According to jbhe.com, Julius P. Williams has been named President of the Conductors Guild, a global membership organization comprised of conductors of symphony, opera, ballet, choral, band, contemporary, and chamber ensembles. Dr. Williams is the first African American president in Conductors Guild history, and began his two-year term in earlier this month.
Williams is a Professor of Composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston currently, as well as artistic director and conductor of the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra. His other positions include music director and conductor of Trilogy: An Opera Company in New Jersey, composer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra‘s “Composer-in-Residence Project.” Williams also works with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
“The appointment of Julius Williams as president of Conductors Guild is both meaningful and newsworthy. Maestro Williams has not only the stellar credentials, but the right vision, breadth and leadership, to set a powerful example for our field,” said Afa S. Dworkin, president and artistic director of The Sphinx Organization. “We applaud the Conductors Guild on this news and look forward to many inspiring programs and ideas that will undoubtedly emerge!”
Throughout his career, Williams has conducted ensembles at Carnegie Hall, and performances with orchestras in Dallas, Savannah, Hartford, Sacramento, Tulsa, and Knoxville, as well as the Harlem Symphony, Armor Artist Chamber Orchestra, Connecticut Opera, and the Kalistos Chamber Orchestra in Boston.
Roy Hargrove, a virtuoso trumpeter who became a symbol of jazz’s youthful renewal in the early 1990s, and then established himself as one of the most respected musicians of his generation, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 49.
His death, at Mount Sinai Hospital, was caused by cardiac arrest brought on by kidney disease, according to his manager, Larry Clothier. He said Mr. Hargrove had been on dialysis for 13 years.
Beginning in his high school years Mr. Hargrove expressed a deep affinity for jazz’s classic lexicon and the creative flexibility to place it in a fresh context. He would take the stock phrases of blues and jazz and reinvigorate them while reminding listeners of the long tradition whence he came.
“He rarely sounds as if he stepped out of a time machine,” the critic Nate Chinen wrote in 2008, reviewing Mr. Hargrove’s album “Earfood” for The New York Times. “At brisk tempos he summons a terrific clarity and tension, leaning against the current of his rhythm section. At a slower crawl, playing fluegelhorn, he gives each melody the equivalent of a spa treatment.”
In the late 1990s, already established as a jazz star, Mr. Hargrove became affiliated with the Soulquarians, a loose confederation of musicians from the worlds of hip-hop and neo-soul that included Questlove, Erykah Badu, Common and D’Angelo. For several years the collective convened semi-regularly at Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan, recording albums now seen as classics. Mr. Hargrove’s sly horn overdubs can be heard, guttering like a low flame, on records like “Voodoo,” by D’Angelo, and “Mama’s Gun,” by Ms. Badu.
“He is literally the one-man horn section I hear in my head when I think about music,” Questlove wrote on Instagram after Mr. Hargrove’s death.
Even as he explored an ever-expanding musical terrain, Mr. Hargrove did not lose sight of jazz traditions. “To get a thorough knowledge of anything you have to go to its history,” he told the writer Tom Piazza in 1990 for an article about young jazz musicians in The New York Times Magazine. “I’m just trying to study the history, learn it, understand it, so that maybe I’ll be able to develop something that hasn’t been done yet.”
In 1997 he recorded the album “Habana,” an electrified, rumba-inflected parley between American and Cuban musicians united under the band name Crisol. The album, featuring Hargrove originals and compositions by jazz musicians past and present, earned him his first of two Grammy Awards.
His second was for the 2002 album “Directions in Music,” a live recording on which he was a co-leader with the pianist Herbie Hancock and the tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker. That album became a favorite of jazz devotees and music students trying to envision a future for acoustic-jazz innovation.
In the 2000s, Mr. Hargrove released three records with RH Factor, a large ensemble that built a style of its own out of cool, electrified hip-hop grooves and greasy funk from the 1970s.
He held onto the spirit that guided those inquiries — one of creative fervor, tempered by cool poise — in the more traditionally formatted Roy Hargrove Quintet, a dependable group he maintained for most of his career. On “Earfood,” a late-career highlight, the quintet capers from savvy updates of jazz standards to original ballads and new tunes that mix Southern warmth and hip-hop swagger.
Esperanza Spalding is at the top of her field. She’s won just about every award a musician can win: four Grammys, a Smithsonian award, an NAACP Image Award, a Frida Kahlo award, a Boston Music Award — we could go on for ten minutes. And now, according to a press release from Harvard University, Spalding is going to teach others how she did it.
The bassist and singer has been appointed the a professor of the practice in the university’s Department of Music. The university’s professors of the practice are individuals “who have a national or international reputation as leaders” and who are “the best in the field.” That certainly sounds like Spalding. The press release refers to the artist as “a national treasure with global resonance” who “stands apart for the intelligence and deep sense of humanity” found in her work.
This won’t be Spalding’s first time in front of students, either. She taught at Boston’s Berklee College of Music from 2005 to 2008, and has instructed many pupils as an artist in residence in the years since. At Harvard, Spalding will lead courses in songwriting, improvisation and performance. The school also promises that Spalding will bring her “commitment to music as a voice for social justice” to the classroom with her.
Beyoncé‘s visual album Lemonade was released a year ago this week, but its impact continues to unfold. Just last week, the project won a Peabody Award. But the singer is also focusing on making its resonance felt through a very different vehicle: a group of scholarships called the “Formation Scholars” awards.
Announcing the program this morning on her website, she says that the scholarships are meant “to encourage and support young women who are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, creative, conscious and confident.” The awards specifically are geared to students studying either “creative arts,” music, literature or African-American studies.
There will be one recipient — either an incoming or current undergraduate or graduate student — at each of the four participating institutions: Berklee College of Music in Boston; Howard University in Washington, D.C.; Parsons School of Design in New York City; and Spelman College in Atlanta.
Set to make its New York premiere tonight, March 29, 2015, at 9:30pm, at the New Voices in Black Cinema Festival, at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NY, is “Black Panther Woman” – director Rachel Perkins‘ documentary on the little known Brisbane chapter of the Black Panther Party, which was directly inspired by the American Black Panthers.
Central to the film is Marlene Cummins (photo above), who was introduced to Australia’s Black Panther Party in 1972, when she met and fell in love with its leader, beginning her education into the Black Power movement.
This Australian chapter of the Black Panther Party adapted the politics and style of the American Black Panther Party, from the clothing to their defiance, attracting the attention of the local authorities. Yet, unlike their American comrades, who numbered in the thousands across America, the Australian chapter comprised of just 10 members – young Aboriginal people who staged educational theatre shows, kept watch on the police on what they called ‘pig patrols,’ and were at the forefront of demonstrations, including the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
According to director Rachel Perkins, what began as a straightforward story, recounting the Black Panther Party in Australia, slowly revealed itself as something more. The tensions around the movement and her personal life tightened around Marlene, and finally led to the break up of her relationship with the party’s leader. Marlene filled the vacuum with alcohol and quickly spiralled into a cycle of addiction that left her vulnerable on the streets. Her vulnerability and her belief in the movement made her a target for black men in power. Marlene recalls the incident of her rape, by two Indigenous leaders, after which she made the difficult decision to stay silent. Dedicated to the cause, and distrustful of police, she, like other Aboriginal women facing abuse, chose to stay silent to protect the movement from criticism.