This article from The Daily Beast was in my Facebook newsfeed today, presenting me with the perfect opportunity for this Black History Month series to feature not only a contemporary figure, but someone from New Mexico! Meet Richard Antoine White aka Raw Tuba – the first African-American to receive a doctorate of music in tuba performance. Quite the achievement when you learn that only 1.8% of symphony members in the US are African-American.
But White’s success is so much more brilliant once you learn about where he began.
White was born to a teen mom, and during the first few years of his life, they lived on the streets of Baltimore – sleeping outside or couch hopping, washing in a public fountain, and eating from dumpsters. To this day he has a scar from being bitten by rats. Just before he turned 4 years old, he was found alone during a snow storm in an empty row home and so he went to live with his grandparents, Vivian and Richard McClain. They officially adopted him when he was in 10th grade.
White attended the Baltimore School of the Arts – a school that accepts only 35 students out of 600 applicants every year and is one of the few public high schools with a 99% college acceptance rate. He eventually graduated with honors, and went on to receive his Bachelor’s from Peabody Conservatory of Music and a Master’s and Doctorate from Indiana University.
“I learned that hard work is not bullshit. It was like, ‘Work hard, fail, work harder, fail, work harder.’” – Richard Antoine White
Prior to moving to New Mexico, White was one of the top freelance musicians in the Indianapolis area, where he recorded with such greats as movie film composer John Williams, Cincinnati Pops conductor Eric Kunzel, and the late great wind ensemble conductor Frederik Fennell.
When he came to New Mexico, he became the Principal Tubist with the New Mexico Symphony from 2004 until its demise in 2011. He has played with numerous orchestras, traveled the world as a player, and is currently in his fifth season as Principal Tubist of the New Mexico Philharmonic and Associate Professor of Tuba/Euphonium at the University of New Mexico.
“His remarkable journey shows what happens when grit collides with educators who refuse to give up.” – IndieGoGo Campaign for the documentary, R.A.W. Film
With over two decades of performing on the world’s classical music stages, White has matured into a musician known for his clear sound and stylistic flexibility.
A documentary was recently made about White, and will be first screened in Baltimore on February 8, 2019. They are still accepting donations via an IndieGoGo campaign.