African-American group inspire youth through classical music

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Grammy-nominated wind quintet indigenous musical group Imani Winds wraps up their New Zealand debut tour as the final concert in Chamber Music New Zealand's Kaleidoscopes 2017 Season. Today over 800 children attended their free informal educational concert at the Town Hall in Auckland.

The musical instruments of Imani Winds are vibrating.

Bassoon player Monica Ellis says, “Music is literally the air I breathe because my breath is what produces the sound of my particular instrument. It's just the way that all of us can communicate around the world it truly is a universal language.”

Mostly an all-African-American ensemble, Monica says the group is challenging stereotypes within classical music.

“We are having people look at us and say wait a second I didn't know black musicians could play classical music in that way with that type of virtuosity and power.”

Imani ('faith' in Swahili) Winds began in 1997 when flute player Valerie Coleman, decided to create an ensemble bringing together some of the top African-American woodwind players around.

Coleman says, “The name Imani actually came before the group itself and that was the seed that allowed me the courage to call everybody up and just say hey you don't know me but would you like to be in a group that could potentially be role models for all walks of life.”

The ensemble aims to make music which changes people's lives.

“This might be the first time that a child is exposed to classical music or their first time exposed to live music and it's not only an honour but it's kind of a responsibility that we have to do the best we can because you never know who's going to pick up and instrument after the concert.”