Arts and Culture

JMU salutes an American icon


 
image: /_images/news/2016/12/maya-angelou-tribute-234153-1009.jpg

SUMMARY: JMU honored the legacy of Maya Angelou in a performance that featured more than 40 performers who read her poetry and excerpts from her memoirs, played and sang music, and performed step, tap, and modern dance.


From Winter 2017 Madison magazine

By Karen Risch-Mott

When reciting poems and telling stories, Maya Angelou (1928–2014) often punctuated them with song, giving equal measure to favorite spirituals, hymn tunes, and bluesy ballads. Her written words, already accessible because of their everyday language and simple style, took on a deeper, more personal resonance when accompanied by her rich contralto voice.

Angelou, not only a singer and writer but also a dancer and civil rights activist, received more than 30 honorary degrees, won a Grammy, and was nominated for a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. On Sept. 29, 2016, JMU honored the legacy of this remarkable woman in a performance of "Throw Your Head Back & Sing: A Tribute to Maya Angelou," which featured more than 40 performers who read her poetry and excerpts from her memoirs, played and sang music, and performed step, tap, and modern dance.

After the show received a standing ovation, JMU President Jonathan Alger offered remarks, observing that a light like Angelou's can shine beyond a lifetime. Hers was a voice of truth, beauty, justice, and hope, he said, and "at a time of trouble and uncertainty in the nation and around the globe, her message encourages and inspires the better angels of our nature."

Joanne Gabbin, director, Furious Flower Poetry Center
"We gave [the audience] Maya's presence, her spirit, for one memorable evening," said Joanne Gabbin, executive director, Furious Flower Poetry Center

The program, presented by the Furious Flower Poetry Center in collaboration with the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. "We couldn't capture her incredibly full life in just 90 minutes," emphasizes Dr. Joanne Gabbin, executive director of Furious Flower. "But we did give people an experience of who she was—we gave them Maya's presence, her spirit, for one memorable evening."

Published: Friday, January 6, 2017

Last Updated: Friday, January 6, 2017

Back to Top

    Related Articles

  • 17-gus-bus-white-house-ceremony.jpg The Gus Bus stops at the White House

    JMU's longstanding mobile literacy program wins a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

  • Semester in Scotland with map Fostering a liberal arts education abroad

    A summer program in Scotland allows JMU sophomores to complete a significant number of their General Education requirements amid the rich beauty and culture of the land.

  • rankin-hartinger-234189-01935.jpg Look deeper, think better

    Want to master critical reasoning skills? JMU English professor Mark Rankin says studying the humanities is a great place to start.


Read More