Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sonic Youth: Young Musicians Embrace MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.’s Legacy in Chicago Sinfonietta’s 2015 Martin Luther King Tribute

Sujari Britt

Program Sponsored by Exelon, Highlights Include Work by 17-year-old Composer/Conductor, Performance by 13-year-old Cello Prodigy and Young Chicago Authors

CHICAGO (December 9, 2014) – The Chicago Sinfonietta’s highly popular Annual Tribune to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this year celebrates the boundless optimism of youth as the orchestra is joined by young musicians, composers, singers and poets who embody the next generation of Dr. King’s legacy.  Guests include 17-year-old African-American composer/conductor Jherrard Marseille Hardeman, 13-year-old African-American prodigy cellist Sujari Britt, high school-aged spoken word poets from Young Chicago Authors and the powerful singers of the Waubonsie Valley High School Mosaic Choir.  The Chicago Sinfonietta performs its Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. twice: first, in the western suburbs at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Avenue in Naperville, Sunday, January 18 at 3 pm, and then again in its downtown Chicago home venue of Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue, Monday, January 19 (the actual MLK holiday) at 7:30 pm

The passionate words and civic activism of Dr. King, along with countless sacrifices made during the U.S.’ civil rights movement of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, created the foundation for today’s young artists of color to have opportunities unheard of just a few generations ago.  The Sinfonietta’s 2015 tribute concert opens with Chicago actor and orator Wayne K. Woods channeling Dr. King with a dramatic recitation of part of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 

Sinfonietta Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, a fierce proponent for and mentor of young conductors, welcomes the multi-talented Hardeman to the podium as guest conductor for the evening’s first musical offering, leading the third movement of his own work, Symphony No.3 “Blues,” in the work’s first public performance by a professional orchestra.  Hardeman is a conductor, composer, violinist and guitarist from the metro Detroit area.  Currently, he is Concertmaster of both the Dearborn Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Groves High School Symphony Orchestra.  He has also performed as First Violinist in the Detroit Symphony’s Civic Youth Orchestra and the Grosse Pointe Symphony Orchestra.

Chen returns to the podium to lead the rest of the concert, which continues as Britt joins the orchestra for Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1872 composition, Violoncello Concerto No.1.  In November 2009, Britt had the honor of performing with Alisa Weilerstein at the White House for President Obama, the First Lady and their distinguished guests, where she was brought to the attention of many notables in the classical music industry.  The following March she closed  the 11th Annual International Tropical Baroque Music Festival of the Miami Bach Society in Coral Gables, Florida, and in April 2010, she performed at Carnegie’s Weill Hall as a winner of the National Young Musicians Concerto Competition.  Britt began formal study of the cello at age 4 following her studies on violin and piano.

Youth continues to inspire the program with a fresh take on Aaron Copland’s patriotic 1942 work Lincoln Portrait, with poets from the Young Chicago Authors providing the narrative portions, excerpted readings of Abraham Lincoln’s most well-known documents, including the Gettysburg Address.

In between works, members of the Young Chicago Authors perform original spoken word pieces inspired by Dr. King’s legacy, revealing how today’s youth interpret his message.

The performance closes with crowd favorites, the Mosaic Choir, putting their youthful spin on Dr. King’s legacy through global song.  Directed by Mark Myers, the young singers perform a traditional Balinese song Janger, American spiritual Praying Spirit, two traditional South African songs Vela Vela and Freedom Is in Your Hand, and Richard Smallwood’s Total Praise.

The concert concludes in the same joyous tradition begun by Sinfonietta Founder, Dr. Paul Freeman, with the audience joining together to sing “We Shall Overcome.”


Single tickets range from $16-$99 for concerts at Symphony Center and $46-$58 for concerts at Wentz Concert Hall, with special $10 pricing available for students at both concerts.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-236-3681 ext. 2 or online at

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