On February 22, the Furman Music Department, Amplify, will collaborate with Furman's Humanities Center to present a multi-media concert in celebration of Black History Month in Daniel Recital Hall. Directed by Associate Professor of Voice Dr. Alison Trainer, this program is designed to bring students and faculty from the music, drama, and visual arts departments to celebrate the works of black composers (including Furman’s own Willie Cornish Jr.), dancers, poets, and playwrights. Voice students, instrumentalists, and members of the theatre arts department will perform alongside faculty and guest artist Dr. Louise Toppin, renowned singer and professor of voice at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Trainer has one specific goal in mind: to highlight the song repertoire of African Diaspora composers.
“My goal in creating this dream project is to bring together our students, faculty, and community to celebrate the vast wealth of brilliant works by African Diaspora artists. One concert is a mere glimpse, and I look forward to many future collaborative performances. I hope that bringing light to these pieces, some well-known and others new, gathers them into our collective line of sight, study, and common performance practice.”
Dr. Toppin is currently directing a project - the African Diaspora Art Song Project - to collect this music into a database, and has gathered nearly 4,000 pieces so far. “It is a delight to come to Furman to work with the students and faculty on this project,” she said. “I am always honored to be invited to participate in a Black History Month Celebration.”
The program will feature voice students, faculty, and Dr. Toppin herself performing these art songs while others perform spirituals. Cameron Mitchell, a singer and student of Dr. Trainer, is proud to be presenting some of this repertoire. “I am thrilled that Black History is being celebrated in the voice department for people of all races to embrace and participate in,” she said. “As a Black woman, I feel extremely honored to bring recognition to Leslie Adam’s piece 'For You There Is No Song' It is because of the barriers that were broken by people like Adams that paved the way for someone like me to feel appreciated in the world of classical music.”
Students of the theatre arts department will offer monologues by black playwrights and dancers Loni Covington and Lexi Rojas will perform with projections by Furman art students as visual backdrops. Covington is very excited for her role in the concert. She said, “being a part of this program means raising my own voice for others to learn and see a glimpse into black experiences and the complexity of race in America.” She echoes Toppin’s reflection about how celebrating these various works offers a window into the lives of the artists behind them saying, “Black History Month was conceived as a way of amplifying the history of African Americans and this concert is a good first step toward teaching all students this history through music.”
This concert will be held on February 22nd at 8:00 P.M. in Daniel Recital Hall.