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Portia Maultsby
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology

Jennifer Piurek
University Communication

Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009

IU professor a panelist, advisor for Carnegie Hall festival celebrating African American music

Featured artists at inaugural "Honor!" festival include Maya Angelou, The Roots, Toni Morrison, Cornel West and Gwen Ifill

March 17, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Professor Portia Maultsby was closely involved with the development of "Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy," a groundbreaking, two-week festival at Carnegie Hall celebrating African American culture.

The festival, which began March 4 and runs through March 23, was conceptualized and curated by renowned soprano Jessye Norman.

Maultsby, an IU professor of ethnomusicology in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomuscology (College of Arts and Sciences), became involved with the project last June, working with Norman as a general consultant, artistic advisor and editorial assistant throughout the project's development. The festival celebrates current African American music and honors the pioneering artists who forged a path for subsequent generations.

Honor panel image

Jennifer Taylor

IU Professor Portia Maultsby, third from left, took part in a discussion on the history of African American performing arts and its role in social and political change as part of "Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy" at Carnegie Hall. Others on the panel, from left, included Maya Angelou, Arthur Mitchell, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Judith Jamison and Gwen Ifill.

"It's been an incredible experience working with Jessye Norman," said Maultsby. "I was inspired by her vision to create a festival that was all-encompassing of the musical legacy of African Americans, from Negro spirituals to jazz, from classical music and blues all the way to hip-hop."

Others involved in the festival from IU include Mellonee Burnim, a professor of ethnomusicology, who wrote the program notes for the upcoming performances of "Emancipation's Jubilations: Spirituals and Songs That Led A Nation" March 21 and "A Celebration of the Spiritual and Gospel Music" March 22; doctoral students in ethnomusicology Tyron Cooper and Fredara Hadley; and program alumna Linda Williams. Cooper assisted in the archival research for the list of African Americans who performed at Carnegie Hall since 1892, Hadley wrote the text on "Holy Hip Hop" and Linda Williams co-authored with Maultsby the text on jazz for the interactive Web site on African American music.

The series of performances and events kicked off March 4 with "Honor: Blues, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Soul, and Beyond." Maultsby, director of IU's Archives of African American Music and Culture and the founding director of the Indiana University Soul Revue (a touring student ensemble specializing in black popular music), acted as an artistic advisor for this semi-staged revue and also oversaw the development of the narrator's script, delivered by Tony Award-winning entertainer Ben Vereen, actor Wendell Pierce (credits include "The Wire" on HBO) and Emmy Award-winning news anchor Sade Baderinwa from WABC Channel 7 in New York.

"Honor!" has a prominent place on the Carnegie Hall Web site ( and will continue outreach throughout the year with various school and community programs. For outreach programs with middle school and choral classrooms, Maultsby provided editorial assistance for the development of an American Roots curriculum that explores the history of African American music. She also developed and wrote the text for a historical, interactive timeline on African American music for the "Honor!" Web site ( that will have a permanent place on Carnegie Hall's site.

"Honor!" so far has included a concert by Imani Wings; a gospel music workshop that closed with a concert at the Apollo Theater; a Stern Auditorium concert featuring current stars of soul, pop and jazz; a performance of excerpts from Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; a panel discussion that featured Maultsby (with co-panelists Maya Angelou, Arthur Mitchell, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Judith Jamison and Gwen Ifill); and a multimedia presentation based on text by Langston Hughes, among many other events.

The remaining events include a Philadelphia Orchestra concert tracing the influence of African American music on European orchestral music on March 17; a national high school choral festival; and a March 21 panel discussion featuring Maultsby at Apollo Theater (with co-panelists Derrick Bell, Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Chapman Roberts, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Olly Wilson) exploring historical and political issues associated with spirituals and gospel music.

"Honor!" will culminate with a March 23 performance that includes the works of Handel, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Duparc, Schumann, Verdi, Liszt, R. Strauss, Bernstein and Gershwin, performed by renowned, classical African American singers including IU Jacobs School alumna Angela M. Brown, a soprano, and Jacobs alumnus Kevin Maynor, bass.

"I've enjoyed learning about the wide range of black music represented at Carnegie Hall since 1892, the second year it was open," said Maultsby. "I applaud Ms. Norman's vision to make this phenomenon widely known."