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African American conductors repeat history on Broadway

News Desk | 7/30/2014, 9:47 a.m.
Cleveland Native Daryl Waters leads After Midnight.
Seen here in Times Square, the men in front of the orchestra and behind the music on Broadway are (left to right): Daryl Waters (a native of East Cleveland), music supervisor and conductor for “After Midnight,” recalling Duke Ellington’s years at the Cotton Club; Zane Mark, music director and conductor for “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” inspired by the late hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur; Joseph Joubert, music director and conductor for “Motown the Musical,” about Berry Gordy’s famed music label; and Shelton Becton, conductor, pianist and performer in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” about the legendary Billie Holliday.

Cleveland Native Daryl Waters, leads ‘After Midnight’

It took almost four decades, but history repeated itself recently on Broadway, and African

Americans in a sparsely populated corner of the music world took notice.

African American conductors and music directors were thrilled that the orchestras of “After

Midnight,” “Holler if ya hear me,” “Motown the Musical” and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” were under the batons of four of their own, men of great distinction in the industry.

Not since the mid-1970s has Broadway seen as many African Americans leading the orchestras of major productions running contemporaneously. That milestone first was achieved when Charles Coleman (“The Wiz”), Lloyd Mayers and Neal Tate (“Bubbling Brown Sugar”),

Howard Roberts (“Guys and Dolls”) and Eddie Brown (“Your Arms Too Short to Box with God”) electrified Broadway musical theater with a small cadre of African American music directors and conductors calling the shots in the orchestra pit.

Proudly reprising that watershed accomplishment is a new generation of music-executive talent who are mindful of their place in history.