M.L.K. 2009: A Legacy of Hope

The Juilliard community assembled in Paul Recital Hall—as it does each year—to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a student-produced performance on January 19 that examined Dr. King's legacy through an honest look at past struggles, promising realities, and the wide-open plain of the future. This year's celebration, titled A Legacy of Hope, took place in uncanny juxtaposition with the following day's inauguration of President Barack Obama—a hard-earned and timely illustration of Dr. King's dream.

Directed by Juilliard alumna Rosemary K. Andress, the performance proved to be a stunning display of students' talents crossing disciplinary boundaries. Drama majors moved, dance majors sang, jazz majors directed choirs and spoke eloquently.

Launching the evening on a solemn and sacred note, pianist Kris Bowers played "We Shall Overcome" as images of war, violence, and intolerance were projected onto a large screen. Jehbreal Muhammad entered and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the piano and photo montage continued. An upbeat dialogue between spoken word and tap dance followed as Grantham Coleman and Zach Villa used their respective mediums to examine the ideals, dreams, and progress of both the audience and themselves.

Musical performances included those of soprano Faylotte Crayton singing Sancta Maria with a string quartet, a work by composition student Simon Frisch based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. Violinist Robin Quinnett collaborated with Frisch as pianist in Mother and Child, by African-American composer William Grant Still. At various points in the evening, a dramatic ensemble spoke excerpts from speeches of Dr. King, Abraham Lincoln, Michelle Obama, and Barack Obama, moving interpretively in unison.

Other highlights included a jazz ensemble's playful rendition of "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and two dance works choreographed by LeBaron McClary and Hassan Ingraham. Both pieces of choreography demonstrated the patience, pain, and optimism of Dr. King's struggle for civil rights and how it has played out in our own lives.

Jazz trombonist Melissa Jean candidly spoke about her deeply personal experiences with affirmative action, immigration, racial profiling, and interracial relationships. Drawing from what she has encountered as a white woman married to a black Haitian immigrant, she provided unique insight into another aspect of Dr. King's dream.

Ending on an emotional note, the entire cast sang "I Know Where I've Been," featuring a powerful vocal solo by drama student Stacey Scott, signaling that Dr. King's legacy has not been forgotten, but that the dream has been built upon and revived.

Courtney Blackwell, Director of Career Services