Black Art Series made debut last week

A collection of orchestral and ensemble pieces composed, conducted and, for the most part, performed by African Americans inaugurated the first season of the Black Art Series last Monday.

But that is not the important thing about this concert series, says C. Earl Coleman Jr, associate professor of music and assistant dean for minority affairs in the School of Music. Coleman, who advises the student musicians, says the important thing is to “get students involved. They will be the leaders of tomorrow. It is important to get them in leadership roles.

“In this production,” he says, “they are doing all the footwork, arranging of concerts, publicity, research and ordering music. One of them is even conducting.” The seven students Coleman hand-picked to comprise the Black Arts Council range from a second-year student in LS&A to doctoral students at the School of Music.

“They were chosen because of their interest over the years in musical activities. They had already shown leadership.”

Coleman is concerned with both exposing the neglected and sometimes ignored “arts music” of African American composers—the classical music that has been written by African Americans since the 1920s—and giving the students “a real feel for what it takes to put together a concert,” he says.

“I feel as educators we don’t really give students enough chance to evolve and use their skills.”

Monday’s concert was a showcase for music students to show those skills. The program included works of Adolphus Hailstork, Montague Ring and William Grant Still. Students Timothy Holley, cello; Karen Walwyn, piano; and Joseph Stripland, violinist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, were featured in Hailstork’s Piano Trio. The 25-member Black Arts Orchestra, led by student conductor Damon Gupton, performed Montague Ring’s Three African Dances. Harpist Lydia Cleaver and pianist Damon Gatewood were featured in William Grant Still’s Enanga, the final piece of the evening, which Gupton also conducted.

Next in the series is a January 18 event, planned as part of Martin Luther King Day activities.


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