The Harlem Quartet Changes The Notion Of What The Classical Musician Looks Like

Classical musicians have had to live with a stigma for a long time. Traditionally, the great classical composers and famous works performed in concert have come from European icons. There hasn’t been much representation of African or African-American influence in the genre. Until now.

The Harlem Quartet - Photo Credit: Paul Wiancko
The Harlem Quartet – Photo Credit: Paul Wiancko

The Harlem Quartet has set out to rewrite the “rules” for what the classical musician looks and plays like. The group began in 2008 as a project created by the Sphinx Organization with the mission of broadening diversity in classical music while also incorporating works from minority composers to grow the classical audience in new directions.

The incorporation of a mixed group of ethnicities including Jewish, Cuban, African American and Puerto Rican highlight the diversity of The Harlem Quartet. While not everyone in the market has immediately taken to the alteration, the growth of popularity amongst new fans of the genre has been steady. Aiding them in their outreach to new listeners has been the slight and slow infusion of jazz into the performance lineup, which also illustrates the flexibility of the group in diversity of songbook.


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