For former musicians, playing at the UofSC festival is coming home – UofSC news & events

Mahogany Music Festival presents singer Vanessa Williams and a special concert on September 11



Back to basics. A chance to share their passion for music with other alumni of their alma mater. The opportunity to be on stage with other black artists. And the anticipation of connecting the community through a 9/11 anniversary performance

These are the reasons why University of South Carolina alumni Albert Carter and Jessica Robinson-Stinson are excited to perform at the Mahogany Music Festival, presented by the School of Music and the Auntie Karen Foundation. . They are among five former musicians participating in the three-day event, September 9-11, which also features the Color of Music Festival Orchestra and the Auntie Karen Foundation’s Legends of … concert with Vanessa Williams and the Auntie Karen All-Star group.

“For musicians, it’s so positive and positive. We’re used to being in environments where there aren’t a lot of people like us. A lot of times we can be the only black person or part of a very small group in an ensemble, ”says Robinson-Stinson, violinist with the Atlanta Opera Orchestra. “It is also a very powerful statement for young musicians to see an orchestra with not only one, two or three people who are like them, but an entire orchestra – each instrument represented and even the conductor.”

Since 2013, the Color of Music festival has brought together classically trained black musicians to present classical composers and performers of African origin. The mission of the Auntie Karen Foundation is to empower, enlighten and educate through the arts.

“The partnership with the Color of Music Festival supports the university’s commitment to diversity by offering students and classical music fans the opportunity to discover new voices and perspectives featuring successful black artists in settings traditional classics, ”said Dean Tayloe Harding.

In addition to the three days of diverse classical performances at the Mahogany Music Festival, Color of Music artists will be in residence at UofSC and present masterclasses for students.

“Working with these alumni in master classes and seeing them in rehearsals and other settings throughout the residency will allow our students to see what it means to achieve the musical goals they have set for themselves. Says Harding.

Robinson-Stinson and Carter have performed with Color of Music before. Carter, a bassoonist who now lives in Cincinnati, sees performances such as the Mahogany Music Festival – two of whose concerts are free – as an opportunity to introduce black musicians and songwriters to the community.

“To improve diversity in classical music, we need to provide exposure and access from an early age and highlight the impact of musicians and composers of color,” says Carter.

The making of a musician

Carter and Robinson-Stinson both developed an interest in music at a young age. Robinson-Stinson started violin lessons at age 3 and says his experience is a testament to the power of performance.

“My first violin teacher was a black woman,” says Robinson-Stinson. “I studied with her until I was 8 years old. She was my first and only black teacher, but because of that I didn’t realize being a black violinist was anything unusual until I was in high school and started noticing that often I was the only black person in the violin section.

In his early teens, Robinson-Stinson says something clicked after attending a summer music camp. She looked for more opportunities, and when she started high school, she knew she would apply for music programs in college. After initially planning to study at another university, she chose to attend UofSC. Robinson-Stinson received his bachelor’s degree in violin performance from UofSC, followed by his master’s degree from Rice University.

“I was so impressed with the support system and the structure built into the music program,” she says. “I was really encouraged to take as many opportunities as possible to perform, and when I left I had so many tools to take with me.”

The UofSC is also special for Robinson-Stinson because that’s where she met her husband. McKinley Stinson studied percussion at the School of Music and is now a conductor at Booth Middle School in Peachtree City, Georgia.

Carter, who grew up in West Columbia, South Carolina, began playing the bassoon in college. He says his first choice of instrument was saxophone or trumpet, but after performing well on a group aptitude test, the teacher approached him to play the bassoon.

“He said it was a complicated instrument, but he thought I could do it based on my test performance,” Carter says. “I actually didn’t like the bassoon at first; it is a difficult instrument to grasp.

That changed in eighth grade when Carter attended a day camp at UofSC for students who play double reed instruments. At the camp, the teachers presented a small bassoon and oboe recital.

“I thought they sounded absolutely gorgeous,” Carter says. “I realized that the bassoon could be a beautiful, creative and unique instrument and I wanted to explore that more. ”

He developed an interest in classical music, and in high school he made the decision to pursue music as a career path. Attending the UofSC was almost a given.

“I had a lot of friends who were already playing it. I had been there several times for different camps, so it was an easy transition for me, ”says Carter, who received her MA from the University of Cincinnati after graduating from the South Carolina School of Music. .

Remember September 11

Music isn’t just a calling for Robinson-Stinson and Carter, they describe it as a connector – a way to bring people together – and for that reason both say they look forward to a Saturday concert that honors the 20e anniversary of September 11, citing the beautiful and powerful music of the program

“From poignant piano entries to heartbreaking tunes, the program was designed to move audiences through a touching and moving time when every aspect of our lives suddenly changed,” said Lee Pringle, Founder and Artistic Director of Color of Music Festival.

Robinson-Stinson says one of the things she learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is the power of music to bring people together and talk about pain and tragedy in a way that is sometimes hard to express with words. She hopes the September 11 concert will help bring some healing and reflection to the musicians and the audience.

Carter, too, says that reflection is important to remind us that 9/11 was one of those rare days when we all felt like one despite the issues and problems we might have faced individually and as a country. .

“It’s important to reflect on the tragedies that have happened in the past, come out of them and learn to rely on each other to get through difficult times,” Carter said. “I think that is going to be reflected very well in the music that we will be playing that day.”

Mahogany Music Festival

  • In addition to Carter and Stinson, these UofSC alumni will also perform at the festival: cellist Idris Chandler, flutist James Miller and string player and composer Nicole Neely.
  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 9
    Color of Music Festival Octet and UofSC alumni will present a special presentation of Mendelssohn’s Octet and chamber works by Joseph Haydn, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and William Grant Still. UofSC School of Music Recital Hall; free, no ticket required.
  • 8 p.m. Friday September 10
    Auntie Karen Foundation Legends of… concert with international performer Vanessa Williams and the festival orchestra led by Boston conductor Julius P. Williams. Also starring the Auntie Karen All-Star group. Koger Arts Center, tickets $ 55 to $ 75.
  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday September 11
    The Color of Music Orchestra will perform a concert conducted by Julius P. Williams featuring music that honors the 20e anniversary of September 11. Recital hall of the School of Music. The show is free, but tickets are required and can be picked up at the Koger Center box office, 806 Park St., or call 803-251-2222 to reserve an all-you-can-eat ticket. This concert will also be broadcast live on YouTube.
  • Complete festival program.

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Subjects: Alumni, Faculty, Diversity, School of Music

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