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PVS Classical

Classical Roots

Featuring Steven Banks
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Classical Roots

Featuring Steven Banks

Friday, March 1—Saturday, March 2, 2024

Friday, March 1—Saturday, March 2, 2024
Orchestra Hall
2 hours
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Classical Roots has celebrated the contributions of African American composers and artists for nearly fifty years. This season, we hear new music from Shelley Washington, who focuses "on exploring emotions and intentions by finding their root cause." Saxophonist Steven Banks, "one of the transformational musicians of the twenty-first century" (Seen and Heard International) performs a new concerto written for him by Grammy Award-winner Billy Childs. 

Celebration Tickets

The co-commission for Shelley Washington’s Both is part of the Amplifying Voices program, a New Music USA initiative powered by the Sphinx Venture Fund, with additional support from ASCAP, the Sorel Organization, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, and the Wise Music Charitable Foundation.

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Lift Every Voice and Sing
“Psalm 57”
“The Battle of Jericho”
Fanfare on “Amazing Grace”
Both [Co-Commission]
“Lake” from The River
Diaspora (Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra) [Co-Commission]


Na'Zir McFadden


American conductor Na’Zir McFadden is the Assistant Conductor and Phillip & Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the guidance of Music Director Jader Bignamini.

McFadden also serves as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra. Together, they’ll present three programs — exploring masterworks by Tchaikovsky, Valerie Coleman, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Margaret Bonds respectively.

Establishing his presence on the classical music scene, the 2023-24 season includes debuts with the North Carolina Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, and a return to the Philadelphia Ballet, in addition to maintaining several ongoing engagements with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He’ll also serve as a guest cover conductor for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In the 2022-23 season, he made his subscription debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, alongside bass-baritone Devóne Tines and clarinetist Anthony McGill. In March of 2024, he will conduct the DSO’s Classical Roots program, premiering two new works by composers Billy Childs and Shelly Washington.

Other career highlights have included debuts with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Ballet. Additionally, McFadden led a recording project with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago — featuring Hilary Hahn as co-collaborator and soloist.

This past summer, McFadden participated in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Conducting Seminar as part of the Tanglewood Institute, under the guidance of Andris Nelsons and Stefan Asbury.

In 2021, McFadden was named the inaugural Apprentice Conductor of the Philadelphia Ballet; a position he held until 2022. He also served as the Robert L. Poster Conducting Apprentice of the New York Youth Symphony from 2020 to 2021.

At the age of 16, Na’Zir conducted his hometown orchestra – The Philadelphia Orchestra – in their “Pop-Up” series, meeting their Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who has been a mentor ever since. The Philadelphia Inquirer praised his “great stick [baton] technique and energetic presence on the podium” in their concert review.

An advocate for arts education, McFadden strives to provide access to the arts for students in underserved communities. Currently, McFadden is a board member of Generation Music, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that provides classical music education to underrepresented youth in local school districts that can not afford to do so. His efforts have led to collaborations with youth ensembles in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Salt Lake City.

Steven Banks


As a performer and composer, saxophonist Steven Banks is striving to bring his instrument to the heart of the classical music world. He is driven to program and write music that directly addresses aspects of the human experience and is an active and intentional supporter of diverse voices in the future of concert music. Rick Perdian of Seen and Heard International has said “one senses that Banks has the potential to be one of the transformational musicians of the twenty-first century.”

Banks is establishing himself as a compelling and charismatic soloist and in 2022, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and was a chosen artist for WQXR’s Artist Propulsion Lab. He was the first saxophonist to be awarded First Prize at the Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International Auditions. Critics have consistently recognized Banks for his warm yet glowing tone, well-crafted and communicative musical expression and deft technical abilities.

Banks has appeared with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and the Aspen Festival Orchestra, and has enjoyed working with such conductors as Franz Welser-Most, Xian Zhang, Nicholas McGegan, Rafael Payare, John Adams, Peter Oundjian, Jahja Ling, Matthias Pintscher, Alain Altinoglu, and Roderick Cox.

In recital, he has appeared across the USA at the San Francisco Symphony’s Spotlight Series at Davies Hall, Merkin Hall, The Kennedy Center, The Kravis Center, and Festival Napa Valley with his collaborative partner, pianist Xak Bjerken.  A keen chamber musician, Banks has appeared at Spoleto Festival USA, Chamber Music Chicago, and the Aspen Music Festival, and will be the first artist-in-residence of the Skaneateles Festival in the 2023–2024 season. He has collaborated with the Borromeo and St. Lawrence string quartets and will work with the Dover and Verona quartets in the coming seasons. He is a founding member of the Kenari Quartet, an all-saxophone ensemble that performs regularly together offering inspiring and uplifting compositions and arrangements. As baritone saxophonist of Kenari, Banks won first prize at the inaugural M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition and has garnered two silver medals from the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. Their album, French Saxophone Quartets, was released in 2016 on the Naxos label.

In 2023 and 2024 Banks will premiere and tour with a commissioned concerto from Grammy Award-winning composer Billy Childs. The nine co-commissioning orchestras are the Kansas City Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, the Chautauqua Institution, the New World Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the San Diego Symphony with Young Concert Artists being the tenth partner in the consortium. The three movement, 20-minute concerto will explore aspects of the African American experience in America and takes inspiration from such poets as Nayyirah Waheed, Claude McKay and Maya Angelou.

As a composer, Banks has been commissioned by such organizations as Young Concert Artists, WQXR’s Artist Propulsion Lab, Latitude 49, Yale University’s Project 14 Initiative and Northwestern University’s Saxophone Ensemble. Jarrett Hoffman of Cleveland Classical has said that his music showcases “a unique and ambitious blend of feelings and sounds” and portrays “a deep intimacy” and “a sense of vulnerability.” His work for alto saxophone and string quartet, Cries, Sighs and Dreams, was premiered in May 2022 at Carnegie Hall with the Borromeo Quartet. His work for solo piano, Fantasy on Recurring Daydreams, will be premiered by Zhu Wang in April 2023. Banks’ works are published by Murphy Music Press.

An advocate for diversity and inclusion in music education and performance, Banks was part of the TEDx NorthwesternU 2017 conference presenting his dynamic approach to overcoming institutionalized prejudices against women and people of color. In addition, he has written about and given lectures on the history of black classical composers. In collaboration with Anthony Trionfo and Randall Goosby, the Learning to Listen roundtable was created to discuss the nuances of the Black experience in classical music and beyond. In partnership with the Sphinx Organization, they also created the Illuminate! series, which opened three essential conversations on the subject of music education, artist activism and the LGBTQIA+ community in classical music.

Banks serves as a visiting faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music and holds the Jackie McLean Fellowship at the University of Hartford. He was previously Assistant Professor of Saxophone at both Ithaca College and the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory.  His own primary saxophone teachers have been Taimur Sullivan, Otis Murphy Jr. and Galvin Crisp. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, as well as a Master of Music degree from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music.

Banks is an endorsing artist for Conn-Selmer instruments, D’Addario Woodwinds, lefreQue Sound Solutions and Key Leaves.

Brazeal Dennard Chorale

Founded in 1972 by Dr. Brazeal W. Dennard, the Brazeal Dennard Chorale is one of the longest standing organized choral groups in the country. For more than four decades, the Chorale has inspired audiences with its vocal excellence in the performance of choral music of all genres, while it continues to pursue the mission of its founder: to remember, discover, and preserve the spiritual music of the African American experience and culture.

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Saturday, March 2
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