“The energy you hear in the recording is like no other because it’s a live experience with people in the room experiencing us making this music in real time,” said George, 38. “It’s a powerful work that imagines what it would be like if Bach, the great composer that completely changed the trajectory of classical music, and Coltrane, the legendary saxophonist and composer of the 20th century, had a conversation in heaven. It’s a blending of two worlds: classical and jazz.”
This season marks George’s sixth with Imani Winds, founded in 1997 by flutist Valerie Coleman. The ensemble seeks to elevate classical music within a diverse, 21st century mindset not only in terms of BIPOC representation but in the compositions it performs. Recent projects include Jessie Montgomery’s work inspired by the Great Migration, Andy Akiho’s socially conscious work concerning mass incarceration, and Carlos Simon’s salute to iconic African Americans.
Imani Winds was previously nominated for a Grammy in 2021 for their ninth studio album “Bruits” but the ceremony was held in Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. George said having the chance to attend this year’s ceremony in the traditional setting of Los Angeles brought a newfound thrill overall.
“The Grammys are a really exciting event,” he said. “To be honored for one’s life’s work is so special. And the energy at the event is so palpable. Everyone is there to enjoy and celebrate excellence and music across genres — not just performers but recording engineers, producers and (others) who make the music industry run and create beautiful art. We had the absolute best time in L.A. It was great to experience the Grammys there and the energy was extraordinary. I’m excited that in a few months I’ll receive my very own Grammy statue.”
Hailed as a “knockout musician with a gorgeous sound” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, George has appeared as a soloist with the Atlanta, Baltimore and Albany symphonies, American Composers Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s among others. He has also had the pleasure of performing at the Elbphilharmonie, the Kennedy Center, the Dresden Music Festival and the Prague Spring Festival.
In addition to his work with Imani Winds, his solo performances include appearances at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 92nd Street Y, Tippet Rise, and Maverick Concerts. In September 2023, his latest album, “Twofold,” was released on In a Circle Records. “Twofold” follows the success of his debut solo album, released in 2020 on Haenssler Classics. He was also featured in The New York Times around the album’s release, in an article titled “A Flutist Steps into the Spotlight,” which described the album as “a program that showcases the flute in all its wit, warmth and brilliance.”
He trained at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Conservatoire de Paris, and the Manhattan School of Music. He’s also a faculty member at the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute of Music. In September 2022 he soloed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra performing Rouse’s Flute Concerto.
George, who grew up in Residence Park on Dayton’s west side, has fond memories of watching “Live From Lincoln Center” on PBS with his grandmother. He says he was “completely entranced” by performances of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and legendary flutist James Galway. With a love for music engrained in his soul, he joined the Residence Park Elementary School band in fifth grade which led to attending Stivers where he received significant, career-trajectory support.
He also participated in Muse Machine and Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra during high school. His mentors include longtime Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra flutist and piccolo player Virginia Miller, Stivers band director Claude Thomas, longtime Muse Machine music director David Dusing, Dayton Philharmonic Artistic Director Neal Gittleman, and Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Conductor Patrick Reynolds among others.
“I’m really grateful for public education and for a school like Stivers that not only nurtured talent but really cultivated well-rounded people who would become contributing citizens to the world,” George says. “I’m also grateful for the Muse Machine which gives young students the opportunity to perform with great artists at a high level and also show what the possibilities are professionally.”
Imani Winds regularly performs at prominent venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. George hopes their Grammy victory will heighten the group’s exposure and influence to help create space as classical music evolves for future generations.
“Imani Winds shows people this music is for everyone,” he says. “Having young people of color see themselves reflected on the stage helps this art form stay alive. (Allowing) composers of color to have their music programmed on the recital stage let’s all people know their voice matters as well. The key is creating a space where everyone feels this music, this art, is for them. Organizations and orchestras have a responsibility to show that their communities are heard and reflected on stage.”
For more information about Imani Winds, visit imaniwinds.com.