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‘Music is my life’: How a Houston musician helped change the city’s orchestra scene forever

Written by on February 2, 2021

By Kennedi Robinson, Texas Southern University

Growing up in the Settegast area of Houston, Dr. Anne Lundy knew that there was nothing she appreciated and loved more in the world than the art of music.

Lundy has transformed her dreams into reality and made it her duty to give other African American instrumentalists the opportunity to explore and perform music while setting a new standard of what a typical orchestra might look like.

She recalls the adolescent moment when she realized she wanted to grow up and become a conductor of an orchestra.

“It was one random day I started watching orchestras playing on the TV and on the go,” Lundy said. “I just fell in love with the whole deal. It was so interesting to see how everyone just came together. It would be noise just being made, and then the conductor would come out waving their hands and it went from noise to beautiful music. It made me curious as a kid because it had this sort of magic and beauty to it.”

After receiving her Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Texas in Austin, a performance certification in violin, Master of Music in Orchestra Conducting from the University of Houston, and Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, she thought to herself that as much as she loved the idea of having the opportunity to conduct an orchestra, there wasn’t much Black inclusivity in this area of the musical field, which made her go the extra mile.

“It’s not just about me conducting, but it really bothered me with professional orchestras and their lack of Black people,” she said. “These orchestras exist in all of these big cities, Atlanta, New York, Houston, but the representation is dismal when it comes to the Black community. It’s just one of those things where if you don’t talk about it, people don’t see it as a problem.”

Determined to break down these barriers for African Americans in the field, Lundy founded and was a violinist for the William Grant Still String Quartet. She then became executive director of the Community Music Center of Houston where she founded the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra in 1983, a predominantly African American orchestra for which she is the conductor.

Dr. Anne Lundy
Dr. Anne Lundy (TSU)

Her main goal for the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra is to strive to give African Americans opportunities to perform together and showcase Black composers like her younger self wished to see in orchestras.

“The reason I got the Scott Joplin Orchestra was to give other Black instrumentalists peers that looked like them,” Lundy said. “A lot of the time you just can’t see yourself in these orchestras. I wanted kids to be able to look at my orchestra and say, “Oh! I can do that!”

In 1989, Dr. Lundy became the first African American woman to conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra when they performed alongside the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra. Grateful that her hard work was paying off and her dreams were her new reality, Lundy received the opportunity to conduct the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra while accompanying Beyoncé as she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl in Houston in 2004.

Although Lundy is now retired, she continues to share her love and knowledge for orchestras and the art of music. She is still conducting the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra and works with a children’s orchestra as well at the Community Music Center of Houston.

■ This story was written to chronicle Houston’s Black history as part of a partnership between KTSU2, “The Voice”, and KPRC-TV, for Black History Month.