A Celebration of the Black Music Tradition Comes to Berklee

By 
Tori Donahue
March 3, 2017
Stokley Williams, Patrice Rushen '05H, and Morris Hayes
Guest artists (from left to right) Stokley Williams, Patrice Rushen '05H, and Morris Hayes

A concert celebrating the tradition of black music and its many contributors will take place at the Berklee Performance Center on Thursday, March 9. Africana Studies Presents: Black Music Matters, part of the Signature Series at Berklee, will feature an array of guests who have influenced today’s pop, R&B, and soul music.

Morris Hayes, the former music director for Prince—who has also worked with Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and George Clinton—will be a guest artist for the event.

Patrice Rushen '05H, a renowned composer, producer, music director, educator, pianist, singer-songwriter, and Ambassador for Artistry in Education at Berklee, will also join the performance as a featured guest. Rushen is the recipient of a 2005 honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee, and most recently spoke at the 2015 Berklee Women’s Empowerment Symposium at Berklee's campus in Valencia, Spain.

R&B icon Stokley Williams, the lead singer and drummer for the group Mint Condition, is also slated to perform at the concert. Williams and Mint Condition received a Best R&B Album Grammy nomination this year for their latest release, Healing Season.

"Given the tremendous loss of major black artists, like Prince, and many others who defined one of the world's great arts treasures, we want to examine, share, celebrate, and create in the spirit of black music traditions," says Liberal Arts Professor Bill Banfield, director of Africana Studies at Berklee. "This concert attempts to draw from the rich black popular music traditions...like Motown, Philly soul, and the Isley Brothers, as well as the song and style movements from the past."

Banfield says the aim is to share great music, ideas, and culture with Berklee students and that the visiting artists, who Banfield notes are "inspiring models of excellence and cultural significance," share in this idea.