Spring Returns With Exciting Conservatory Performances, Including World-Renowned Sweet Honey in the Rock

After a cold winter break, the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance is back with more breathtaking performances throughout February, and there is truly something for everyone!

The saxophone studio of Conservatory faculty member Zach Shemon will present two recitals in February, the first on Friday, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m. in White Recital Hall, and another on Sunday, Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. in Grant Recital Hall. These events are free and open to the public, and are a wonderful chance to hear students of all degree levels present works written for the saxophone.

The Conservatory Orchestra returns to the stage on Thursday, Feb. 8, under the direction of Robert Olson. Olson is particularly proud of the recognition the Conservatory Orchestra has garnered under his leadership. The Kansas City Star has reviewed the ensemble as performing on a professional level, describing performances as “stellar” and “electrifying.” In 2014 the orchestra received second prize in the national American Prize competition for university-level orchestras for their performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Chen Yi’s Chinese Myth Cantatas. Tickets: $8; $6 seniors; UMKC faculty, staff and all students FREE with UMKC or student ID.

Following the Conservatory Orchestra, our senior-level dancers will present their choreography in three different recitals — Friday, Feb. 16, Saturday, Feb. 17 and finally on Saturday, Feb. 24. All three recitals take place in White Recital Hall, 7:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

The annual Celebration of Peace Festival, in which our Conservatory Choirs join with several high school choirs in a concert to benefit the Rose Brooks Center, is Saturday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. at the Community of Christ Temple, Independence, Missouri. This is the sixth presentation of this festival, and the donations collected help the Rose Brooks Center break the cycle of domestic violence so that individuals and families can live free of abuse.

Fans of a cappella singing are in for a treat when the Conservatory Artist Series returns on Friday, Feb. 23 with guest artists Sweet Honey in the Rock. Sweet Honey is one of the most vibrant, versatile and relevant musical collectives in music today, as an African American organization founded on empowerment, education and entertainment. The group supports its audience and community through a cappella singing coupled with American Sign Language interpretation for the deaf and hearing impaired. Sweet Honey’s audience and community come from diverse backgrounds and cultures throughout the United States and from around the world, and include people of all ages, economic/educational/social backgrounds, political persuasions, religious affiliations, sexual preferences and abilities.

Sweet Honey in the Rock members Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, Nitanju Bolade Casel and Aisha Kahlil fuse the elastic, 360-degree possibilities of the human voice with a theatrical flair that keeps audiences returning year after year. Kinetic, cultured and connected, this internationally renowned, Grammy Award-nominated, female a cappella vocal quartet has a history of more than four decades of distinguished service. They create positive, loving and socially conscious music that emphasizes spiritual fortification. The group consistently takes an activist stance to make this planet a better place for all. Tickets for this event are $25 general public, and all UMKC faculty, staff and all students $10 with a valid UMKC or student ID. This concert is presented in conjunction with African American History Month, and is partially sponsored by the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

Our lively February at the Conservatory of Music and Dance concludes with the first annual UMKC Oboe Day, Sunday, Feb. 25, from noon to 6 p.m. throughout the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center on UMKC’s Volker Campus. This event is for high school, college and community musicians. Hosted by UMKC Conservatory faculty member Celeste Johnson, with guest oboist John Dee, professor of oboe at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, this exciting day consists of master classes, a reed making clinic, Q&A discussion with our hosts, and a closing recital featuring John Dee in White Recital Hall at 5 p.m. To register, email your name, phone number and school to Celeste Johnson at johnsonfrehnerc@umkc.edu. All events are free and open to the public.

–Jessica Riggins

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