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Alexander Laing to Succeed Lee Koonce as President & Artistic Director of Gateways Music Festival

Alexander Laing (photo: Jared Platt) & Lee Koonce (photo: Olubode Brown)

Long-time Gateways musician, volunteer leader and board member Alexander Laing will become Gateways Music Festival’s new executive director.

Laing, a native of Silver Spring, Maryland, will work alongside current President & Artistic Director Lee Koonce starting in July, before formally succeeding him in January 2024.

The announcement was made by Kearstin Piper Brown, Chair of the Gateways Music Festival board of directors.

“We are excited to welcome Alex into the role of Gateways’ Executive Director and look forward to his becoming the festival’s next President & Artistic Director,” Brown said.

Koonce has headed Gateways, a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to connecting and supporting professional classical musicians of African descent, since 2016.

He previously served an eight-year term as chair of the Festival’s Artistic Programs Committee. He will take on the position of Senior Advisor beginning in January 2024 at the conclusion of his seven-year tenure as President & Artistic Director

Laing, an internationally recognized performer and thought leader, has served on the Gateways board of directors since 2018. He has been principal clarinet for the Phoenix Symphony since 2002 and joined the Gateways Festival Orchestra in 2001. He is also a co-founder of the Black Orchestral Network, a nationwide community of Black musicians seeking to build a richer and more robust American orchestral community.

Gateways Music Festival was founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1993 by noted concert pianist Armenta Hummings Dumisani. The festival was brought to Rochester in 1997 when Hummings Dumisani joined the Eastman School of Music faculty.

Gateways formalized its longstanding relationship with Eastman and the University of Rochester in 2016. Among other mutual benefits, this deepened relationship provided much of the infrastructure and resources necessary for Gateways to increase its programming capacity, appoint its first paid staff position and broaden its impact in and beyond Rochester, NY.


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