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African American Arts Institute

Last modified: Monday, March 27, 2006

AAAI spring concert series celebrates transitions in ensembles' direction

Choral Ensemble celebrates 30th anniversary and director Mumford's retirement

March 27, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- This is an exciting time for the African American Arts Institute at Indiana University Bloomington as each of the institute's performance ensembles experiences a transition in leadership.

James E. Mumford is retiring as director of the African American Choral Ensemble after leading it for 23 years and after 30 years at the institute. Nathanael Fareed Mahluli is completing his first year as director of the IU Soul Revue, and Deadra Nelson-Mason is serving as visiting director of the African American Dance Company.

The African American Choral Ensemble also is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

"Historically, changes within the institute have created exciting opportunities for the ensemble members," said Charles E. Sykes, executive director of the African American Arts Institute. "This year is unique, in that each ensemble is undergoing changes in directorship on some level.

"The students benefit from the chance to learn new styles and incorporate the unique technical and aesthetic approaches of each director," Sykes added. "They learn not only how to travel down new artistic avenues, but also how to navigate in the arts world with flexibility and open-mindedness, which are both equally valuable."

The AAAI's annual spring concert series will begin Saturday (April 1) with the African American Dance Company's spring performance. The African American Choral Ensemble will perform a farewell concert for Mumford on April 8, and the IU Soul Revue will get down during Little 500 weekend on April 14. Each concert will begin at 8 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., in downtown Bloomington.

All adult tickets are $15. Tickets for seniors, children and students are $10, and there is a special advanced IU student rate of $5. Tickets are available now at the Sunrise Box Office, which is adjacent to the theater.

The African American Dance Company's concert theme, "Moving the Movement: Dancing Liberation," examines the phenomena of resilience of African descendents throughout the world and honors the role of dance and music in this struggle. While Professor Iris Rosa has taken a sabbatical semester, Nelson-Mason has skillfully filled her shoes, introducing her areas of expertise in African Diasporic genres such as Ghanaian and Afro-Cuban.

A weekend of special events has been planned to commemorate both Mumford's retirement and the 30th anniversary of the African American Choral Ensemble. Other retirement events for Mumford will include a black tie gala, beginning at 6 p.m. on April 7 at the Bloomington Convention Center, 302 S. College Ave., and a retirement brunch beginning at 10 a.m. on April 8 at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

The cost is $35 for the gala, which includes a reception and dinner, and $20 for the brunch. Tickets for both events are available through April 4 and may be purchased at the AAAI office (9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday) located in Suite 310 of the Neal-Marshall Center. For more information, call 812-855-9501 or send an e-mail to

The theme for the African American Choral Ensemble's 30th anniversary concert is "Reunion and Retirement: 30 Years of Striving for Perfection -- Opportunity for New Beginnings!" It will feature performances by choral ensemble alumni and a capella contemporary gospel groups and include all styles of African American choral music, sending Mumford out in show-stopping style.

The IU Soul Revue's spring concert will have a little bit of everything, from Memphis "Stax" to Philadelphia Neo-Soul. "It's all just soul music," Soul Revue director Mahluli said. "It's about uplift. It always has to be a positive thing." They will perform music made famous by artists such as Luther Vandross and Earth, Wind and Fire.