The Jacobs School of Music plans to hold a concert honoring Martin Luther King Jr. at 4 p.m. Jan. 23 at Auer Hall. To accommodate for COVID-19 concerns, viewers can also livestream the performance through the event’s website.
The Diversity and Equity Committee at the Jacobs School of Music organized the concert, which features a variety of performances from departments in the music school to honor King’s legacy.
Through these performances, each corner of the music school showcases how they have been working to improve understanding and promote diversity by performing culturally significant African and Latin American art.
“There are a lot of very different things that you would normally not see at a single performance event,” Javier León, director of the Latin American Music Center and co-chair of the Diversity and Equity Committee at the Jacobs School of Music, said. “That's part of what makes it really special.”
León said this event is unique in how it varies its repertoire. The concert will include a brass ensemble, a ballet dance, a big band jazz performance and more.
Wayne Wallace, professor of practice in jazz studies and seven-time Grammy nominee, composed a contemporary big-band jazz piece to honor the Black Lives Matter movement.
During lockdown, Wallace said he spent his time diving into Black history to find inspiration for his work, examining the reconstruction period up to present day.
“I tried to make a piece that reflected the turbulent times we were going through, as well as give me a chance to reflect on the past,” Wallace said.
The name of Wallace’s piece is “ATOZOTA” which is a palindrome, meaning it spells A to Z both ways. The piece features quotes from poets, writers and politicians.
“We go forward, we go backwards – that’s my inspiration for it,” Wallace said.
The civil rights movement in the U.S. inspired similar acts of social reform across the world. To showcase how King’s ideas motivated change in Latin America, the Latin American Music Center is contributing to the performance by playing a piece inspired by the movement.
León said the piece tells the story of a massacre of a workers strike of miners in northern Chile by authorities. The massacre had been covered up for decades until historians brought details to light in the 1960s, leading the public to outrage. The piece concludes with a call to action, asking its listeners to come together to work toward common goals of justice and equality.
“It very closely connects to a lot of the same kind of aspirational goals of the civil rights movement in the United States,'' León said. “It is a way of saying ‘never again.’”
The concert will conclude with closing remarks from Demondre Thurman, professor of euphonium, chair of the brass department and member of the Diversity and Equity Committee at the Jacobs School of Music.
Thurman will be performing his arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” in a tuba and euphonium quartet.
Thurman said King is his motivation for the concert, stating that he viewed King as someone who aspired to make things happen.
“I can recall very vividly saying that I want to go to school on Martin Luther King Day, because in many ways, that's what he was fighting for,” Thurman said.
For the performers and organizers alike, there is a personal factor involved in the drive to carry out this concert.
“There's always one, if not multiple moments in these concerts that are very touching,” León said. “It's not uncommon for at least one speaker to get choked up at one point or another – it’s a very personal concert for many of us.”