School of Music to host African American Music Festival Jan. 28-30

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State School of Music will host its annual African American Music Festival from Thursday, Jan. 28, to Saturday, Jan. 30, in Esber Recital Hall and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center.

The 2016 festival is titled "Homegrown" and includes five performances by soloists and ensembles from the Penn State School of Music. The festival kicks off Jan. 28 with a recital written by African-American composers and performed by undergraduate and graduate voice students during the School of Music's weekly Bach's Lunch program at 12:10 p.m. The Thursday evening concert features the University Choir, the Graduate Brass Quintet, and trumpet faculty member Langston J. Fitzgerald III performing Ulysses Kay's "Tromba."

Two concerts highlight the Jan. 29 schedule. The School of Music's Common Hour at 2:30 p.m. will feature Essence of Joy, Trombone Choir, and Centre Dimensions Jazz Ensemble. That evening, the dynamic pairing of tuba euphonium professor Velvet Brown and School of Theatre faculty member Akika Kikora Franklin will present their MOJATUBA project, a performance fusion of tuba and dance. 

The festival will conclude with a performance by Essence of Joy at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30, in the Worship Hall of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. The ensemble's program, "Down Memory Lane," features repertoire from previous years of performances as Essence of Joy celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Admission for all performances is free and tickets are not required. For further information regarding specific performances, please access the School of Music website or contact festival coordinator Anthony Leach at 814-865-6521 or

Performance Schedule

Thursday, Jan. 28, 12:10 p.m.: Voice Recital (Eisenhower Chapel)

Thursday, Jan. 28, 6 p.m.: Potpourri Concert (Esber Recital Hall)

Friday, Jan. 29, 2:30 p.m.: Potpourri Concert (Esber Recital Hall)

Friday, Jan. 29, 6 p.m.: MOJATUBA (Esber Recital Hall)

Saturday, Jan. 30, 1 p.m.: Essence of Joy (Pasquerilla Spiritual Center)

Participating Ensembles

University Choir; Steven Hankle, conductor

Trombone Choir; Mark L. Lusk, conductor

Centre Dimensions Jazz Ensemble; Dan Yoder, music director

Essence of Joy; Anthony Leach, music director

Penn State Athletic Band; Gregory Drane, conductor

Penn State Graduate Brass Quintet

Participating Soloists

Langston J. Fitzgerald III, trumpet

Velvet Brown, tuba

Marcelyn Lebowitz, mezzo-soprano

Timmi Williams, mezzo-soprano

Simon Nam, bass

Austen Auriemma, tenor

Daniel A. Wells, tenor

The Penn State African American Music Festival celebrates the music of African-Americans and African-American composers. Typically occurring Thursday-Saturday on the first weekend of February, it includes performances by Penn State faculty and students, as well as guest artists. The festival concludes with a concert on Saturday afternoon featuring Penn State's Essence of Joy.

In February 1995, Essence of Joy presented the first concert titled  “Celebration of African American Spirituals.” Since that time, the event has developed into a collaborative venture in the School of Music. High school and guest collegiate choirs/bands, as well as professional performing artists, have also participated since 2003.

In 2009, the name of the festival was changed from "Celebration of African American Spirituals" to the "African American Music Festival" in order to be more inclusive of the variety of music offered by the performers.


Last Updated January 26, 2016