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Music and Black History Month

ASEEM SHUKLA, HOST: Organizations all over the city are celebrating Black History Month. On Wednesday, Manhattan School of Music presented their annual concert to commemorate Black History Month. Brett Forrest checked in with students and faculty about their expectations for the concert.

BRETT FORREST, BYLINE: Subiya Mboya is a second year musical theatre student at the Manhattan School of Music. She performed in the school’s annual Black History Month concert. Before the show, Mboya said that she had long-planned to sing this song, “I’m Here” from the Color Purple.

SUBIYA MBOYA: (singing) Got my house. It still keep the cold out. Got my chair, when my body can’t hold out.

FORREST: For Mboya, that song has special meaning to her.

MBOYA: The Color Purple the musical, when I first saw it, it was the piece that established for me why I wanted to go into the field as a whole. And it’s a really great arc of a story that describes specifically a black woman’s experience.

FORREST: Alexa Smith is the Chief of Staff at Manhattan School of Music. She’s also the advisor for the Black Student Union, who organized the concert. She says music has always played an important role in forging a sense of African-American identity.

ALEXA SMITH: After slavery happened in the US, music was one of those things that no matter what language you came from, it was always a real uniter. So it’s always been something that was a big piece of the fabric for black culture.

FORREST: The concert featured everything from classical, opera, and jazz to musical theater and gospel choir. Chira Bell is the Secretary for the Black Student Union. She says she hopes the concert will open audience eyes to the full range of black musicianship.

CHIRA BELL: Because characters in Opera are traditionally white or European like that kind of– Not all black musicians are jazz musicians. Let’s broaden our horizons of black musicianship and really understand what it’s like for the capacity of greatness in black musicians.

FORREST: That’s student Joseph Miller on the sax. He’s a junior at the school. He chose to play that piece called “Gift of Brotherhood.” It’s an original song written by another student.

JOSEPH MILLER: Kind of has an R&B feel to it. That kind of brings up like, warm feelings and everybody’s hearts, you know, and it’s showcasing how brotherhood is really important. And that’s what the music kind of makes you feel.

FORREST: Miller says he hopes the music in the concert might help audiences better understand the black experience.

MILLER: Like music can make people cry. Music can make people feel angry. Music can make people happy. And because of that strong pull, that music has being able to share our story through that medium is so important. And it really helps convey our message way further than any other art I think.

FORREST: Brett Forrest, Uptown Radio.


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