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The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance Brings Its 2021–2022 Season to a Climactic Close with Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Juneteenth Celebration

DAYTON, OH (June 1, 2022) – On Friday, June 17, 2022, and Saturday, June 18, 2022, at 8:00 pm in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, under the leadership of Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman, will present Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Juneteenth Celebration, the fourth and final SuperPops concert in the 2021–2022 season of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. With this concert, the DPAA officially brings to a close its 2021–2022 season at the Schuster Center.

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates the sesquicentennial anniversary (150 years) of the birth of Paul Laurence Dunbar, acclaimed African-American poet born in Dayton, OH, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky prior to the Civil War. Classical meets gospel as the DPO performs a beautiful program of music honoring America’s long march towards a more perfect union.

Dr. Minnita Daniel-Cox takes the stage to lend her voice to this concert honoring Paul Laurence Dunbar and Juneteenth. Dr. Daniel-Cox is currently Associate Professor of Voice and Coordinator of the Voice Area at the University of Dayton, where she teaches applied lessons and music courses, serves as Artistic Director of the yearly musical and opera productions, coordinates the Dayton Opera Apprentice Program, and coordinates the Vocal Performance Institute, a summer program for high school-aged singers.

In 2014, Dr. Daniel-Cox established the Dunbar Music Archive, after extensive research regarding the musical settings of texts by poet and Dayton native Paul Laurence Dunbar. She has presented her archival research for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), the National Opera Association (NOA), College Music Society, Society for American Music, National Association for Music Education, International Society for Music Education, Song Collaborators Consortia, Ohio Music Education Association, and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives. She has performed Dunbar Archive repertoire recitals in venues across the United States, and she has received two National Endowment for the Humanities grants to plan and implement interdisciplinary curriculum based on Dunbar’s work and legacy.

The Dayton Philharmonic also welcomes professor, poet, editor, and performer Dr. Herbert Woodward Martin to the stage to deliver several of Dunbar’s works. Martin, born in 1933, served as professor of English and poet-in-residence at the University of Dayton for more than three decades, where he taught creative writing and African-American literature. In his earlier academic years, Dr. Martin began his studies at the University of Toledo, continued at SUNY at Buffalo, then at Middlebury College, and finished at Carnegie Mellon University. He came to the University of Dayton in the fall of 1970, where he has spent the bulk of his career with two exceptions. In 1973, he served as a distinguished visiting professor at Central Michigan University, and in 1990, he was as a Fulbright Scholar in Hungary.

Dr. Martin is the editor of four books as well as the author of nine volumes of poetry. He has devoted decades to editing and giving performances of the works of the poet and novelist Paul Laurence Dunbar.

This concert honoring Paul Laurence Dunbar and celebrating Juneteenth opens with the powerful hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” The DPO then performs the magnificently rousing “American Salute” by Morton Gould. The tempo shifts to Charles Ives’s The “St. Gaudens” in Boston Common, the first movement of his Three Places in New England, which honors the famous 54th Massachusetts infantry, the first African-American regiment to fight in the Civil War. This poignant piece is Ives’ musical impression of the soldiers marching to their doom at Ft. Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina.

The DPO then plays William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony, “Humor,” as Martin takes the stage for the first time to perform Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, “An Ante-Bellum Sermon,” which conjures a liberation sermon delivered by a Black preacher slave prior to the Civil War. Dr. Daniel-Cox takes the stage to sing an aria from Adolphus Hailstork’s opera Common Ground, which was commissioned by Dayton Opera in 1994, setting poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar and other texts by Dr. Herbert Martin to music. Then, Dr. Martin takes center stage again as narrator for Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, a work that marries Copland’s uncanny ability to capture Americana in music with excerpts from important speeches delivered by Abraham Lincoln.

The mood lightens a bit with lively ragtime rhythms as the DPO performs selections from Will Marion Cook’s In Dahomey, the landmark 1903 African-American musical comedy with song lyrics by Dunbar. Then, Dr. Martin returns to recite Dunbar’s poem, “Sympathy,” performed as a preamble to George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings.”

The evening continues when classical meets gospel with several uplifting and spiritual hymns, including “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “Here’s One,” “Ride On, King Jesus,” “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” “Anthem of Praise,” and “And He Blessed My Soul.” The concert concludes with a joyous and moving arrangement of Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise,” followed by a combined setting of Louise Shropshire’s gospel hymn “If My Jesus Wills” and the civil rights song it inspired, “We Shall Overcome.”

Safety Protocols
The DPAA is excited to welcome audiences back to the 2021–2022 Season. The health and safety of patrons, performers, staff, and volunteers is our top priority. Beginning March 5, 2022, in partnership with DPAA’s venue partner Dayton Live and in accordance with the CDC’s new guidelines, the following new health and safety protocols will be in place at all performances and events:

  • Vaccination and Testing – Proof of vaccination or COVID-19 testing will no longer be required to attend performances at Dayton Live venues, including the Schuster Center and the Victoria Theatre.
  • Masks – Masks will no longer be required while attending a DPAA performance or event. The DPAA welcomes patrons to wear masks at any performance if they so choose.

Tickets for Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Juneteenth Celebration begin at $5 and are available through the box office at (937) 228-3630 or online at www.daytonperformingarts.org. Senior, teacher and student discounts are available. For more information or to order subscriptions, including flexible subscription types that include performances by Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Opera and Dayton Ballet, visit www.daytonperformingarts.org.


About the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA) was formed in July 2012 as the result of a groundbreaking and innovative merger between the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Together, they are the largest performing arts organization in the greater Dayton community, with a mission to be the community’s indispensable source for traditional, diverse and innovative experiences in ballet, opera, and orchestral music. The vision of the DPAA is to transform lives through the power of music and dance. The DPAA offers a wide variety of performance and education programs, setting a new standard for artistic excellence. DPAA performances reach an audience of more than 90,000 people annually, and their rich arts education programming serves over 60,000 schoolchildren in 150 schools in the Miami Valley. These performances and education initiatives are made possible in part through major support provided by the Ohio Arts Council, Culture Works, the City of Dayton, Montgomery County and the National Endowment for the Arts.