Jeanetta Hopkins Speaks About Inclusion of African-American Women in Piano Literature

March 9, 2021

By Meredith Watkins

In a Wednesdays at the Center presentation, Jeanetta Hopkins, founder of Bull City Music School, described how her experiences as a young music student turned her into a fierce advocate for the inclusion of underrepresented composers in standard music education. Now a talented pianist, violinist, violist, organist, and music educator, Ms. Hopkins remembers feeling isolated as a young musician, often the only Black, female member of her school orchestra, playing works written solely by male, European composers. She did not see herself reflected in the world of classical music. It was only when she enrolled at Jackson State University, a historically Black college in Jackson, Mississippi, that her eyes were opened to the rich catalog of works composed by African American women.

Ms. Hopkins believes that the inclusion of these works begins with music organizations and educators. At Bull City Music School, her students learn to play the works of Florence Price and Undine Smith Moore alongside Brahms and Bach.

“We're showing young students what the face of classical music looks like, that it is not just one-sided, dominated by European males. That's not the case, not at all,” Hopkins said.

Ms. Hopkins hopes that by introducing young students to a diverse world of music—a world as diverse as the one they live in—she is helping to support and encourage a new generation of musicians from all walks of life.

“This is a start for us to leave our world just a little bit better for the young musicians who are coming up behind us and will carry on the torch,” she said.

The event was part of the 2020-21 "Wednesdays at the Center" special series: "John Hope Franklin | Global Anti-Racism (Histories of Action)" organized by the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke and the Duke Center for International and Global Studies. 

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