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February 10 , 2012

Fisk Jubilee Singers Join High School Choirs In Preserving The African American Spiritual

Project will culminate in two highly-anticipated public concerts

NASHVILLE - - Since September of 2011, Dr. Paul Kwami, musical director of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, has been working closely with choral directors and students at Henry County High School in Paris, and the Center for Creative Arts magnet school in Chattanooga as part of the Fisk Jubilee Singers/High School Choral project, whose goal is to introduce high school choral students to African American Spiritual singing. The project will result in two concerts featuring the Fisk Jubilee Singers, performing with choral groups from the two Tennessee high schools.

The concert with students from the Center for Creative Arts magnet school will be held Sunday, February 26 at 3 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church , 822 Belvoir Avenue  in Chattanooga.  Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door on the day of the concert.

The performance with the Henry County High School  Madrigals will be Thursday, March 15 at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, located at 101 Blythe Street  in Paris, Tennessee. Tickets are $10 and $15, and  available from  members of the choir or by contacting Blair Chadwick at 731-695-1005. Tickets will also be available at the door.

The project, a partnership of the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Fisk Jubilee Singers, is the second phase of  the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) American Masterpieces project. The first phase involved the creation of a teacher’s guide for use in the classroom, and funds for touring.

“The Fisk Jubilee Singers are truly a national treasure, and this project educates both the public and the students about the historical significance of the African American Spiritual, and the unique talent and legacy of the Fisk Jubilee Singers,” said William Coleman, director of the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Arts Access Program.  “Both choirs are excited about the honor of performing with this prestigious group, and the concerts are expected to be well attended.”

From the beginning, Dr. Kwami’s consultations were an important component of the project. He included a minimum of 11 visits to each school, where he introduced and helped the students understand the art form, while teaching the students specific songs. He researched and designed a program for each  school and tailored to the skill level of the students involved.  The choral directors also worked closely with Dr. Kwami.  Sheet music and materials were provided through grant funds provided through the Commission.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity, which I have enjoyed tremendously,” said Dr. Kwami. “One of the greatest things I have enjoyed  is experiencing the desire of these young students to learn, and that is extremely rewarding.”

Dr. Kwami considers the project an educational outreach – helping high school students understand the  importance of the arts, with choral music as a branch. “It has helped me to support the work of the choral music teachers in these schools, who have been wonderful to work with. The project has also helped build upon the confidence that these young people have, not only as singers, but as students whose lives are enriched by their involvement in the arts. They are ambassadors for their schools. I have enjoyed the opportunity to share the Negro spiritual with high school choirs, because it is one way to preserve this genre of music.”

For more Information on the Fisk Jubilee Singers/High School Choral Project , contact William Coleman, director of the Arts Access Program for the Tennessee Arts Commission, at 615-532-9797 or email: William.coleman@tn.gov.

General information on the Tennessee Arts Commission is available online: www.tn.gov/arts.

For more information on the Fisk Jubilee Singers, visit: www.fiskjubileesingers.org.

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