The Drexel University Concert Band took to the stage at the Kimmel Center for an evening dedicated to a wide range of African-American composers. In honor of Black History Month, the special performance was held on Feb. 29 in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, located at 300 S. Broad St.
Music Program Director Dr. Mike (Myron) Moss devoted his scholarship to this little-known repertoire and conducted the Concert Band at their inaugural Kimmel Center performance. Moss also moderated a panel discussion on African-Americans in classical careers prior to the concert.
Panelists included Stan Thompson, trumpet player and director of Play On Philly and Jeri Lynn Johnson, founder and conductor of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra.
“This was a very special event,” said Moss. “I have an amazing band, especially when you consider how much the students have learned and improved in such a short period of time. The fact that the University does not offer a music degree program makes the quality of the band’s performance even more impressive.”
After eight weeks of preparation this semester, the director and band simply wanted to showcase good music. “This is the first time Drexel’s Concert Band has performed an entire program of African-American composers,” said Moss.
Well known for his advocacy of music by African-American composers, Moss won the Fritz Thelen Award for best doctoral dissertation for his work, Concert Band Music by African-American composers from 1927 through 1998.
“Hearing beautiful music that spans 90 years can only enhance and enlarge our understanding and sense of American and African-American history and music. People should be surprised at what they hear.”
Music is a universal language understood by everyone. For Coleman, music is inspiring and motivating. “Like other forms of art, both performing and visual, music defines emotion and imagination.
“I’ve known Director Moss for a few years now. I am ever so grateful to him and his unwavering belief in bringing diversity to concert band music,” said Valerie Coleman, composer, flutist and founder of Imani Winds.
“Drexel's Concert Band was very instrumental to the editing process for Roma, as Director Moss emailed to me questions and rehearsal recordings that helped me to shape and refine the work.”
“These are basic components that define life, and now more than ever, it is a source of comfort both spiritually and mentally,” said Coleman.
“The performance at the Kimmel Center is extremely special as wind ensemble and its music has its own culture that, among many things, is uniquely American,” she said. “Even though it's a rare thing to have, the African-American experience is and can be integral to the growth of this field.
“Female composers are just as rare, but I believe our numbers are growing within each generation. Bravo to Director Moss and Drexel's concert band for highlighting this!”
The concert included two newly commissioned pieces by Coleman, Roma and Umoja, as well as Clarence Cameron White’s Triumphal March, Roger Dickerson’s Essay for Band and Oliver Nelson’s Fugue and Bossa.
Also on the program was Adolphus Hailstork’s Look to This Day. Drexel faculty member, Baritone Perry Brisbon, also presented Margaret Bonds’ Dream Variation.
This was a true peak performance and one that will never be forgotten.