Who was the “Jackie Robinson” of Classical Music?

Who was the “Jackie Robinson” of Classical Music?

By Corrie Commisso - December 11, 2018 | Podcasts

Discover multi-talented musician Charlie Burrell’s storied career

Charlie Burrell, today 98 years old, broke the color barrier again and again and again as one of America’s finest classical and jazz musicians. After hearing a radio broadcast conducted by Pierre Monteux, Burrell knew he wanted to pursue classical music. In 1959, he became the first black orchestra member hired by a major U.S. orchestra.

Burrell’s love and mastery for classical music made him an exemplary talent, and he eventually played under guest conductor Pierre Monteux in a defining musical moment. Even so, Burrell continued to combat racism and alienation throughout his musical career. In this episode of Archive Secrets, Adrienne Harling, archivist for the San Francisco Orchestra, brings light to Burrell’s story.

This and all episodes of Archive Secrets are sponsored by Digital ReLab, makers of Starchive. Professional musicians and organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, use Starchive media asset management software to discover, preserve, share, and amplify the cultural keystones of our time.

Hear Charlie Burrell’s story and discover what talent lies within the San Francisco Orchestra archives.


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