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Chicago offered CMPI Fellows a delightful array of performances and concerts in honor of both Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Black History Month.

First up was Evanston’s Martin Luther King Day Celebration, sponsored by the Music Institute of Chicago, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, and the city of Evanston. The event featured a wide range of arts performances, speeches, and an art exhibition. The vocal group MC4 presented “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as well as several other selections, while the Evanston Dance Ensemble performed a moving piece including dance, music, and spoken word. A student dance group performed a praise dance with sign language interpretation, and a trio for voice, cello, and piano by composer Ephraim Champion was premiered. In addition to these performances, there were several speakers who spoke about Evanston’s new reparations program, including Evanston mayor Daniel Biss.

Kaylee MLKCMPI was well-represented at the event, with three student performances. Flutist Kaylee Johnson played on behalf of Sistema Ravinia, performing a movement from Quantz’s Concerto in G Major with Lisa Zilberman on the piano. While she would have liked to see more Black performers and composers featured on the program, she said, “I really enjoyed performing. I was honored to be representing Sistema Ravinia, and this was a great opportunity to be a part of honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King.”

Sameer performing violinGuadalupe Ramirez, CMPI Oboe Fellow, graced the stage as a very last-minute replacement for a sick performer, playing a movement from Marcello’s Oboe Concerto. She stated, “It felt so nice to perform because I didn’t feel nervous at all. Honestly, I was initially going to decline the performance because it was short notice, but my gut told me to do this performance, and it paid off. I’m really proud of my performance.” Finally, CMPI Violin Fellow Sameer Agrawal brought the house to their feet with two movements of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Blue/s Forms.

Several CMPI Fellows and their families also attended the Chicago Sinfonietta’s performance Thunder, its annual concert in tribute to Dr. King. Numerous CMPI mentors and faculty members were among the performers at the concert. The performance included works by celebrated living Black composers Carlos Simon and Valerie Coleman, a new commission called Letters of Moral Courage by artist-in-residence Kathryn Bostic, and selections from the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir accompanied by the orchestra.

In honor of Black History Month, CMPI Bass Fellow Dante Espinoza-Villasenor participated in a collaboration between the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Musical Arts Institute, and Uniting Voices Chicago. The combined group recorded “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” this past November as part of a video released this month, which can be viewed here.

Finally, several CMPI Fellows performed with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) as part of the Black Heritage Performing Arts Community Concert at Emmanuel Baptist Church. The concert also featured the Dance Center of Columbia College, Muntu Dance Theatre, and Wooten Choral Ensemble. Conducted by Maestro Allen Tinkham, CYSO performed works by Black composers, including Jessie Montgomery, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Margaret Allison Bonds, Florence Price, and Jonathan Bailey Holland. The concert can be viewed here.


Kaylee Johnson, Sameer Agrawal

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