Ithaca College School of Music Celebrates Diversity of Music

By Willa Hahn, September 22, 2016

Celebrating the Diversity of Music

The Ithaca College School of Music will celebrate diversity in the music world with a slate of events, including a performance of the opera “Porgy and Bess,” a World Music Festival and a series of discussions forums.

“Porgy and Bess” will be performed by Opera Noire of New York, a performing arts company as well as a resource and network for African-American artists. It will be joined by School of Music vocal students and alumni, the IC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Hall, the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers and the Southside Community and Community School of Arts Children Chorus.

The performance will be on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 4 p.m. in Ford Hall in the Whalen Center for Music. Tickets are $10 and are available online at

Since its premiere in 1935, George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” has sparked conversations about race, culture and the struggle for equality in the U.S. While some view the opera’s central message as one of “triumph of the human spirit,” others view it as a work that perpetuates negative stereotypes of African Americans. To address these issues, the performance will be preceded by a panel discussion. Panelists will include historian Ellen Noonan, author of “The Strange Career of Porgy and Bess: Race, Culture, and America’s Most Famous Opera”; former School of Music student and founder of IC Color Namarah McCall; Assistant Professor of Education Nia Makepeace; and Kenneth Overton, co-founder of Opera Noire. The panel will be moderated by Sara Haefeli, assistant professor of music theory, history and composition. The panel will be held in the Whalen Center’s Hockett Family Recital Hall on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Co-sponsored by the School of Music and Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, the World Music Festival on Sunday, Oct. 23, will feature music of cultures from around the world, including Caribbean steel band music, Japanese Taiko drumming, Hindustani music, Native American music, African dance and drumming, American original and traditional bluegrass music, and Brazilian and Argentinian music.

“Between Ithaca College, Cornell University and the Ithaca community, there is a lot of great world music being represented,” said Gordon Stout, professor of percussion and the organizer of the festival. “Why not feature it on one day in one place, that being Ithaca College?”

Several local artists will perform, such as the New Roots Charter School Steel Band, the Yamatai Taiko Ensemble from Cornell University and students from the African dance and drumming class at Ithaca College.

There will also be performances by special guests, including Ithaca College alumnus Valerie Naranjo ’82, a member of the house band for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” who is known for her pioneering efforts in West African keyboard percussion music; and The Howlin’ Brothers, a Nashville-based country blues/string band whose members are also IC grads.

Taking place in several venues within the Whalen Center, the festival begins at 11 a.m.  and will conclude with a concert at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

The School of Music will also hold a series of Ithaca Music Forums to give public voice to innovative music scholarship. The forums are free and open to the public and will be held in the McHenry Lounge of the Whalen Center:

The Rhythmic Imagination in African Music, with Princeton University Music Professor Kofi Agawu, on Sept. 23 at 5 p.m.

Balance and Swing: Relationships in Music and Contradance Choreography, with Ithaca College Assistant Professor of Music Theory, History and Composition Crystal Peebles, on Oct. 18 at 5 p.m.

Beyonce: Nicki, Missy and Rihanna’s Responses to Post-Feminism, with University of North Carolina-Charlotte Philosophy Professor Robin James, on Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.

For more information, contact Melissa Gattine at or (607)274-1023.