The 25th Annual African American Music Festival will be held February 4-7

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — The 25th Annual African American Music Festival at Penn State will take place February 4-7 with a variety of concerts, talks and presentations by School of Music ensembles and soloists and several artists guests. All concerts will be presented virtually on the School of Music website.


Thursday, February 4, 12:15 p.m. — Bach’s lunch — Student performances for voice, violin, tuba and euphonium.

Thursday, February 4, 7:30 p.m. — Concert featuring:

  • Tim Deighton, viola and Christopher Guzman, piano
  • Velvet Brown, tuba with KiKora Franklin, dance and Anthony Leach, piano
  • Interior Dimensions, Joshua Davis, Conductor
  • James Lyon, violin
  • Violin students from James Lyon’s studio

Friday, February 5, 2:30 p.m. – Common Time, featuring:

  • Graduate Brass Quintet
  • Violin students from James Lyon’s studio
  • Eric McKee, speaker, “William Grant Still’s Film Score”

Friday, February 5, 7:30 p.m. – “The Philadelphia Connection,” featuring:

  • Dr. Donald Dumpson, “The Life and Music of Marian Anderson”
  • Mrs. Evelyn Simpson Curenton, “My Life in Music from Classical to Gospel”
  • Dr. Rollo Dilworth, “The Philadelphia Sound: African-American Musicians from Philadelphia”
  • Teacher. Donté Ford, “Philadelphia Gospel Music, A Historical Perspective”

Saturday, February 6, 2:30 p.m. – Instrumental ensembles from the Penn State School of Music in concert, with:

  • Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Tonya Mitchell Spradlin, conductor
  • The Strings of the Penn State Philharmonic, David Flowers, guest conductor
  • The Penn State Trombone Choir, Mark Lusk, conductor
  • The Penn State Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble, Velvet Brown, conductor
  • Center Dimensions, Marko Marcinko, conductor

Sunday, February 7, 2:30 p.m. – Penn State School of Music Choirs in Concert, with:

  • Penn State University Choir, Bryan Nichols, conductor
  • Oriana Singers, Kathryn Hylton, conductor
  • Vocal dimensions, Marko Marcinko, conductor
  • Penn State Glee Club, Christopher Kiver, conductor
  • Penn State Concert Choir, Christopher Kiver, conductor
  • Essence of Joy, Anthony T. Leach, conductor

About the Penn State African American Music Festival

The Penn State African American Music Festival celebrates the music of African Americans and African American composers. Usually occurring in February, during Black History Month, it includes performances by Penn State faculty and students as well as guest artists. In February 1995, Essence of Joy presented the first concert entitled “Celebration of African American Spirituals”. Since then, the event has evolved into a collaborative enterprise within the School of Music. Guest high school and college choirs/bands, as well as professional performing artists, have also participated since 2003.

In 1997, Anthony Leach coordinated the first Symposium on the African American Spiritual, involving guest artists, lectures, and choral performances. Three years later, Leach began conversations with several African-American choral colleagues regarding a commissioned project. With a groundbreaking festival, the 2003 Celebration of African American Spirituals concert featured commissioned choral compositions by renowned musicians Glenn Burleigh, Roland Carter, Marvin Curtis, Keith Hampton, Moses Hogan, Robert Morris and Rosephanye Powell. All of the composers except Moses Hogan were present at Penn State for the premiere of their music. History was made again with the 2019 festival. The festival invited five high school choirs and Leach’s community group, Essence2, in a choral collaboration of African American musical traditions.

About Essence of Joy

Involving undergraduate and graduate students from all Penn State college programs, Essence of Joy has performed around the world. Created in 1991, Essence of Joy sings sacred and secular music from African and Afro-American choral traditions.

The choir has been invited to perform at all major musical conferences. They have presented concerts at historic venues including the Schomburg Museum of Black American Culture in New York and Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. The choir made its first European tour in 2001 with concerts in Poland and the Czech Republic. Recent tours have taken members of Essence of Joy to South Africa, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Canada, Spain and France.

For more information on the events of this festival, contact Emeritus Professor of Music Anthony T. Leach at [email protected]

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