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History of the United Strings of Color

The United Strings of Color was started in Raleigh, NC, as a project to address racial disparity in classical music through music education and community engagement. United Strings of Color is uniquely comprised of African American musicians, self-named and created in 2018.  


United Strings of Color has performed at Raleigh's African American Cultural Festival, with the Durham Symphony, at the North Carolina Museum of Art, at the African American Cultural Celebration sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of History, for Cary's Kwanzaa Celebration, for the 2021, 2022, and 2023 Juneteenth Celebrations at Dix Park in Raleigh, for the local Omega Psi Phi Quiz Bowl, for the Raleigh-Wake Chapter of Jack and Jill, multiple area churches and art galleries, and for Raleigh's Boys and Girls Club. The group has also been featured as a My Brother’s Keeper partner. 


Over their history, the quartet has studied and performed music by under-represented female composers, including two African Americans, Florence Price and Undine Smith Moore; prepared a concert of music with African connections; and presented impactful social justice concerts. After the death of Elijah McClain, an amateur violinist, musicians around the country began holding Violin Vigils. United Strings of Color wanted to follow suit in response to our current time of reckoning and desire for societal transformation. The United Strings of Color Violin Vigils were unique in that they incorporated poetry and music to commemorate Black lives lost and to call for equal justice for all. In 2021, the United Strings of Color performed five Vigils including for the Day of Enlightenment (May 25th) and for the Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration at Dix Park. The review of our May 1 Vigil by Classical Voice North Carolina stated: “There’s hope for our nation, when there are youngsters like these poets and instrumentalists who are prepared to propel us into a more united, more peaceful future.” Click here to read the full review. 


In fall 2021, United Strings of Color premiered a rendition of a Yoruba folktale as imagined by local jazz artist and composer, Elmer Gibson. The premiere was held at the North Carolina Museum of Art on October 16. From Classical Voice North Carolina reviewer, Kelsey Carlisle: "When the day began, I expected to attend a concert and go home after. I was surprised to find out this would be one of the most informative, immersive, profound, and moving experiences of my artistic life." Click here to read the full review. United Strings of Color went on to perform "Ijapa and Mr. Igbin" for the fall festival at Pure Life Theatre, for Halloween at Pullen Arts Center, for Kwanzaa in Cary, for the African American Cultural Celebration, and for Black Brilliance in a Wake County Public Library.

From the Cultural Voice North Carolina review of the 2022 performance at the African American Cultural Festival: "The quartet moved with unbelievable ease and maturity when expressing the different styles in such a varied program." Click here to read the full review. 

The United Strings of Color continue to study music by African American composers including Anthony Kelly and DBR (aka Daniel Bernard Roumain). 

In September 2022, United Strings of Color gained recognition from the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit corporation.


2018 -19: Kennedy Mitchell and Felicia Adizue, violins; Jolie Duquene, viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello.

2019-20: Kennedy Mitchell and CT Thomas, violins; Kenza Ngatchou, viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello.

2020-21: Kennedy Mitchell and CT Thomas, violins; Sterling Elliott, viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello.

2021-22: Tayla Murphy and CT Thomas, violins; Sterling Elliott, viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello.

2022-23: Felicia Adizue and CT Thomas, violins; Sterling Elliott viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello

2023-24:.Sofia Gee and CT Thomas, violins; Sterling Elliott viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello

In 2021 a junior United Strings of Color group began exploring music together. This group has helped with our Instrument Zoo Project and are working toward presenting Music Discovery Concerts to other children.

USC with Watkins Grouptet in 2018
USC playing at a library

Performing "Where Are the Women Composers?" in a public Library in 2019


Performing at the African Amercian Cultural Festival in 2019

Playing for the Watkins Grouptet CD launch 2018

USC in rehearsal in 2019

Rehearsing at The Center in Fall 2019

USC before Durham Symphony Concert in 2019

Playing a side-by-side with the Durham Symphony Orchestra in 2019

Performing for the Omega Psi Phi Quiz Bowl in 2020

USC with composer

Working with local composer, Elmer Gibson, on his composition Ijapa and Mr. Igbin

USC larger group 2020

Group including soloists Sterling Elliott, viola, and Tristen Johnson, cello, preparing our version of Black Violin's Stereotypes June 2020

USC going away party

Saying goodbye to violist, Kenza.


Celebrating Kenza in the Philharmonic Association and USC

USC on Moore Square Raleigh

Making a partner video for My Brother's and Sister's Keeper Wake

USC at Cary downtown park

Finding ways to share our music, in spite of the pandemic!

USC rehearsing socially distanced

Rehearsing in the time of COVID-19 without a rehearsal facility.

USC at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Holiday Music in the North Carolina Art Museum

USC playing pop-up chamber concert

"Pop-up" Chamber Concert in the Art Museum Park

USC outside St Ambrose Episcopal

First Violin Vigil 5/1/21 St. Ambrose Episcopal

USC at MLK Gardens Raleigh

MLK Memorial Gardens Vigil 5/5/21

USC with Roger Floyd

Day of Enlightenment 5/25/21

with guest speaker, Roger Floyd


Artistic Director

Community Engagement


Candace Miller

President and CEO

Stefanie Etienne

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