Conversation with Charles Floyd

Some people inspire you just by speaking. Internationally acclaimed conductor and composer Charles Floyd has that effect. Floyd, who will again be conducting the Charlotte Symphony in this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Concert, has worked with industry greats such as Natalie Cole and Ray Charles. Yet it’s his passion for music that’s infectious. 


How important is this concert to you as a conductor?
It's probably more important to me as a citizen of the country because of what it represents. It represents a very important part of our history in this country in terms of civil rights, equality, and man's humanity and inhumanity to his fellow man. We are taking a look at where we were in Dr. King's lifetime, considering this event is taking place the week before the fortieth anniversary of his assassination. We're looking at where we are in following through with his teaching on equality and the concept of freedom. Above all else I hope that people don't view this as an African-American event strictly. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the greatest African-American role models and heroes we've had in recent years, but it's more than an African-American holiday.

Tell us a little about the history of this concert in Charlotte.
We have drawn from works of African-American composers who have made a very important contribution to classical music at large. As different composers have paid tribute to Dr. King, I hope that different composers from different backgrounds will have music that will surface and find itself onto these programs. This year it just so happens that all the composers whose work are being presented are African-American: Adolphus Hailstork, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Patrice Rushen.

When did your love for music begin?
I started playing piano at four, but I can't say my love for music started then. I've always known I had a deep interest, and just watching the piano I always believed I could play. There was a lot of classical music and gospel music and jazz in my house. A lot of international music and rock-and-roll and R&B. 

How important is it that classical music reaches younger audiences?
I think it's extremely important. If you think about the context of this particular interview, we're talking about Martin Luther King Jr.'s approach of inclusion. As soon as we exclude we're in trouble. It always gives me a thrill to hear classical music creeping into other genres of music. When worlds collide and no one gets hurt (laughs), those are my favorite moments.