Charles Burrell

A recently released biography co-authored by Mitch Handelsman, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, explores the life story of internationally acclaimed musician Charles Burrell. The Life of Charlie Burrell: Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music, tells the story of how Burrell became the first person of color in the country to sign with a symphony orchestra when he signed with the Denver Symphony in 1949.

After joining the Denver Symphony Burrell went on to become the first person of color to join the San Francisco Symphony as well. The Life of Charlie Burrell is a tale of inner strength born in the crucible of an amazing family, fired by intense ambition, and catalyzed by a series of mentors—both black, and white. The book provides insight into the character of a man who spent almost 30 years pursuing his dream and shattered stereotypes in the process.

Handelsman spent over 100 hours interviewing Burrell, who still resides in Denver at age 94. “I was privileged,” he says, “to hear Charlie and members of his family tell an inspiring story. Our goals for the book were for readers to feel what it’s like to be with Charlie and his family, and to hear his stories firsthand.”

Burrell and Handelsman will celebrate the book and Burrell’s extraordinary life at a book signing event on December 6th from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library (2401 Welton Street). For more information contact Mitch Handelsman directly at 303-502-6887, or on Twitter at @MitchHandelsman.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver provides students with the tools to meet the challenges of unscripted, real-world problems. Award-winning faculty members employ interdisciplinary methods in their teaching and research.

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