According to the League of American Orchestras, fewer than two percent (2%) of professional classical musicians in the United States are African-American. The 2010 Census, which is the most recent Census survey, showed that individuals who identify as African-American represent roughly thirteen percent (13%) of the US population. The disheartening statistic related to the number of African-Americans professionally involved in classical music is one of the motivators that led to the founding of the Ritz Chamber Players.
Founded in 2002 by Terrance Patterson, the Ritz Chamber Players stopped charging admission to their concerts in 2013. Their 2016-2017 season, which begins on October 21, 2016, marks their 15th anniversary as an organization. The name Ritz Chamber Players pays homage to The Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum, which celebrates the rich legacy of the African-American community that has thrived in Jacksonville, Florida’s LaVilla district for more than 100 years.
The current list of Ritz Players, an all African-American lineup, includes: Terrance Patterson (clarinet), Ann Hobson Pilot (harp), Kelly Hall-Tompkins (violin), Kyle A. Lombard (violin), Tahira Whittington (cello), Alison Buchanan (soprano), Robert Sims (baritone), Demarre McGill (flute), Judy Dines (flute), Terrance Wilson (piano), Leon Bates (piano), Stewart Goodyear (piano), Orlando Wells (violin), Caleb Jones (cello), Kevin Sharpe (piano), David Berry (piano), Kenneth Law (cello), and George Taylor (viola). Members of the Ritz Chamber Players have performed with prestigious organizations such as the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the London Symphony. In addition to their on stage artistry, the Ritz Chamber Players also conduct educational programs in Jacksonville schools and throughout the community as a whole. Their efforts serve to foster multicultural participation in and attendance of the performing arts, more specifically classical music.
Founder and clarinetist Terrance Patterson is also the Artistic Director of the Ritz Chamber Players. Terrance’s love of classical music was fostered at a young age with the assistance of WJCT (89.9 FM). He began playing the clarinet at the age of 11 and trained under Peter Wright, the Jacksonville Symphony’s principal clarinetist. Terrance is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University, where he received a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance. As a clarinetist, Terrance has performed to audiences around the world, including Paris, London, Milan, Moscow, Brussels, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and more.
Terrance couldn’t ignore the fact that as he performed with prestigious groups around the world he was often “the only person of color.” Terrance realized that the limited representation of African-Americans professionally performing classical music
10 Questions with Terrance Patterson
1. What is the mission of your organization?
The mission of the Ritz Chamber Players is to foster the appreciation of chamber music through performances and educational outreach featuring preeminent African-American musicians and composers, with an emphasis on building audiences and arts inclusion that reflects our diverse society.
2. When was your organization formed and how has it grown?
The Ritz Chamber Players was formed in 2002. In this upcoming 2016-2017 Season, we will celebrate our 15th Anniversary of spectacular chamber music! Since our inception, the Jacksonville based Ritz Chamber Players has toured nationally, and enjoyed extended concert series in Atlanta, GA, Orlando, FL, and New York City, NY. We have recently launched an exciting diversity initiative in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore, Maryland.
3. What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
The Ritz Chamber Players engages our audiences and plays a unique and paramount role, in not only the local community but also the entire performing arts industry, by reshaping the way audiences and performers view minorities in classical music. African-Americans account for thirteen percent (13%) of America’s population but in certain regions represent a much higher percentage of that area’s total population. However, the African-American community has not always felt embraced by the performing arts scene due to the lack of African-American presence on stage.
An innovative solution is necessary to address this glaring absence of minority participation and attendance. We believe it requires us to increase the exposure and opportunities for black musicians and composers, while simultaneously developing a knowledgeable and appreciative minority audience that is able and willing to support the arts.
To accomplish this goal, the Ritz Chamber Players has a multifaceted approach to engage our audiences, including:
- Ritz Chamber Players Main Stage Series performances, featuring preeminent African-American musicians
- Artists Perspectives Recital Series at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
- Ritz Chamber Players Coffee Concerts at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
- Lunching with The Ritz: A Lunchtime Chamber Concerts
- In-School Performances, Informances, and outreach within the inner-city school and underserved areas in Northeast Florida
- Master Class Series offered at University of North Florida (UNF), Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and LaVilla School for the Arts
- Music Mentor Program and In-School Coaching
- Open Daytime RCP Rehearsals
4. Why is art and culture important?
The Ritz Chamber Players are committed to the principle that the creative arts are essential to the full development of individuals. The performing arts have a unique and important power to communicate with all people, regardless of ethnicity, age or perceived abilities. We strive to encourage and celebrate life-long learning of the arts through outreach initiatives, with a focus on attaining cultural diversity on our concert stages and in our audiences.
5. What’s your organization’s next major milestone and is this milestone part of a long-term plan?
The Ritz Chamber Players next milestone commences on Thursday, October 21, 2016 as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary Season. We are very excited about this coming season entitled “Our Voice.” With the celebration of our 15th year, we will continue the growth and awareness of the Ritz Chamber Players as we build the capacity of the organization to be around for many years to come!
6. What would you like to see in the arts and cultural community in Jacksonville?
Being that I am a native of Jacksonville, I love seeing the awe-inspiring and continuous growth of the dynamic Jacksonville Arts Community. I am elated that the Ritz Chamber Players play a pivotal role in the vibrant artistic scene here in Northeast Florida.
I would love to see a deeper support and understanding of how much the arts community contributes to the vibrancy of the Northeast Florida. It vexes me that the cultural community is always asked to prove the relevancy of artistic value when art is a critical component of each of our daily lives. Take a moment to consider how art illuminates almost every facet of your life: your clothes – your mobile telephone – the design of the chair you sit in – your video games – the glorious skyline that identifies our City, down to the wood. This all epitomizes and legitimizes the impact that art has everywhere.
7. Does your organization partner with other organization(s)?
The Ritz Chamber Players is very proud to partner with many incredible organizations in Jacksonville. We work closely with:
- Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
- The Cathedral Arts Project
- Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
- Beaches Museum and History Park
- Museum of Science and History
- Jacksonville Symphony’s Jump Start Strings Programs
- Don’t Miss A Beat
- Friday Musicale
- Jacksonville Children’s Chorus
- University of North Florida
- Osher Lifelong Learning Insitute at UNF
- Beaches Fine Arts Series
8. What is a program offered by your organization that you’d like to highlight? Additionally, what is an organization that you think more people need to know about?
Considering that less than 2% of musicians in American Symphony Orchestras are of color, The Ritz Chamber Player’s role as an educator throughout the community is vital to change this abysmal statistic. Arts organizations around the country are embracing diversity and minority engagement as the only way to achieve sustained long-term survival and the Ritz Chamber Players are a leading force in minority engagement.
The Ritz Chamber Players’ educational outreach to our younger generation opens the doors of artistic awareness to students. This helps develop their knowledge of the arts and different cultures while also creating and sustaining an environment that supports intellectual inquiry, cultural enhancement, and an awareness of broader issues.
In recognition of these efforts, the Ritz Chamber Players have been awarded the inaugural Ann Baker Arts Ventures Award by the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, as well as the Cathedral Arts Project’s inaugural Any Given Child Award.
There are numerous wonderful arts organizations in Northeast Florida. Our community should be aware of the each organization’s incredible work to help Jacksonville grow and thrive. I would like to particularly thank our partnering organization, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and Ms. Hope McMath. An organization that you should get to know more personally is Don’t Miss A Beat. Check out the incredible work they do for our local youth!
9. How do you stay up to date with the art and cultural happenings both nationally and in Jacksonville?
There are many ways artists and arts organizations stay connected – we have conversation through the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and shared programs through Cultural Fusion. Historically, it has always been very important for every artist to understand what has happened in the arts 200 years ago and to stay informed of what is happening currently. Therefore, the Ritz Chamber Players aims to provide awe-inspiring concert themes that juxtapose the current happenings in our lives today while paying homage to the historical context of what we’re presenting.
10. How can others get involved with your organization?
The Ritz Chamber Players is a community-based organization, meaning we can’t do it alone. We invite you to participate in this vast, dynamic undertaking. We welcome all to join the Delores Barr Weaver Fund $150,000 Community Matching for the Ritz Chamber Players. No dollar amount is too small. For those who have the capacity to share in this venture, we are grateful.
The Ritz Chamber Players organization also invites all volunteers to take part in a host of activities from ushering at a concert, assisting with our Hat Luncheon Fundraiser, to working with any of our community educational projects.