25th annual African American Music Festival to be held Feb. 4-7

January 31, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 25th annual African American Music Festival at Penn State will take place Feb. 4–7 with a variety of concerts, lectures and presentations by School of Music ensembles and soloists, and several guest artists. All concerts will be presented virtually on the School of Music’s website.


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

Thursday, Feb. 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
  • Inner Dimensions, Joshua Davis, conductor
  • James Lyon, violin
  • Violin students from the studio of James Lyon

Friday, Feb. 5, 2:30 p.m. — Common Hour, featuring:

  • Graduate Brass Quintet
  • Violin students from the studio of James Lyon
  • Eric McKee, lecturer, "Film Music of William Grant Still"

Friday, Feb. 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"
  • Prof. Donté Ford, "Gospel Music from Philadelphia, A Historical Perspective"

Saturday, Feb. 6, 2:30 p.m. — Penn State School of Music Instrumental Ensembles in Concert, featuring:

  • 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
  • Centre Dimensions, Marko Marcinko, conductor

Sunday, Feb. 7, 2:30 p.m. — Penn State School of Music Choirs in Concert, featuring:

  • 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. Typically 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 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 1997, Anthony Leach coordinated the first Symposium on the African American Spiritual, involving guest artists, lectures and choral performances. Three years later, Leach initiated conversations with several African American choral colleagues regarding a commissioning 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, with the exception of Moses Hogan, were present at Penn State for their music to be premiered. 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 music traditions.

About Essence of Joy

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

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

For further information on the events for this festival, contact Professor Emeritus of Music Anthony T. Leach at atl105@psu.edu.

Last Updated April 15, 2021