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Imani Winds Wants to Take Your Breath Away

Grammy-nominated wind quintet performs at BlackRock Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 20.

An original piece in Imani Winds’ repertoire, “Umoja” is a sonic metaphor for what the wind quintet represents.

First, fluttered notes from a flute introduce “Umoja,” a Kiswahili word for unity. Gradually, sounds from other instruments — the oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon — melt into the melody, forming unity in sound.

Imani Winds performs at BlackRock Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 20.

They hope to convey to the audience that there’s room for umoja in classical music.

 “We have our own language for playing music,” said flutist Valerie Coleman, who formed Imani Winds in a college dorm room in the late 1990s.

The group’s formation was inspired by the lack cultural diversity within classical music ensembles. Coleman said prospective members were asked a single question:  “Do you have a role model?” Coleman recalled. “They didn't really have an answer.”

Imani Winds is comprised entirely of musicians of color, who make a point to include in their repertoire original works by musicians of color, with hopes of encouraging aspiring students of color to take interest in classical music.

The quintet has performed at Strathmore and Carnegie Hall since it formed in 1997, incorporating outreach events and workshops to their tour schedules along the way. Imani Winds received a Grammy nod in 2006, a Best Classical Crossover Album nomination for “The Classical Underground.”

On Saturday, the quintet’s program includes some original works (“Startin Sumthin” by Imani Winds’ own French horn player), some of classics (e.g. “Bachianas Brasileiras No.6” by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos) and a world music mix —  klezmer tunes arranged by Gene Kavadlo, Variations on an Afro-Cuban Lullaby (Drum Negrita) arranged by Brian DuFord, and Middle-Eastern inspired music by Mohammed Fairouz.

The BlackRock stop comes ahead of Imani Winds’ 3rd annual Chamber Music Festival in New York. 

Ticket information is available at BlackRock’s website.

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