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Jazz, blues, rock, gospel kick off Project Humanities events

September 02, 2011

American music and the way in which it helps define human dimensions will take center stage during the fall kickoff of Project Humanities at Arizona State University. A weeklong celebration of jazz, blues, rock, gospel and more begins Sept. 13. Special performances and discussions are also planned. Local talent, including blues icon Bob Corritore, and leading scholars such as Mississippi blues expert William R. Ferris, will be featured in the universitywide initiative.

“In a world that is often too complicated for us to know the answers to all of the questions, the humanities give us the tools to make sense of who we are, where we are, why we are here,” said Neal A. Lester, coordinator of Project Humanities and dean of humanities in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“ASU launched Project Humanities last semester with a goal to engage students, faculty, staff and the community in conversations about the impact of everyday humanities in action,” said Lester. “To kick off the fall activities we are celebrating music to reinforce the Project Humanities effort to explore the multitude of ways in which human experiences are shared. There is a clear sense that music – with or without words – connects us and defines our human experience in ways that other forms of creative expression do not.”

Among the first of the events is a multimedia concert performance by the Langston Hughes Project at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 in Old Main Carson Ballroom on ASU’s Tempe campus. This performance of the Langston Hughes kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite “Ask Your Mama” is an homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad in the early 1960s. The performance features the Ron McCurdy Quartet and acclaimed Valley storyteller Fatimah Halim.

“When I saw a version of this program at ASU some years ago, I was blown away by the impact the performance had on the audience. Folks smiled, laughed, and were sometimes in tears,” said Lester. “It is a performance that teaches as it entertains and delivers a punch that folks will remember for a long time.”

Closing out the Project Humanities kickoff week is a special Saturday musical performance and conversation titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It features local talent including the Scottsdale Chorus, and groups Audacity and Redeemed, as well as the McHenry Singers. Terry Hummer and Billy Cioffi as AmeriCamera will blend poetry and rock during the 3-5 p.m. event on ASU’s Tempe campus in Old Main Carson Ballroom.

“The Saturday lineup is very diverse and we hope that the audience will be equally diverse. We hope that folks will enjoy the music, the singing, and the conversation that punctuate these diverse performances with historical context and social context,” said Lester.

Other events are scheduled for the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus and the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale. Most of the events are free and all are open to the public. The schedule for the fall kickoff is below. Additional information about these and other activities scheduled throughout the fall semester are online at

Native American Music and Dance
6-7:30 p.m., Sept. 13, Civic Park, ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.
Estun Bah with flutist and world champion hoop dancer Tony Duncan will be performing.

The Langston Hughes Project “Ask Your Mama”
7:30-9 p.m., Sept. 13, Old Main Carson Ballroom, ASU Tempe campus.
Multimedia concert performance of the Langston Hughes kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite – “Ask Your Mama.” An homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad in the early 1960s. Featuring acclaimed Valley storyteller Fatimah Halim.

BLUES @ the MU
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Sept. 14, Memorial Union North Plaza Stage, ASU Tempe campus.
Performance by the Blues Review Band, featuring Mike (Bluesman) Anderson.

The Jazz Singer (1927)
6-7:30 p.m., Sept. 14, CRONKITE-128, ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.
Film and discussion.

Memory and Sense of Place in the Blues
3-4:30 p.m., Sept. 15, West Hall 135, ASU Tempe campus.
Lecture by Mississippi blues expert William R. Ferris, leading scholar in Southern Studies and African American music and folklore; senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and professor at UNC Chapel Hill.

Mexican American Music and Masks
6-7:30 p.m., Sept. 15, Civic Park, ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.
Zarco Guerrero Family Chicano Musical Group, with Mexican mask maker, Zarco.

Memory and the Blues
7:30-9 p.m., Sept. 15, ASU Kerr Cultural Center 6110 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.
Musical performance and conversation followed by Q&A with Dave Riley, renowned Mississippi blues musician; Bob Corritore, the Valley's own local blues icon and best blues harmonica player and owner of the famous Phoenix Blues and Roots concert club, the Rhythm Room; moderated by William R. Ferris, Mississippi blues expert, professor at UNC Chapel Hill.
$10 General admission, $7 Students
ASU Kerr Cultural Center Box Office: 480-596-2660,

Celebrating American Music, "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
3-5 p.m., Sept. 17, Old Main Carson Ballroom, ASU Tempe campus.
Conversation and performances of barbershop, traditional and contemporary gospel, and rock – featuring the Scottsdale Chorus, Audacity, Redeemed, the McHenry Singers, and Terry Hummer and Billy Cioffi as AmeriCamera, blending of poetry and rock. Moderated by Matthew Whitaker, ASU professor of history, and Richard Mook, ASU professor of music.
Free parking for this event. Free and open to the public.

Written by Meghan Fern.

Carol Hughes,