Black History Month 2024
The Festival salutes those who contribute their voices, their inspirations, and their unique musical expressions to the 2024 Grant Park Music Festival.
“One of the most distinctive and communicative voices in the US, as a player and a creator.” —BBC
Although she is a native New Yorker, this internationally acclaimed violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery has become a lodestar in Chicago’s contemporary music scene. In 2021, the Grant Park Music Festival commissioned her to write a viola concerto, which was performed during the 2023 Festival with violist Masumi Per Rostad. This year, the Festival presents Montgomery’s Five Freedom Songs on June 19 and Starburst on June 25 at the South Shore Cultural Center and on June 27 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Margaret Bonds grew up in a middle-class Chicago family and was a student of Florence Price. At the tender age of sixteen, she became one of a handful of Black students at Northwestern University but was denied full access to the school, including the use of practice rooms and the swimming pool. Her song "Peach Tree Street" was used in the film Gone with the Wind. She partnered with poet Langston Hughes and wrote many popular arrangements of spirituals.
This year, the Grant Park Music Festival presents Bonds’s Montgomery Variations on June 19. The Variations were inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the freedom movement, and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which murdered four school girls.
Michael Abels is the composer behind the genre-bending film scores for Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Us, and Nope. He co-founded the Composers Diversity Collective to promote the hiring of Black composers in film, gaming, and electronic media. The 2024 Festival features Abels’s Delights and Dances on June 25 at the South Shore Cultural Center and on June 27 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Born in Arkansas, Florence Price studied at the New England Conservatory. She returned to the South for a short while and then joined the Great Migration, landing in Chicago. In 1932, her Symphony in E minor won Chicago's Wanamaker Music Contest, which led to a performance with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was the first time a major American orchestra had played a symphony by a Black woman. This season, the Grant Park Music Festival features Price’s "Nimble Feet" from Dances in the Canebrakes at the July 4 Independence Day Salute.
Nathalie Joachim is a Haitian-American, singer, flutist composer. She was born in Brooklyn and started playing the flute at age nine. By ten she was studying at Juilliard. She works across many genres, including indie rock, pop, and classical and is a former member of the multi-Grammy-winning Chicago ensemble Eighth Blackbird. Conductor Eric Jacobsen presents the July 24 world premiere of a piece by Joachim commissioned by the Festival.
Ahmed Al Abaca
California-native Ahmed Al Abaca grew up playing piano in a jazz band and clarinet in concert band. He founded a string ensemble at Cal-State. In 2024, he presents a new quartet commissioned by the Grant Park Music Festival to be played by the Festival String Fellows. Performances take place in parks around the city during the 2024 season.