ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Every year classical musicians from all over the country who are in various stages of their professional careers meet in Rochester.

The Gateways Music Festival, a partnership with Eastman School of Music celebrates 30 years with performances this week. Some artists describe it as a homecoming, others say it’s a culturally affirming experience.

“From middle school all the way up to college many times I was the only person that looked like me,” explains Antoine Clark the guest conductor of The Gateways Chamber Orchestra.

On Tuesday we joined the group of classically trained professional musicians who are all Black. Alex, Laing, the Executive Director of Gateways Music Festival describes it as an opportunity for them to connect, enlighten and inspire audiences through the power of performance.

“A stage full of Black musicians, I had never had that experience before,” said Laing, a clarinetist who first joined the orchestra in 2001. “It showed me that this music could be something I always wanted, which was affirming to me aesthetically but also culturally.”

Armenta Hummings Dumisani, a classical pianist joined the faculty at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in 1994. The year prior she founded the Gateways Music Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She brought the music festival to Rochester in 1995.

Organizers say the black excellence experience is spreading to New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. They begin the season this week in Rochester.

“A lot of joy and laughter, Rochester can expect to see some of the greatest classical musicians in the country right now who also happen to be Black,” Laing said.

This year the works and life of Black 18th-century composer and violinist Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges will be spotlighted.

“You can hear the early things we hear in Mozart, the beautiful harmonies, the expressiveness, that expressive writing that you’ll hear in the instrument, the violin, ” Clark says of the performance.

“An Evening of the Music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges” will be held on Wednesday, October 18 at Hochstein School of Music.

The festival also includes a special screening of the 2022 film Chevalier at Hatch Recital Hall on Thursday, October 19.

“We’re going to have an exclusive interview with Kris Bowers, the composer of the music for that film. If you don’t know, he’s the composer from Bridgerton, Charlotte, and a host of others,” said Laing.

Laing lists the films and television show scores composed by Bowers. Clark says he loves the diversity of classical music. He calls it a universal language that everyone can enjoy but this festival he says is a a unique opportunity for both musicians and audiences. Details about the performances can be found on the music festival’s website by clicking here.