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Frederick Douglass and Music

Concert violinist Joseph Douglass (left) and his grandfather, Frederick Douglass (right)
Concert violinist Joseph Douglass (left) and his grandfather, Frederick Douglass (right)

Frederick Douglass – orator, abolitionist, author, social reformer…violinist?

We don’t normally hear about that part of this legendary historical figure’s life, but there’s a great story about him getting into violin after his time in Ireland, which you can hear in this feature, which is mainly about his grandson, Joseph Douglass, who was a noted concert violinists, whose performed at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.

Today is the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass. Here in Rochester, we’re celebrating throughout this year with music, theatre, historical re-enactments and more. You can find the full schedule of events and more about Douglass Bicentennial celebrations on the City’s website.

The University of Rochester's Carillon will ring out music in celebration of Frederick Douglass on Thursday February 15th at 4:30pm (in conjunction with an exhibit at the University of Rochester's Rush Rhees Library).

This Friday, in the very place where the funeral service for Frederick Douglass was held in 1895, a grand musical celebration of his life and legacy will be held. The Frederick Douglass at 200 concert by the Rochester Oratorio Society. The programs includes: 

  • The Emancipation Oratorio by Glenn McClure, combining texts by Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Frances Harper, and contemporary slave narratives (the performers include soprano Kearstin Piper Brown, who is also an announcer at WXXI)
  • Renowned Douglass re-enactor Dr. David Anderson (speaking in the video above) performing some of Douglass's writings.
  • American composer Kirke Mechem’s settings of words by Frederick Douglass from the opera, John Brown
  • Students from Rochester Public School #12 reciting words by Douglass
Mona Seghatoleslami is the Music Director, host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5 FM weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. She also hosts the lunchtime concert series Live From Hochstein Wednesdays at 12:10 p.m., interviews musicians, produces special programs, and works on any project she can find that helps connect people and music in our community through WXXI.