‹‹ Colorado Matters

Happy 99th Birthday To A Classical Music Pioneer

Listen Now
8min 34sec
Photo: Courtesy Mitch Handelsman
Charlie Burrell began his orchestral career with the Denver Symphony in 1949, becoming the first African-American to sign a permanent contract with a major U.S. orchestra. He turns 99 years old on October 4, 2019.

He's known as "the Jackie Robinson of Classical Music." During segregation, he played bass in what became the Colorado Symphony. Charlie Burrell paved the way for other African-American musicians in the United States. On Friday, October 4, the Colorado Symphony celebrates Burrell's 99th birthday with a special concert. This interview is from 2006 while Burrell was working on his memoir about his legacy and love for both classical and jazz music.