Professor Mitch McKay’s Online Piano Concert Celebrates Music by Black Composers

SF associate professor of Music, Mitch McKay.

September 14, 2020 – “Celebrating Music by Black Composers” is the title that Santa Fe College Associate Professor of Music Mitch McKay chose for his fall concert, which will be streamed online at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 18, 2020. McKay will record the music the week before the concert and then participate in a live question-and-answer session on Zoom following that streamed event. The concert is free and may be viewed on the Fine Arts Department’s page on the college’s website at sfcollege.edu/finearts.

“This concert will celebrate the talents of the many Black composers who have enriched the world of music and who deserve to be better known,” McKay explained. “During fall term, the Fine Arts department is focusing students on the problems caused by racism and how the arts can foster solutions to those problems by inspiring social change. I chose this program to complement that effort. The concert will include pieces by one of my favorite composers.”

The concert will feature works by H. Leslie Adams, Scott Joplin, Florence Price, R. Nathaniel Dett, Nkeiru Okoye, Christian Onyeji, Joshua Uzoigwe and William Grant Still.

Born in Ohio, H. Leslie Adams is a prolific composer who has written music in genres that include symphony, ballet, choral, vocal solo and keyboard. His works have been performed throughout the USA and internationally by artists from the Metropolitan Opera, Prague Radio Symphony and Iceland Symphony.

Scott Joplin (c. 1868-1917) was an American pianist and composer who was dubbed “the King of Ragtime.” He wrote over 100 ragtime pieces, a ragtime ballet and two operas. One of his compositions, “The Entertainer,” was featured in the 1973 film “The Sting.” Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Florence Price (1887-1953) was a classical composer, pianist, organist and music teacher. She was the first African American woman recognized as a symphonic composer and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra. For her compositions, she drew inspiration from her Southern roots and African American spirituals.

R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) was a Canadian American composer, organist, pianist, choral director and music professor. Like Florence Price, he drew inspiration for his compositions from African American spirituals and folk songs. Dett performed at Carnegie Hall and at Boston Symphony Hall as a pianist and choir director.

Nkeiru Okoye is an American composer and musician many of whose works draw from American history. Her “Invitation to a Die-In” was commissioned in memory of Trayvon Martin and other young Black men who have lost their lives to violence.

Christian Onyeji is a Professor of Music at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  An internationally recognized composer, educator and scholar, he specializes in a research-composition technique that uses African traditional music as a basis for modern African art music.

Joshua Uzoigwe (1946-2005) was a Nigerian composer and ethnomusicologist who drew inspiration from his native Igbo ethnic group. Educated in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom (London and Belfast), he was an accomplished pianist who performed many concerts to sustain cultural life during the civil war in Biafra.

William Grant Still (1895-1978) was an American composer who was associated with the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote nearly 200 pieces of music that included symphonies, ballets, operas, choral works, art songs, chamber music and works for solo instruments. He was the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major company and the first to have an opera performed on national television.

“Celebrating Music by Black Composers” is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and by the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Department.

For more information about the concert and the following Zoom question-and-answer session, call Mitch McKay at 352-395-5144.