Classical music listeners often forget about the composers behind the sounds they hear. We sit and bask in the music without much knowledge of the people who put pen to paper to create symphonies, concertos, and more. If we stop for a moment to imagine the person composing, the image is usually a male composer that is older and white. This is not surprising. For many years, composers represented on stage were primarily white men. While there is nothing wrong with Beethoven or Bach, the composers of classical music are much more diverse.
In the summer of 2021, Rachel Hagemeier, CSO Manager of Education and Community Engagement, and Errick Freeman, visual artist, molded the idea for the Composer Portrait Project. This portrait project aims to help the patrons of Canton Symphony Orchestra visualize the people behind the music and showcase the diversity we do not realize is on stage. Before each concert, portraits of the composers featured on that concert are unveiled to the public. Errick brought together a group of local artists, Dauber Copse Fam (Errick Freeman, DaQuane Finley, & Payton Finley), to create art pieces on wood, 2’x4′ in size. Each portrait is unique, different in composition, and representative of the character of the composer. By the end of the 2021-2022 season, 24 composers filled the space of CSO’s gallery.