Composer Damien Geter will create “An African American Requiem”


In a few weeks, classical music composer and Portland resident Damien Geter is set to premiere his highly anticipated concert, An African American Requiem.

On May 7 at 6 p.m., Geter’s performance will examine the impact of 400 years of racial violence against Black Americans during a special concert featuring Renosance Ensemble and Oregon Symphony at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon.

The Black Wall Street Times met the modest but brilliant composer virtually to get his thoughts leading up to the historic requiem and how he got to that defining moment

Geter described his childhood home as full of music across all genres that shaped his upbringing and offered him exposure to a world and sound beyond radio hits, though he still cites R&B as a major influence.

Representation in action.

As a man now, Geter stands tall, but he is not alone. At first we discussed the lack of black people in the classical arts, however, it was quick to point out that there were a lot of black people in this art form. There just isn’t enough representation. He is changing that.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in orchestral conducting, Geter seeks to blend what he learned and what he experienced as a black man into the requiem he acknowledges is 100% intentional.

“It’s for us,” Geter says.

Composition expert Geter acknowledges the andante changes after the 2020 protests, but wants to see more accelerated progress for everyone like him.

Recognizing his platform, Geter hopes to introduce the classical arts to the next generation of black musicians, saving them a seat at the admittedly expensive table.

“I want young black kids to be inspired” regardless of cost or preconceptions about classical music, he said.

After feeling inspired by the breakdown of our political system after the 2016 elections, Geter said he sprang into action by writing the requiem which was to be performed in 2020 but was canceled by covid.

Two years later, he acknowledges the pressure of the mounting moment, but remains steadfast, saying, “everything I’ve done has gotten me to where I am today.”

And where he is is in Portland, Oregon, a city that has battled police longer than most in a 2020 year of protests over the killing of George Floyd. On top of that, Geter cites the opposition “attempting to ban books that tell our story” as renewed motivation for the concert which he describes as “a calling”.

An African-American requiem

An African American Requiem will have its world premiere on May 7 at 6 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. (909 SW Washington, Portland, OR 97205)

Tickets are available here.


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