Jazz concert honors MLK, and tribute to Aretha Franklin

Free concert 1/20 offers two performances,
3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Fairchild Theatre.


Michigan State University College of Music’s annual Jazz: Spirituals, Prayer and Protest concert celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be performed twice on Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. in MSU Auditorium’s Fairchild Theatre.

The concert is one of the main events of the university-wide MLK Day celebration themed “Free Speech: Constitutional Right vs. Respectful Discourse” in 2019.

An added bonus for concert-goers is that the performances will also feature a special tribute to Detroit’s very own Aretha Franklin, including memorable tunes from Motown. The program was curated by the newly formed College of Music Color Me Music student organization and will feature the MSU Gospel Choir.

University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of the MSU Jazz Studies Program Rodney Whitaker says he always looks forward to the collaboration and engagement that this event brings with the MSU community.

“I have always believed that it’s essential to embrace the power of diversity as well as celebrate our differences, and this annual concert is a great way to do that,” Whitaker said. “We’ve all been saddened by the loss of the great Aretha Franklin this year as well, so it is important that we take a moment to pause, reflect, and also celebrate her life and what she meant to us musically and socially.”

The concert will feature MSU Jazz Orchestra I conducted by Whitaker with special guest vocalist, Kenny Washington and words from Professors Pamela Bellamy and Jeff Wray.

The MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives organizes the university’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. The 2019 events will be MSU’s 39th Annual Celebration of MLK Day. The celebration of his life and service also includes a student leadership conference, a commemorative March for Justice, an interactive service project, a social justice exhibit and student performance at the MSU Museum, the Social Justice Art Festival, and a program entitled Social Determinants of Health: A Call to Action featuring Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Both performances are free, but tickets are required for admission. Tickets are available over the phone at 517-353-5340 or for pick-up from the College of Music main office located in the Music Building, Room 102 (333 W. Circle Drive, East Lansing) M-F, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Please note the office will be closed between noon and 1 p.m. from Dec. 17 through Jan. 4 and closed full days on Dec. 24, 25 and 31 and Jan. 1. 

For more information and to acquire free tickets please visit the event page

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