Berklee Honors Scholar and Artist Bernice Johnson Reagon April 3

By
Mitzi Dorbu
March 18, 2009
Bernice Johnson Reagon

Berklee’s Liberal Arts department holds its 15th Annual Liberal Arts Symposium Friday, April 3, at the David Friend Recital Hall, 921 Boylston Street. This event emphasizes the Liberal Arts Department's focus on helping students put music into a larger social context and exploring the many ways that music shapes and is shaped by the world around it. As the featured guest speaker, scholar, and artist Bernice Johnson Reagon will speak on Music and Society: The Cultural Autobiography of a Freedom Singer before being presented with an honorary doctorate of music from the college. In doing so, she sews her own personal thread through the dialogue started by the pioneering the Africana Studies Music and Society Initiative and other liberal arts courses on campus.
 
Space for the symposium is limited. All interested must RSVP to Lena Serpa at mserpa@berklee.edu or 617-747-2552 to attend.  

A tribute in song will follow Reagon’s presentation. Student singers directed by Renese King, who has made various live and recorded national appearances with the Boston Pops, and student musicians directed by renowned jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, will perform some of Reagon's music. The performance will also feature an original song "Jubilee Hall," written by associate professor Mark Simos and alumna Keppie Coutts, inspired by the Fiske Jubilee Chorale Singers from Reagon’s account of them in "If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me." 

The recipient of the 2003 Heinz Award of the Arts and Humanities for her work as a scholar and artist in the African American cultural history and music, Reagon serves as a curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.  Given Reagon's role as a social activist, founder of the internationally renowned a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, and a scholar/artist in African American cultural history and music, she embodies this year's interdisciplinary theme. Reagon ties together music history, artistry, and cultural studies and exemplifies the role of music in shaping and influencing social change.
 
Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music was through the study and practice of contemporary music, be it hip-hop, rock, jazz, country, gospel, electronica, Latin, or funk. For over 60 years, the college has evolved constantly to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. With over a dozen performance and nonperformance majors, a diverse and talented student body representing over 70 countries, and a music industry “who’s who” of alumni, Berklee is the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today—and tomorrow.