When news first broke about the Juneteenth: Global Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl, it was an unforgettable announcement for several reasons. First, fans — in person and streaming home via CNN — could catch performances by Earth, Wind, & Fire, Mary Mary, Billy Porter, The Roots, Lucky Daye, Anthony Hamilton, and more. Second, it would be the first time an all-black orchestra has performed at the Hollywood Bowl in its 100-year history.
Alongside Questlove and Adam Blackstone, the Recollective Orchestra was co-directed by esteemed composer and music director Derrick Hodge, a fascinating talent who has worked with artists like Common, Maxwell, Robert Glasper, HER and most artists. neo-soul that made up the movement outside of Philadelphia in the early 2000s.
VIBE had the pleasure of speaking with Hodge after the festivities to get the perspective of the celebration through her lens.
“It was like a movie,” he joked at the start of our call. “Throughout my creative journey, the sound of the orchestra is something I have always loved. The sound of the music and all that and I knew there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me doing it so I wasn’t waiting for the opportunity to come so I just started to to write.
“I just started creating, before I even had a chance to have the music heard,” Hodge explained of how the opportunity to lead the orchestra presented itself.
When he started working with Nas to celebrate Illmatic, live from the Kennedy Center, which laid the groundwork for a relationship with the LA Philharmonic. In 2021, he organized countless performances including HER and Black Panther in concert.
Hodge, a Philadelphia native, was a student at Temple University and gave up his first major tour with Jill Scott to pursue his studies as a Jazz Performance major. Scott encouraged him though, with words he still holds close to him. He recalls: “I will never forget, I made the decision to go back to school just to continue, to keep learning and to stay curious. Jill, the humanity of this beautiful and amazing soul, said, ‘Derek, I love you. Do you. You amaze, and you know, trust your voice no matter what, trust it and I’ll celebrate you.
When it came time to create the arrangements for “You Got Me,” he remembered Jill’s words (In fact, The Roots performed the song during the Sunday night show).
Hodge became the first African-American jazz major to play in his college orchestra. As this new premiere performed with the Recollective Orchestra, Hodge finally felt “gratitude” for the historic moment.
“To be trusted to represent the voices of these amazing souls – It wasn’t just an all-black orchestra up there, it was the players who had put in their blood, sweat and tears to become the best to their positions during big symphonies all over the country. And they took their time to come out and be part of it. Knowing that sacrifice that everybody made, it just meant something different, to me, knowing that I was loaded to help tell their story and the story of the people, just meant something different,” he shared.
Hodge’s biggest challenge was his sleepless nights as he created new arrangements with an extremely tight turnaround. “Those sleepless nights for culture were worth it,” he said. But, the payoff was seeing music lovers in the crowd on Sunday night, cheering him and the whole orchestra on. It was a priceless moment for him as he praised the synergy and “contagious spirit of selflessness”.
From his perspective, we mutually agreed that he felt like he was providing the sounds of a huge black family reunion, and that connection for him and his team was just different.
Discover the highlights of the Juneteenth: Global Celebration below and watch the recap via CNNgo.