Bye-bye ‘Burg


IMG_3890Well, we’ve had a good run here, and I sincerely hope that one of my most recent research assistants or another will pick this project up where we left off this academic year and do more work with it for her senior project. No, no, not the miniature research assistants pictured above. Those guys have come with me to our Midwestern home. Orangeburg was good to them, and y’all were good to Jenn and me, too.

It’s important to remember that this project is ongoing. It was never really mine to begin with. I initiated it as a truly integrative community project (hence the name) in every sense of the phrase. What happens to it now will be up to the good people of Orangeburg County. So Big Lou, Esther Jones, Melonie Bryant, Friends of the Edisto, Claflin and SC State Universities, Senator Hutto (whose recent response to my note about SC Arts Commission funding for the Project was awesome, by the way), everybody at the Fine Arts Center, I am so grateful to all of you for doing this important work with me.

My thanks to you comes with a set of challenges, though:

invest in Orangeburg County’s considerable artistic resources for the long-term by tapping sources of state and federal funding to serve the under-served;

listen to people like Curtis Foskey and Cliff Emery on thorny infrastructural, logistical, and interpersonal issues–they’re GEMS;

circle the wagons among the music educators in the County to provide better resources for youngsters who desperately want to learn, but lack resources to purchase lessons and instruments;

find some way to get those same youngsters interested in the rich cultural history of music and musicianship in the County; and

keep finding new ways to engage the broadest possible cross-section of the county in all of these activities, because none of this will matter unless every sector of the population has some kind of voice in the process of shaping local culture.

I hope the Orangeburg MUSIC Project has identified some areas of great potential impact for these challenges, even as it has also documented existing resources for use in those endeavors.

Full County Press for #RoseFestival2016

Hey, look who got the front page of the Orangeburg Times and Democrat this morning! We’ll be out at the Claflin University booth at the Festival of Roses this weekend. Haven’t filled out a survey? Prefer the old-school paper version? Stop by and see us! I’ll be pickin’ and grinnin’ for a while tomorrow morning. Two of Claflin’s best and brightest will be out there all weekend with the whole County. Come on and get your survey filled while you get your fill of Rotary turkey legs, Fiske fries, mini-donuts and lemonade!

‘Til then, here’s a fun one from tonight’s street dance, sponsored by the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association (DORA):

Men of Distinction, and a new leading lady who distinguished them, too!



#EarthDay2016 @Claflin1869

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 16th, Claflin University will be celebrating #EarthDay2016 downtown in Orangeburg’s Memorial Plaza. What does that have to do with music? Well, our own Ms. Esther Jones will be performing there, that’s what! Come see Esther and other performers as the Claflin Family celebrates our place, our planet, and our responsibility to be good stewards of it!

Naturally, we’ll be there with Orangeburg MUSIC Project Surveys in-hand…look for Esther, Melonie and yours truly in Downtown Orangeburg tomorrow!

Plena Libre and Local Vocals @Claflin1869 #CALABASH2016

It’s been quite a week in Orangeburg here at the Claflin Arts and Letters Annual Bash (CALA-Bash), and Friday’s “Live on the Lawn” festivities delivered yet another warm, sunny mix to celebrate spring. A live remote with 103.9 set up a mid-campus outdoor boom-boom room as if to say ‘ready or not, the ‘Bash is on!’ Food, games, music, and fun for the whole family lured some visitors from South Carolina State University just around the way and others from as far as Delaware.

Percussive island sounds by Plena Libre popped a small but adventurous campus crowd out of the week’s established outdoor DJ soundscape and into a live music experience that begged bodies to move. This dancing campus only wanted a little encouragement: the “Claflin Dolls” took minimal instruction from the band’s front line before incorporating Puerto Rican steps into their own choreography. We missed seeing Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt and the ever-sharp Drexel Ball cutting their usual rug, but adventurous students followed Ar’Darius Kisitu “Mr. Claflin” Stewart, Claflin admissions personality Paula Payton, radio man Harvey Elwood, faculty artist Tabitha Ott and yours truly did our best to complement this fabulous music with some movement.

With leadership from maestro and bassist Gary Nuñez, multiple Grammy nominees Plena Libre smolder onstage with a mixture of percussion, choreographed footwork, rich three-part horn lines, and sophisticated improvisation. Frontmen Victor Velez and Manuel Santana trade the demanding leading role back and forth with ease as they lay complex word play en español over brassy harmonies and interlocking plena and bomba rhythms. Rafi Falu’s work on the highest-pitched drum, requinto, accomplishes with his left hand what most drummers need two hands to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the batería holds down that ubiquitous feature of so much Afro-Caribbean music, an airtight clave and percussion hocket.

The post-lunch crowd heard from a few student performers and Curtis Foskey’s local blues guitar gravitas. Foskey set an ideal tone, pickin’ and grinnin’ as folks shopped the booths, returned to class, or moved on to CALA-Bash weekend barbecues and rehearsals. Thanks to excellent sound support, his soulful voice carried throughout the campus corridor as I strolled over to the Arthur Rose Museum to check out a new CALA-Bash feature, the student art sale. Between these artists, the CALA-Bash vendors, Foskey’s classic aviators, and the usual campus bookstore swag, “Claflin Live on the Lawn” not only sounded good, but kept its look in check, too.

As the fearless leader of the CALA-Bash Committee, Associate Professor of Speech and Drama Annette Grevious deserves serious propers from Orangeburg. She pulled in National Endowment for the Arts funding this year to round out Claflin’s hefty investment in local arts and culture. She has run and delegated logistics on a staggering number of featured events this week. As if that wasn’t enough, her work with colleagues and students across departments culminates with the Claflin University Theater Ensemble (CUTE) production of Jar the Floor. This dinner theater show runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, after which we must say goodbye to CALA-Bash for another year. Here’s hoping the community can be inspired by this week to support all of the cultural opportunities that Arts and Letters bring to Orangeburg the year ’round!

Carter, CALA-Bash, and more!

Readers who have not yet been to enjoy a Claflin Annual Arts and Letters Bash (CALA-Bash) event, check out the schedule of events!

In related news, our local newspaper, the Times and Democrat, picked up this review of last night’s festivities. There’s more to come tonight with Dallas Black Dance Theater at Stevenson Auditorium, 7:30 PM. It’s free, so we hope to you there!


#ResearchDay @ClaflinUniv1869

Three music students gave excellent presentations this past weekend at Claflin’s annual student #ResearchDay. We heard from two of my research assistants about the Orangeburg MUSIC Project. A third student (below, right) gave a fascinating talk on Korean hip-hop. These folks are only in their second year here at Claflin, and they are already writing and presenting quite well. It will be exciting to see where they go from here!

From left: Melonie Bryant (Music/Tisdale Honors College); yours truly (Music Dept.); N’Dia Rogers (Music Dept.). Not pictured: Esther Jones (Music/Tisdale Honors College)