Music school aims to ‘broaden perspectives’ through African American Musical Heritage Institute

Aerial view of the music school

For Professor Jerry Tolson, the African American Music Heritage Institute is not just about good music, it’s about broadening perspectives.

“The idea is exposure,” Tolson said. “Expose audiences and students to music they might not be used to experiencing. Also, fulfill the mission of diversity within the School of Music and the university.

Since 1996, the African American Music Heritage Institute has provided the community with an opportunity to experience and learn about the notable contributions African Americans have made to culture and history through music.

Usually held during Black History Month, the event was postponed to November due to COVID. It includes clinics, lectures, workshops, and concerts for Kentuckiana students and the Louisville community.

Tolson, chair of academic and professional studies at the School of Music, is the director and coordinator of the institute. Its team of graduate assistants, students, and colleagues, along with the generous support of community and academic organizations, make AAMHI possible.

The theme for 2021 is “The Spiritual Side of Jazz”, with renowned saxophonist Kirk Whalum and his band taking center stage. Whalum has worked with many big names in music, including Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Quincy Jones, Larry Carlton, and most notably, Whitney Houston in her mega hit “I Will Always Love You.” A Memphis, Tennessee, with gospel roots and a background forged in the Houston nightclub scene of the 1980s, Whalum’s soulful, soulful and passionate tenor sound is unmistakably his.

AAMHI will take place on Monday and Tuesday, November 1 and 2. On Monday, there will be a free masterclass and improvisation workshop open to the public. Whalum and his ensemble will perform at 8 p.m. that evening at the Comstock Concert Hall. Admission to the concert is $20 for adults and $10 for general admission for non-UdeL students. University students are free with a valid student card. Due to COVID, tickets are limited and will need to be reserved through Eventbrite, available on the music school website. A mandatory mask policy is also in place and proof of vaccination will be required for the concert.

On November 2, Whalum will host a talk at 1 p.m. at the Comstock Concert Hall that you can attend for free.

The School of Music is planning other events in February.

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