The Ritz Chamber Players are one of Jacksonville’s most extraordinary cultural assets. Founded fifteen years ago by classical clarinetist and pianist Terrance Patterson, the group has received international and national acclaim, and yet still proudly calls Jacksonville home.
Patterson founded the group because “less than two percent of musicians in American symphony orchestras are of color. As the overall demographics in America continue to shift, educating, mentoring, and inspiring our young people to appreciate chamber music, classical music, and fine arts in general is necessary to ensure a long and prosperous future for the arts in America.”
He points out that the intimacy of chamber music allows audiences to “experience smaller, less-played works, where the musicians are more directly playing together.” While for him, as a musician, the opportunity to play with five to seven other musicians allows for greater interaction during a given piece, which is deeply rewarding.
Starting the chamber music group, named for the Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum, while not exactly easy, was organic. A graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University and a celebrated musician in his own right – he was recently awarded the first-ever Ann McDonald Baker Art Ventures grant by The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, and was recognized at the 2016 Cultural Council of Jacksonville Awards as an individual who has demonstrated continuous significant support of arts and culture in the Jacksonville community – Patterson is connected and respected. So he did what most artists do: he looked to his friends.
The first season saw musicians of such high caliber as soprano Alison Buchanan, who had temples in Paris, Monte Carlo and New York dedicated to her voice by the one of the chief Buddhist monks of Korea, and Ann Hobson Pilot, who was the first African-American woman to hold a principal position in a major orchestra here in the United States.
Arbus Magazine had a chance to catch up with the always-busy Mr. Patterson, to chat with him about the current season (2016-2017), the future, and the long-lasting success of the Ritz Chamber Players.
Arbus: It’s so exciting that the Ritz Chamber Players are celebrating year fifteen! Looking over your schedule for the upcoming year, it seems that your program is in direct response to this tumultuous year, especially in relation to the police-involved killings of black Americans. Can you speak to this?
Terrance Patterson: Yes, we are thrilled to be at this benchmark anniversary and appreciate the support of the community. As an organization that is comprised of musicians of the African diaspora, it is an integral part of our mission to acknowledge and perform music by artists and composers of color. But we also feel a strong need to use the platform we have to raise visibility and conversations around issues of national importance, especially those that disproportionately affect the African American community.
Article written by Madeleine Peck Wagner