African-American Music Residency

November 28, 2022

Award-winning vocalist and speaker Bruce Henry is in the midst of a year-long residency with us exploring the evolution of African-American music. The residency includes several school-based programs, our March Youth Concerts and our April 29th performance at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. To kick off the residency this fall, Bruce spent two separate weeks working with students at Central Middle school on a series of music and art projects.

Bruce visited Central Middle School for two full school days on September 29th and 30th, delivering his presentation to nearly every student in the student body in the school's media center. His presentation was mix of multimedia, performance, and student participation with a primary focus on the early roots of African-American music. This visit had two primary purposes: to introduce students to Bruce prior to November's residency and to recruit students that might be interested in performing with different skills. Recruited students did not need to be enrolled in music. Bruce presented naturally in front of students and got a lot of student response. Ryan Occena, Central's choir director, then coached those students in the time leading up to the November residency.

Bruce returned to Central Middle School for the entire school week of November 7th, including an "informance" for the school community on that Friday evening at 7pm. Bruce worked with 17 different student groups throughout the week, from grade level choirs to spoken word poetry and rap, military drumming, African drumming, break dancing, double-dutch, individual solo singing performances, narration, piano, and other small student acts. Over 150 students were involved in the final program, which included nearly all of the groups Bruce worked with throughout the week. Student artwork was also featured, depicting famous black artists from history. The final performance was held in the school's cafeteria, which was modified with stage lighting and sound equipment. The program, coordinated between Bruce and Ryan Occena, traced the origins of African-American music from its roots to the present using multimedia and student/Bruce's performance. Over thirty other school staff and community members were involved behind-the-scenes to put this program together.

We are thrilled to be collaborating with Central and are eager to welcome Bruce back in the spring for more inspiring work in the community!



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