Friday, March 2, 2012 'I want the Philadelphia music community to know about this work of black composers'

[Dr. Myron Moss conducts Drexel University Concert Band at Kimmel Center February 29, 2012. (Photo: The Triangle, Courtesy Doug Chesnulovitch]
by Julia Casciato on March 2, 2012
“The Drexel University Concert Band had its first-ever performance at the Kimmel Center Feb. 29, playing a wide selection of music by African-American composers representing a time span of almost a century. Director Mike Moss selected various pieces by Valerie Coleman, Roger Dickerson, Oliver Nelson, Clarence Cameron White and others for the band to perform.

“'I want the Philadelphia music community to know about this work of black composers,' Moss said. 'I thought it wasn’t enough to do it well [at Drexel]. Bringing it to Kimmel means saying to the community that we’re the vehicle for representing the music and the music that’s important.' Two of the pieces performed were newly commissioned works by award-winning composer Valerie Coleman. As part of a Drexel initiative led by Moss, Coleman has created songs for 25 university bands.

“'Umoja' is an exercise piece that Coleman originally wrote for her woodwind quartet, Imani Winds, and expanded to be played by a 60-person concert band. 'Roma' is a much more evolved piece that starts slowly, turning into a groove that varies and shifts. The piece is over 10 minutes long, the longest of the night.

“The concert also showcased works from noncontemporary artists. 'There seems to be this wide range of activity of a wide range of really successful pieces that people know nothing about,' Moss said. Drexel’s University Chorus and members of the Drexel University Gospel Choir joined the band for Adolphus Hailstork’s 'Look to this Day.' Perry Brisbon, a program instructor for Drexel’s performing arts department, sang baritone to Margaret Bond’s 'Dream Variation.'”

“Moss began research on classical music by African-American composers in 1990, and he found it is an area with which many people are not familiar. 'My next step after discovering there was a lot of good music [by African-American composers] is to want the musical community to know that,' he said.”

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