Press Releases

The Orchestra Now Presents “William Grant Still & The Harlem Renaissance” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 14, 2024

New York, NY, March 18, 2024 – Music Director Leon Botstein leads The Orchestra Now in this season’s final installment of TŌN’s popular Sight & Sound series at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with a program titled William Grant Still & the Harlem Renaissance on Sunday, April 14, 2024. The program offers a performance of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 2, Song of a New Race, written in 1937 when the Harlem Renaissance era was embracing the literary, musical, and visual arts of Black America.

Still was one of the foremost classical composers of the time, with a number of impressive firsts to his credit. Among them, he was the first African American to conduct a professional American symphony orchestra (Los Angeles Philharmonic, 1936), and the first to have an opera produced by a major U.S. opera company (Troubled Island, New York City Opera, 1949). His symphonic trilogy, tracing African American history from Africa to 20th-century America, is capped by his Symphony No. 2, a joyful and lyrical piece that fuses the European classical symphony with African American sensibility. 

As in all of TŌN’s Sight & Sound programs at The Met, Bard College president, conductor, educator, and music historian Leon Botstein explores the parallels between orchestral music and the visual arts. Each presentation is accompanied by on-screen artworks and musical excerpts performed by The Orchestra Now, followed by a full performance and audience Q&A. 

William Grant Still & the Harlem Renaissance
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sunday, April 14, 2024, at 2 PM
The Orchestra Now
Leon Botstein, conductor
William Grant Still: Symphony No. 2, Song of a New Race
Artwork from the exhibition The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism

With the rise of new, urban Black communities both in New York City and abroad, the Harlem Renaissance became the first African American-led movement of international modern art. With that art came developments in visual art, poetry, jazz, and concert music. William Grant Still was in the spotlight alongside such esteemed luminaries as writer Langston Hughes and painter Aaron Douglas. Already established as a Hollywood arranger, Still also composed nearly 200 classical works, including five symphonies, four ballets, and nine operas. He was championed by conductors like Leopold Stokowski, who conducted the premiere of Still’s four-movement Symphony No. 2, Song of a New Race with The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1937. 

The exhibition The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism will be on view at The Met Fifth Avenue February 25–July 28, 2024 in The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery for Special Exhibitions.

All Tickets, priced at $30–$50, include same-day museum admission and may be purchased online here, by calling The Met at 212.570.3949, or at The Great Hall box office at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The next TŌN performance in New York City will be Violinist as Composer, featuring the NYC premiere ofEugène Ysaÿe’s Violin Concerto in D minor, on May 8th at Carnegie Hall. 

The Orchestra Now
The Orchestra Now (TŌN) currently comprises 60 vibrant young musicians from 13 different countries across the globe: Austria, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States. All share a mission to make orchestral music relevant to 21st-century audiences by sharing their unique personal insights in a welcoming environment. Hand-picked from the world’s leading conservatories—including the Yale School of Music, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Royal Academy of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music—the members of TŌN are enlightening curious minds by giving on-stage introductions and demonstrations, writing concert notes from the musicians’ perspective, and having one-on-one discussions with patrons during intermissions.

Conductor, educator, and music historian Leon Botstein, whom The New York Times said “draws rich, expressive playing from the orchestra,” founded TŌN in 2015 as a graduate program at Bard College, where he is also president. TŌN offers both a three-year master’s degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies and a two-year advanced certificate in Orchestra Studies. The Orchestra’s home base is the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center at Bard, where it performs multiple concerts each season and takes part in the annual Bard Music Festival. It also performs regularly at the finest venues in New York, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others across NYC and beyond. HuffPost, who has called TŌN’s performances “dramatic and intense,” praises these concerts as “an opportunity to see talented musicians early in their careers.”

The Orchestra has performed with many distinguished guest conductors and soloists, including Leonard Slatkin, Neeme Järvi, Gil Shaham, Fabio Luisi, Vadim Repin, Hans Graf, Peter Serkin, Gerard Schwarz, Tan Dun, and JoAnn Falletta. Recordings featuring The Orchestra Now include two albums of piano concertos with Piers Lane on Hyperion Records, and a Sorel Classics concert recording of pianist Anna Shelest performing works by Anton Rubinstein with TŌN and conductor Neeme Järvi. Buried Alive with baritone Michael Nagy, released on Bridge Records in August 2020, includes the first recording in almost 60 years—and only the second recording ever—of Othmar Schoeck’s song-cycle Lebendig begraben. Recent releases include Classics of American Romanticism—featuring the first-ever complete recording of Bristow’s Arcadian Symphony—and an album of piano concertos with Orion Weiss, both on Bridge Records, and the soundtrack to the motion picture Forte. Recordings of TŌN’s live concerts from the Fisher Center can be heard on Classical WMHT-FM and WWFM The Classical Network, and are featured regularly on Performance Today, broadcast nationwide.

For upcoming activities and more detailed information about the musicians, visit

Leon Botstein
Leon Botstein is founder and music director of The Orchestra Now (TŌN), music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO), artistic codirector of Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival, and conductor laureate and principal guest conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO), where he served as music director from 2003 to 2011. He has been guest conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre, Russian National Orchestra in Moscow, Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Taipei Symphony, Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfónica Juvenil de Caracas in Venezuela, among others. In 2018, he assumed artistic directorship of Campus Grafenegg and Grafenegg Academy in Austria.

Recordings include acclaimed recordings of Othmar Schoeck’s Lebendig begraben with TŌN, Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner with the ASO, a Grammy-nominated recording of Popov’s First Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra, and other various recordings with TŌN, ASO, the London Philharmonic, NDR Orchestra Hamburg, and JSO, among others. He is editor of The Musical Quarterly and author of numerous articles and books, including The Compleat Brahms (Norton), Jefferson’s Children (Doubleday), Judentum und Modernität (Bölau), and Von Beethoven zu Berg (Zsolnay). Honors include Harvard University’s prestigious Centennial Award; the American Academy of Arts and Letters award; and Cross of Honor, First Class, from the government of Austria, for his contributions to music. Other distinctions include the Bruckner Society’s Julio Kilenyi Medal of Honor for his interpretations of that composer’s music, the Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society, and Carnegie Foundation’s Academic Leadership Award. In 2011, he was inducted into the American Philosophical Society. More info online at

Press Contacts
Pascal Nadon
Pascal Nadon Communications
Phone: 646.234.7088
Email: [email protected]

Mark Primoff
Associate Vice President of Communications
Bard College
Phone: 845.758.7412
Email: [email protected]        

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