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Free jazz concert honors MLK and John Lewis

MSU College of Music
MSU College of Music
Posted at 10:11 AM, Jan 14, 2021

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The College of Music joins the Michigan State University Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives in the university’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by sharing a video of featured performances and insightful speeches. The 2019 Jazz: Spirituals, Prayer and Protest concert recorded at Fairchild Theatre also honors, as does the university theme this year, The Honorable John Lewis.

The broadcast will be streamed Sunday, January 17, at 3 p.m. on the MSU College of Music Livestream Channel. The event is free and open to the public, and available for on-demand viewing from the Livestream Channel after the broadcast.

To keep the College’s annual tribute to Dr. King alive, the 2019 concert was chosen to be among a variety of MSU events commemorating Dr. King precisely because it pays tribute to the life of U.S. House of Representatives and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis who died July 2020. The 2021 MLK Day celebration theme is “Good Trouble: Reclaiming our Democracy, Demanding Social Justice.”

The concert will include remarks by MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives Interim Director Deborah Johnson, College of Music Dean James Forger, and excerpts from a 2014 speech given by John Lewis at MSU. Lewis came to campus for East Lansing’s One Book, One Community to discuss his co-authored book “March: Book One,” a graphic novel highlighting the struggles and triumphs of the civil rights movement.

This year’s broadcast features the MSU Jazz Orchestra I led by Rodney Whitaker, University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of the MSU Jazz Studies Program, with special guest vocalist Kenny Washington and jazz saxophonist Daniel Jordan.. The event was curated by the College of Music student organization Color Me Music, with selections featuring memorable Motown tunes by Aretha Franklin.

Whitaker said the 2019 event coupled with current day opening remarks fosters the continuity of a highly collaborative and engaging community event.

“We’ve faced so many challenges this past year because of the pandemic, so it’s important we take a moment to pause and reflect on our losses and blessings,” said Whitaker. “This annual concert is a great way to do that, as well as to embrace the power of diversity and celebrate our differences.”

The MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives organizes the university’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. The 2020 events will be MSU’s 41st Annual Celebration of MLK Day. The week-long celebration features a slate of online activities, including a diversity research showcase, anti-bias training, a virtual commemorative March for Justice, and service projects, conferences, commemorative film series, exhibits and more to be announced.

For concert information, please visit:

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