BSO Presents Family Concert Series Program Musical Roots: From Africa to America, March 2nd

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Baltimore Symphony celebrates Black History Month with an exploration of Africa’s musical influence on jazz, blues and more


The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) invites families to uncover the African origins of jazz, blues and beyond on Saturday, March 2 at 11 a.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Musical Roots: From Africa to America, led by Maestro Damon Gupton, will bring new life to jazz, blues and ragtime standards through exciting performances by Baltimore-based beatboxer Shodekeh, pianist Eric Conway, Baltimore City College Choir, tapmaster Karen Callaway Williams and OrchKids. Children age five and up are welcome to attend. Please see below for complete program details.

Jazz, blues and ragtime trace their origins to the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. These three genres are particularly interesting because of their blend of African, European and American musical styles. While these genres are a singularly American creation, often coming out of New Orleans, or the “the melting pot of sound,” to the BSO will trace the African drumbeats, hymns, spirituals and work songs that form the basis for these styles.

The program will feature pieces from jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Baltimore’s own Eubie Blake, Scott Joplin—the “King of Ragtime”—and more.

Baltimore-based and acclaimed beat boxer Shodekeh will perform Steve Reich’s Clapping Music and “Fujiko’s Fairy Tale.” Reich is an American composer known as a minimalist and has said to “create a piece of music that needed no instruments beyond the human body,” which is perfectly suited for the talented Shodekeh, whose “instrument travels in his soul.” Beatboxing itself draws from African click language and American scat singing, yet another way that today’s most popular musical styles have journeyed from Africa to America.

Damon Gupton, conductor
A native of Detroit, Michigan, Damon Gupton has made conducting appearances with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Princeton Symphony, the Toledo Symphony, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the NHK Orchestra of Tokyo, the Orquesta Filarmonica de UNAM, the New York University Orchestras and the SPHINX Symphony. Gupton received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Michigan, and studied conducting with David Zinman, Murry Sidlin and Leonard Slatkin. He served as American Conducting Fellow of the Houston Symphony for the 2004-2005 season, and held the post of Assistant Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony from 2006-2008.

An accomplished actor, Gupton has performed many roles in television, film, and on stage. His Broadway performances include the Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Clybourne Park, Superior Donuts at The Geffen and Christina Anderson’s Inked Baby at Playwrights Horizons. His television credits include Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, Prime Suspect on NBC, Law and Order, Law and Order Criminal Intent, Conviction, The Unusuals, and Third Watch. He was named a Presidential Professor by the University of Michigan in January 2009.

Shodekeh, beatboxer
"You expect a beatboxer to be able to rock the microphone when backing an MC. You don't expect that same human polyrhythm machine to accent female singer/songwriters with such deft subtlety. Or to match wits with jazz musicians. Or to solo provide the music for university dance classes. Or to be the poster boy for the city's most adventurous experimental music festival. But that's exactly what local beatboxer Shodekeh does. From hip-hop to dance to being thrown into the music without a net high-wire act of High Zero 2007, Shodekeh not only takes it all in stride but adds a palpable energetic surge to just about any musical idea." -Bret McCabe.

Eric Conway, piano
Eric Conway has appeared in this country and abroad as a soloist and chamber musician. During a tour of Eastern Africa sponsored by the United States Information Agency, one of his solo recitals was broadcast on Madagascan television and radio. He has also toured Asia as the orchestral pianist of the Baltimore Symphony. In addition, Dr. Conway has appeared as a featured soloist with the BSO, as well as with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra, the Hopkins Symphony, the Baltimore Concert Artists, the Prince Georges Philharmonic, and the Millbrook Orchestra in West Virginia. Dr. Conway holds a doctorate from the Peabody Conservatory, where he was a recipient of the prestigious Liberace Scholarship, as well as a winner of the Yale Gordon Concerto Competition. An active educator, he is currently the chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Morgan State University where he is also the director of the acclaimed Morgan State University Choir.

Baltimore City College Choir
For the 173 years that Baltimore City College has stood as the “Castle on the Hill,” a legacy of musical excellence has been maintained. Initiated years ago with the triumphant voices of the male glee club, the legacy of singing has continued with the development of an elaborate SATB choral program that has garnered a reputation as one of the finest high school ensembles in the region.

The City College choral program consists of students in grades 9 through 12 who perform music from the classics of Handel and Praetorius, to the spirituals and works of Dawson, Hogan, Ellington and Smallwood. They have delighted audiences on television, radio, and stages in the Baltimore Metropolitan area and throughout the United States.

City’s choir is privileged to have shared the stage with Marin Alsop, Damon Gupton, and The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Yo-Yo Ma and The Baltimore Choral Arts Society. They have been honored to perform at Baltimore’s Christmas Monument Lighting, Christmas in Washington Celebration, at a number of U.S. Presidential Inaugural Balls and Ceremonies, and two impressionable performances at the White House.

Other prestigious performances include the Eastern Division ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) Regional Conference; MMEA (Maryland Music Educators Association); the ACDA Voices United Summer Conference, as a demonstration group for the late Moses Hogan and The National High School Choral Festival at Carnegie Hall with Dr. Craig Jessop.

Supported by generous support of sponsors and foundations, they have performed abroad in Italy, France and Spain and will perform in Italy again in June 2013.

The choir is under the direction of Linda R. Hall.

Karen Callaway Williams, tapmaster
Tap Dancer Karen Callaway Williams is the Producer of Rhythms for Ruby and author of Gabriella’s Tap Shoes and Rhythms for Ruby (in print and audio book), and was the first African-American female tap dancer and dance captain in Riverdance - The Show and Riverdance - On Broadway. She was also on Broadway in Play On. She is featured on the cover of Flow Magazine and as a Second Generation Silver Belle in the documentary Been Rich All My Life: the Story of the Silver Belles.

Karen has performed in 31 states, 14 countries, six Provinces of Canada and two Emirates.

Dance Magazine heralded her as “a graceful dream with taps as happy as a song” and The New York Times called her “a gifted traditionalist with laughing eyes.” A featured solo artist with the Detroit, Toronto, Indianapolis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, she was also soloist and special guest choreographer for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

In addition to performing, Ms. Williams has established herself as a prominent tap instructor teaching statewide on a weekly basis. Look for the upcoming release of her third children's book “Gabriella and the Tap Dance Floor. All books are available on

Family Series Concert: Musical Roots: From Africa to America
Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 11 a.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Damon Gupton, conductor
Shodekeh, beatboxer/presenter
Eric Conway, piano
Baltimore City College Choir
Karen Callaway Williams, tapmaster

Samuel Coleridge Taylor: Selection from Danse Negre
Steve Reich: Clapping Music
Claudio Ordaz: Fujiko’s Fairy Tale
Unknown: Deep River
Scott Joplin (arr. TJ Anderson): Treemonisha: Slow Drag
Eubie Blake (arr. Schuller): Charleston
George Gershwin: Selections from Rhapsody in Blue
Duke Ellington: Giggling Rapids

Tickets are $12‐$20 and are available through the BSO Box Office at 410.783.8000 and online at


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Alyssa Porambo
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
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