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Gateways Music Festival Orchestra gets ready for Carnegie Hall debut

Gateways Festival rehearsal
Neal Ganguli
for WXXI News
Musicians gathered Wednesday in Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre, practicing for the Carnegie Hall debut Sunday of the Gateways Music Festival

The Gateways Music Festival is getting ready for its Carnegie Hall debut.

That annual festival, which features classical musicians of African descent, will include a performance this coming Sunday before a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.

The festival has been based in Rochester since 1995.

Gateways is being led this year by Anthony Parnther, a conductor and bassoonist based in Los Angeles.

Appearing on the WXXI Classical Backstage Pass program Wednesday during a rehearsal at Kodak Hall, Parnther talked to WXXI's Julia Figueras about the joy of making music with this group of musicians.

“A lot of these musicians over the years I always see in passing, but to spend an entire week with all of us united to make music and share beauty is a really magical thing,” said Parnther.

Parnther took over as conductor after long time music director Michael Morgan died last August.

Gateways concertmaster Kelly Hall-Tompkins talked about Morgan’s legacy.

“He brought this orchestra together in such a high level of artistry, but I think he really crafted the Gateways festival to the world class organization and orchestra that it is today,” said Hall-Tompkins.

Gateways principle oboe, Titus Underwood, noted how Black history and experience is a vital part of American classical music.

"This is an American orchestra and we’re playing American music; we’re playing George Walker, we’re playing Florence Price," said Underwood. The Juba dance literally was made on a plantation. The American culture of orchestral playing has to come through that 'through-line' of Black culture to truly call itself an American orchestra."

The concert featuring the Gateways Orchestra at Carnegie Hall will be broadcast live on WXXI Classical starting at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday and it will also stream live at

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