Black History Month at Town Hall

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Today is February 1, which marks the beginning of Black History Month. Black History Month was established in 1976, and what you may not know is that there is a theme every year. The theme is decided by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the 2021 theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” exploring the African diaspora, and the spread of Black families across the United States. We have put together a calendar of programs that support this theme, and we’ll also be taking a look back in our Media Library at past events that are worth revisiting this month.

Upcoming

Conversations on our In The Moment podcast will feature Black authors and poets throughout the month. (As a reminder, these episodes are released at 1 PM on Mondays, and available anytime after that.) Historian Thomas C. Holt (2/1) will be talking with correspondent and local journalist Mike Davis, contending with how the civil rights movement has been misrepresented and misunderstood. The next week, Shin Yu Pai welcomes poet Gary Copeland Lilley (2/8) to the February Lyric World episode for a dialogue about the creative and intellectual influences that have shaped his work. And finally, poet and novelist Véronique Tadjo (2/22) discusses her new book, a timely fable drawing on real accounts of the Ebola outbreak, with correspondent Kevin Kibet.

Most of us grew up with images of African women that were purely anthropological-bright displays of exotica where the deeper personhood seemed tucked away. Or were chronicles of war and “poverty porn.” But curator Catherine E. McKinley (2/10) says these images tell a different story of African women: how deeply cosmopolitan and modern they are in their style, how they were able to reclaim the tools of the colonial oppression that threatened their selfhood and livelihoods. She’ll be in conversation with fellow curator and designer Erika Dalya Massaquoi to discuss her takeaways while collecting images in her new book The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women.

Black contribution to musical history is undeniable. Renowned bass player, five-time Grammy winner, and author Victor L. Wooten (2/13) invites us to stretch our imaginations and our awareness of our interaction with music in a wholly unique presentation that provides a poignant reminder of the healing power—and humanity—in music.

A tiny, fastidiously-dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to become the mentor to a generation of young artists, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence. He coined the term “New Negro” for this generation, a reference to the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness. Have you heard of Alain Locke? Professor Jeffrey Stewart (2/18) brings Locke’s story to the forefront, exploring his legacy and impact in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people with LaNesha DeBardelaben of the Northwest African American Museum for this co-presented program.

Dr. Ronald A Crutcher (2/20), a national leader in higher education and a distinguished classical musician and Professor of Music, joins us to share lessons captured in his memoir I Had No Idea You Were Black: Navigating Race on the Road to Leadership. He relates how he found success as a Black intellectual steering through highly charged social issues, to become President at the University of Richmond.

Have you wondered how educators can help destroy entrenched inequalities and enact values of Black Lives Matter in their classrooms, schools, and communities? Educators and members of the Black Lives Matter at School movement Jesse Hagopian and Denisha Jones (2/24) have gathered essential essays, interviews, poems, resolutions, and more from educators, students, and activists. They join us to lay bare the institutional racism inherent in our educational system, and present a critical call to radically reshape learning environments.

From the Library

1/19/2021: Tyler Stovall with ChrisTiana ObeySumner about the intertwined histories of racism and freedom, specifically using America and France as reference points

12/14/2020: On this episode of In The Moment, sociologist Matthew Clair discussed how race and class matter in criminal court with correspondent Marcus Harrison Green

12/10/2020: The Seattle Human Rights Commission and UW Center for Human Rights hosted a panel about the Black experience in Seattle

12/8/2020: Michael Eric Dyson talked with Robin DiAngelo about reckoning with race on America

11/15/2020: Tamara Payne—along with her mother and brother—talked about the National Book Award-winning biography of Malcolm X, written over decades by her father, which she completed after his unexpected death

11/9/2020: Daudi Abe talked with Geo Quibuyen about the history of hip hop in Seattle

10/21/2020: A panel hosted by Town Hall, Seattle Disabilities Commission, and Seattle LGBTQ+ Commission discussed the unique wisdom of intersectional identities

10/2/2020: On this episode of In The Moment, professor Dr. Eddie Cole was in conversation with correspondent Shaun Scott about the role of campus activism in the fight for social equality

9/22/2020: Mychal Denzel Smith discussed how he believes there are shortcomings in the stories we tell ourselves about our American identity, in conversation with author R. O. Kwon

9/14/2020: This episode of In The Moment featured acclaimed writer Calvin Baker about his book arguing that the only meaningful remedy to our civil rights efforts is true integration, with correspondent Shaun Scott

9/6/2020: The Deep End Friends podcast talked about Black healing, exploring liberation, healing, hope, joy, and wholeness

And more. Visit our Media Library to see past events.


Black history and Black accomplishments have been minimized and erased, and it is wonderful to be take this time to celebrate Black people’s many contributions, to all industries and communities. But most importantly, Black history is American history—this month and every month—and we look forward to continuing to celebrate Black voices year-round.

Fermata Update | Joshua Talks the Latest TM Concert and the End of His Fermata Residency

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Joshua’s residency has technically ended, but Joshua’s not done by a long shot! Here, Joshua thanks all of our Town Music supporters and opens a surprise gift (spoiler: it’s a beautiful poster).

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Fermata Subscriber Exclusive | A Very Personal Performance Of Hallelujah from Joshua Roman

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In this subscriber-only video Joshua performs (both cello and voice) and intimate rendition of Hallelujah.

The Symbiosis Between Town Hall and Bushwick Book Club Seattle

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Community and relationships have never been as important as they are right now. It does seem weird to say since I have not been able to shake someone’s hand in over 9 months, unless you count my new office mate Gus (he’s a dog—he’s not a good assistant, but he is a good boy). Our connections have shifted, and in some cases have become stronger and more apparent.

The importance of community and relationships also makes complete sense as we struggle through this challenging time. When there’s struggle, it’s always important to reach out a hand to offer help and partnership. Supporting the spectrum of arts, civics  and cultural groups of the city will bring this community to a stronger place. And I hope to continue with partnerships like the one between Town Hall Seattle and Bushwick Seattle.

Town Hall Seattle has always been an organization that reaches out. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Town Hall is the importance of strong partnerships in the community. Let the roots grow deep with those who share your vision.

I’ve been working at Town Hall in various capacities for many of the past 15 years. I could never bring myself to fully step away from the Town Hall team that has been so supportive and educational for me and my work with Bushwick. I’m still happy to work and stay connected with the event and office staff while I learn more about production and connection. I look forward to supporting Town Hall again in person when we can all be welcomed back into performance spaces.

Over the 10 years of partnership between Town Hall and Bushwick we have seen music inspired by The Bible, Winnie the Pooh, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Humpty Dumpty, Michael Pollen, Cheryl Strayed, and Shel Silverstein—and that’s just to name a few of the wonderful events we’ve shared together on the Town Hall stages. There have been singer-songwriters, authors, poets, full orchestras, bands, choirs, actors, food and most importantly: community.

In 2010, I remember Town Hall’s Executive Director Wier Harman walking into Bushwick’s very first event down at the Can Can Cabaret, ready to support local art and to provide a future stage. I remember Shirley, Ginny, and Mary excitedly bidding on live auction items in our fundraisers! I remember former Town Hall staffer Anthony Detrano offering our education program, STYLE, our very first Seattle Public School contract. I remember Ashley Toia trusting Bushwick to fill in at the last second for a Saturday Family Concert event.

Since Bushwick’s start back in 2010, Town Hall has treated us like a part of the family. encouraging our work and, more importantly, those who are creating the work. Our artwork is hanging on the office walls. Town Hall staff have become Bushwick performers, and Bushwick performers have become Town Hall staff members. We have multiple Town Hall alum sitting on our Board of Directors as we look into the future.

We are proud to call Town Hall Seattle a partner in bringing music, words and education to the Seattle community, and look forward to many more years ahead.

Fermata Teaser | The Impermanence of Time

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From “Quartet for the End of Time” to pieces written this year in response to the pandemic, and stops in between, four local chamber musicians and Joshua himself consider the feeling of time being stretched or displaced, an occurrence that is all too familiar these days. Join us for an affecting evening of chamber music from phenomenal local musicians that will leave a lasting impact. Watch the teaser below and click here for more info and tickets.

Fermata Update | Joshua is DRIVING to San Francisco!

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Joshua has left Seattle for a trip to San Francisco to take care of some project deadlines. But the Fermata residency continues and Joshua gives a small preview of the final culmination feature event on 12/11.

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Fermata Digital Short | Key of Connection with Aaron Grad

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In this experimental interview, Joshua talks with long-time Town Music collaborator Aaron Grad. They use musical improvisation to deepen connection and inspire openness, and discuss what it means to ‘be present’ and how difficult it is to accept help from others.

Note: This interview was filmed before the current gathering restrictions were in place in WA state.

Use your subscriber password to access! (Email patronservices@townhallseattle.org for support or questions).

Not a subscriber yet? Purchase now for access to this and more exclusive content.

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Fermata | Bear Creek Recording Session Behind the Scenes

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My friend Hayley Young was moved by a piece I wrote recently – one of the more hopeful works from the Musical Journal I was commissioned to create in response to the pandemic. It’s a piece that came to me during a big road trip through the Western United States, and I immediately felt compelled to send this music to people that I thought might need a moment of hope. That’s a little unusual for me; I’m often self-conscious about what I write and hesitant to share. In this instance, though, I felt that the music that I created was something I very much needed to not only write, but to hear – and that others might have that same need.

Hayley immediately called me after listening to it with the idea to bring producer Ryan Hadlock on board, go to his Recording Studio and not only record the piece, but document the process for a special project she’s working on. She brought Alex Crook to run cameras and along with Ryan’s engineer Taylor Carroll we spent three days setting up, recording, and mixing the track, capturing everything on video along the way.

This cross-disciplinary experience is something I can’t wait to share – we had a unique opportunity to learn from each other because of how the project was set up. Like much of the work I’m doing right now, it required a radical shift in expectations: let go of the results-driven process and instead, be present, generous, and ready to work with the resources you have. Of course we knew we would end up with a recording and a video, but along the way we were able to go so much deeper and come out with something special because we didn’t hold ourselves to a predetermined outcome. Our combined skills, perspectives, equipment, and the magic of time and a beautiful space took us to a place of connection you do not often find when control is the focus rather than trust.

We will update you when this film is completed and can be shared. In the meantime, I hope that the idea of being present and aware inspires you to find gratitude and inspiration from that which is already a blessing in your life.

Peace, Love, and Cello
jR

Fermata | Widespread Orchestra Feature Release

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The idea for a Widespread Orchestra began as a poem by Mighty Mike McGee. It begins “Today, I dance knowing / someone somewhere dances with me” and San Jose-based composer Noah Luna was inspired to write a piece where people could come together, despite their physical isolation. He began work on a composition for chorus and cello and partnered with Joshua Roman as part of his Fermata residency, here at Town Hall to produce the project.

In October, dozens of singers sent us their voices (and some even sent videos) to bring to life Noah’s vision, alongside Town Hall’s very own Joshua Roman on the cello.

Watch the final product below!

Maybe There’s A Way to Celebrate with Us After All…

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Hi friends,

On Election Night I wrote to tell you how much we missed you, and missed the chance to share the night’s energy and anticipation with you. I mentioned the power we feel when we’re with people who share our curiosities, our passions, and especially our optimism.

“Optimism” is so often called out as essential to America’s national character. I don’t know if that’s true, but knowing the character of Town Hall for 16 years now I can say that optimism—fundamental to our belief that together we can make the world better for each other—burns hot inside most card-carrying Town Hall-ions, too.

With the last states formally called (if not officially certified) today this election is effectively concluded. And no matter your perspective on the outcome I hope at last you’re getting that sense of closure that allows us to face the future with confidence. I’m going to celebrate with my family tonight—and if you’re in the mood to join me…

A look back through our Media Library will recall some of the extraordinary nights we’ve spent together on the way to this moment: Stacey Abrams and the March for Our Lives, with moving stories of community organization; Amber Tamblyn, on finding political power as you come of age; and World Without Hate, where stories coalesce into a vision of the change we want to see. And from the last three weeks alone–Steve Davis and Chelsea Clinton turn outrage to practical activism; and Jane Fonda/Elizabeth Lesser and Robert Putnam/Shaylin Garrett, issue inspiring calls to overcome self interest in favor of a common interest and heal the country.

After you look back, look forward to tomorrow night’s installment of the Bushwick Book Club, which offers original songs inspired by a book: this time, Eric Liu’s Become America, which collects a number of secular “sermons” from his wonderful Civic Saturdays programs. Many of them are hosted at/with Town Hall. Check out last Saturday’s 11/7 here, and make sure you mark your calendar for next time.

OK, maybe this won’t feel like the laughing, crying, hugging, cheering… But I promise you that in these nights (and too many others to list) you’ll feel the optimism that brought us through to this moment, and the hope that will carry us until we can be together again.

With gratitude and affection,

Wier

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