Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter Supports World-Renowned Cellist

Submitted by Emilee Taylor

On Nov. 7, 2023, when history was being made with the election of Soror Cherelle Parker – 100th Mayor and first female elected to the office of Philadelphia, Pa. Mayor, a SOLD-OUT AUDIENCE, was waiting to welcome Sheku Kanneh-Mason, renowned cellist.

On stage, Miles Cohen, PCMS Artistic Director, welcomed the crowd with the usual greeting of silence your phone but also added: “With us tonight are Philadelphia Chamber Music Society partners – members of Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and President Dr. Penny Sparks Nixon.” Cheers resounded from Deltas and members of the Philadelphia Community, who had joined Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter in promoting and buying tickets in support of Black Classical Artists, specifically on this night – MASTER CELLIST SHEKU KANNEH-MASON. On stage with only his cello, Sheku held the audience spellbound

On Monday November 6, 2023, PCMS and Play On Philly (POP), which provides tuition-free music education to students in grades K through 12, collaborated to bring renowned British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason to lead a masterclass with POP cello students and orchestra at POP’s St. Francis de Sales Music Center. As a Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter partner of PCMS and supporter of Play on Philly, Arts & Letters Committee Members C. Gloria Akers and Francis Conwell joined special invited guests to witness a major artist work with children aspiring to learn.

In a WRTI “Your Classical and Jazz Source” article, Nate Chinen noted, “Sheku Kanneh-Mason wore an amiably focused expression, his hands resting on the upper bout of his cello.  But this wasn’t a rehearsal with the London Symphony Orchestra, with whom Kanneh-Mason recorded his second album, or The Philadelphia Orchestra, which featured him in concert last year. He was, instead listening to grade school cellists play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” As the kids finished the song, Kanneh-Mason stood to offer feedback and began by praising how the young cellists had found a collective sound.  Then gently, he added, “I wonder whether you have the sound of the words in your mind as you are playing.”

Watching him engage with the students, often with a word of encouragement or a solicitous question, it was quickly apparent how passionate he is about music education. While he is among the most heavily accoladed musicians of our time, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and first Black recipient of the BBC Young Musician award – Kanneh-Mason is also still 24, not so far from his own formative years.

After the concert, Philadelphia Alumnae Deltas and community members who waited patiently were rewarded with a photograph with Sheku.

The chapter looks forward to greeting Sheku-Kanneh-Mason when he and his sister return in December 2024 to thrill audiences with their artistry.

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