Dranoff Logo 2011


Dear Gabriele -

On August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Monument. Dr. King looked down onto more than 200,000 faces having assembled to mark that day’s famous occasion, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His speech put into words his dream that “little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers” in a unified nation, regardless of skin color, background, age or physical attributes.

What is less known is that the actual “I have a dream” phrase came from an unexpected place: the mouth of an esteemed gospel singer.

Mahalia Jackson is best remembered today as a three-time Grammy winner and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, but in 1964, King knew her as a close friend. She often traveled with him to meetings and marches and sang inspirational Gospel and civil rights songs. Jackson was familiar with various iterations of speech given by Dr King that day, but  the dream was not always mentioned.

Nicknamed the Queen of Soul (preceding Aretha Franklin, whom Jackson mentored), Mahalia Jackson performed “I’ve Been Buked” mere moments before Dr. King stepped forward in front of thousands. Jackson remained in attendance, just as she was in attendance for previous readings and previous drafts of King’s speech. She knew these early drafts well enough to know of his previous allusions to the dreams he was having, despite discarding them from his final draft. So naturally, he was caught a little off guard when, in the middle of his speech, he heard Jackson belt out — not even 50 feet away from him — “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!” 

In his surprise, he  paused for a moment, but  being the skillful preacher and orator he was, Dr. King  carried on as planned, only a little more spontaneously. Almost on cue, King would actually utter the words, for the first time, “I have a dream.” 

Much of what we consider great art was created by an individual, but many people and forces of culture move their work into the public eye. Stay with us on this journey.


Gabriele Fiorentino 


The Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation

Piano Slam

Mahalia Jackson


George Walker


Lydia Rhea, cello 

Michael Lu, piano

 George Walker was one of the most accomplished pianists of the 20th century. But as a black man he was not recognized for the great art he was creating. He was stymied for a long time as a composer because of racism and prejudice. He was remarkably philosophical about those years in interviews in the following decades. Concert managers wouldn’t accept a black pianist, and he couldn’t get performances or even publication for most of his works. This began to change to change in the wake of the Black civil rights movement. 

He has earned many firsts - the first black pianist to give a recital at Carnegie Hall, the first black recipient of a doctoral degree from the Eastman School of Music among others. He was awarded a Fulbrigt Scholarship and John Hay Whitney Fellowship to study composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

Walker’s musical style takes inspiration from blues, gospel, and other black musical traditions, but the techniques are all classical and held in common with a number of tonal American composers of his era. There are, as in the best composers, no wasted notes.

It is great music.  It is Great Art.


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