissioned for one of Europe’s leading orchestras. And music was merely one area in which this extraordinary figure excelled. Even before he burst on the scene as a dazzling virtuoso performing his own violin concertos, the teenaged Bologne was becoming an internationally admired fencing champion. He caught the attention of King Louis XV, who named him a chevalier. In later years, Bologne, by then involved in the French Revolution, was made colonel of an all-Black regiment. Yet none of these achievements allowed this son of an enslaved Senegalese woman and a plantation owner to overcome the racist barriers that prevented him from being recognized as fully equal to his white peers. Born on a French sugar cane colony of Guadeloupe, Bologne was given a privileged education when his father, a minor aristocrat, took him and his mother with him back to Paris.” (Source: The Seattle Times) Of note: Dr. Quinton Morris helped spark heightened interest in Bologne through his award-winning and performance project “Breakthrough.)

Dr. Immanuel T. Abraham (b. 1990) is an, award-winning, African American soloist, composer, teacher, lecturer, and visiting concertmaster of two to four ensembles throughout the year. He is also a masterful improviser, kirtankar, and fiddler. He has had live audiences across seven countries. His published works include the “24 Caprices for Solo Violin”, used in concerts and auditions around the world. He is also the author of  “J.S. Bach’s Chaconne: A Performer-Composer's Approach to Interpretation", and three string quartets, including the popular "Gilgamesh Quartet." He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Violin Performance with highest honors from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He graduated summa cum laude, again, with his Doctorate in Violin Performance from the University of Arizona, where he served simultaneously as Concertmaster of the Arizona Symphony Orchestra and Arizona Contemporary Ensemble (ACE). He also won the institution’s annual concerto competition with the Brahms Violin Concerto, in which he premiered his own cadenzas. (Source:

Tomoko Omura (b. 1980.) is a composer and violinist. She was named #1 Rising Star Violinist by Downbeat Magazine’s Critics Poll in 2021. Her latest album, “Branches Vol. 2” (Outside In Music, 2021) was named Bandcamp’s “Best Jazz of 2021”. She has played at internationally renowned venues including the Village Vanguard, th Jazz Gallery, Jazz Standard, Lincoln Center Appel Room, Smalls, Mezzrow, SF Jazz Miner Auditorium, National Sawdust, Newport Jazz Festival, Blue Note, among others. She has also performed and recorded with many of today’s leading artists including Paquito D’Rivera, Fabian Almazan, Linda Oh, Camila Meza, Aubrey Johnson, Vadim Neselovsky, David Broza, David Amram, and more. Her music has been featured on major international publications including Strings magazine,, WBGO’s “Jazz United” & “The Pulse”, Bandcamp Daily, Jazz Sessions, Jazz Times, Downbeat, AllAboutJazz, and more. Her fourth album “Branches Vol. 1” (Outside In Music, 2020) was also chosen for Bandcamp’s Best Jazz August 2020, among other critical acclaim. Jazz Times also premiered the music video of “Revenge Of The Rabbit” from this album. Her 3rd release, “Post Bop Gypsies” (Inner Circle, 2017), is a contemporary jazz trio album in the classic Gypsy jazz instrumentation of violin, guitar and bass. “Roots”, her second album, and first for Inner Circle Music, is a compelling tribute to her native Japan, featuring original arrangements of ten classic Japanese folk and popular songs. Downbeat awarded “Roots” four and half stars, naming Omura “a leader with a fine future”. From 2015-2020, she was also named a “Rising Star” in Downbeat magazine's Critic's Poll. (Source: