Columbus Cultural Orchestra to perform at Lincoln Theater



Like a music teacherStephen Spottswood has noticed a disturbing trend over the years.

“I’ve been teaching downtown students for 10 or 11 years,” said Spottswood, 29, from Silver Spring, Md., Who moved to Columbus in 2011 to attend Capital University. Trained as a violist and violinist, he currently teaches in schools in the town of Reynoldsburg.

“A lot of black orchestral musicians have quit, whether it’s playing strings or even in a band,” said Spottswood, who is black. “I come to this conclusion because, number one, there isn’t a lot of black repertoire being played. They are bored or they do not feel out of place or they lose interest.

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Additionally, as young musicians of color begin to consider career options, they don’t see musicians like them reflected in orchestral rosters.

According to a 2016 report by League of American Orchestras, black musicians made up just 1.8 percent of professional orchestral members across the country.

“Because only 1.8% are on this stage, (young musicians) don’t see themselves on this stage,” Spottswood said.

Create new opportunities

To break the cycle of under-representation, Spottswood founded the Columbus Cultural Orchestra early last year.

The group – made up of musicians of color between the ages of 12 and 25 who have a minimum of one year of experience – will perform their biggest concert to date on September 23 in the Lincoln Theater. Thirteen members of the orchestra, all string instrumentalists, will be honored; other instrumentalists will complete the performers.

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In accordance with the format of “Behind the scenes of the Lincoln”Series of concerts, spectators can watch and listen to the performance in armchairs placed on the same stage as the musicians. Masks will be compulsory for those present in person. A virtual version will also be offered; visit

Extend the repertoire

Spottswood, whose father was a jazz pianist, came to recognize the limits of playing exclusively classical repertoire by reflecting on his own musical history.

“My first introduction to music was in church and gospel music,” said Spottswood, a resident of Olde Towne East. “I love hip hop music – I’ve always had my headphones on and I’ve always been in freestyle circles in schools, rapping. I loved the orchestra and the orchestra lessons, but I thought there was more to my story.

To this end, Spottswood seeks to introduce popular music into orchestral settings.

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“I have a big message for our teachers: if you don’t teach black music in your orchestra classes and you play in those schools which are at least 50% black, that’s a huge problem”, did he declare. “Music should reflect your student body.

This weekend’s show will feature the orchestra playing Spottwood’s music arrangements by artists ranging from Beyonce To Kendrick Lamar and the Black Eyed Peas. Its goal is to offer an eclectic program that resonates as much with the participants as with the members of the orchestra.

“This is why you have the Migos,” he said. “Earth, Air and Fire is a big one that everyone loves. We really listen to Earth Wind & Fire at parties, barbecues – it’s a staple in the black community. “

Between these pieces, classical style preludes and postludes, composed by Spottswood, will be played.

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“They are very lush and contrast sharply,” he said. “I also like Mahler and Tchaikovsky. We go back and forth. “

The young arts leader is determined in his goal of increasing the representation of black artists in the ranks of orchestras.

“I think this concert will be a great visual to share with the people of the Metro Columbus area,” he said.

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“Behind the Scenes at Lincoln”: Columbus Cultural Orchestra

Or: Lincoln Theater, 769 E. Long St.


When: 7:23 p.m.

Tickets: $ 10 for in-person or virtual tickets


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