Penn State’s School of Music hosted the 2024 African American Music Festival’s Common Hour Recital

Instruments sounded and voices sang out, as Penn State’s School of Music hosted the African American Music Festival: Common Hour Recital Friday at Recital Hall.

According to the program given to guests, the 2024 African American Music Festival is a celebration of African American Culture through the lens of music and history with performances by Penn State School of Music students, faculty and alumni.

Anthony T. Leach, director and founder of Essence of Joy, was greeted with applause from the audience as he walked on stage.

“We did our very first Black History Month concert in February 1995,” Leach said. “In 1997, we did our first symposium.”

According to Leach, the series of performances was formerly called Celebration of African American Spirituals. In 2009, Leach changed the name of the series to African American Music Festival to be “more inclusive of instrumental music.”

The performance kicked off with the Graduate Brass Quintet, which consisted of instrumentals from the horn, trombone, tuba and trumpets.

Antwan Hill, Hayden Cameron, Ashley Godwin, Andrew Zall and Jaden Adkins joined together to perform Kevin Day’s “Fantasia III.”

The audience applauded as they wrapped up their performance, took a bow and headed off stage.

Amy Feaster described the African American Music Festival as “really cool.”

“I think that they have a large variety of instruments and music,” Feaster, a first-year studying music, said. “The representation is great.”

Next to perform was Torra Bridges on violin accompanied by Seulki Yoo on the piano.

Yoo began the performance of Jessie Mongomery’s “Peace” and Bridges joined her on the violin seconds later.

Three students of Delaware Valley High School attended a Musical Theater Workshop earlier in the day and decided to make their way to the Common Hour Recital.

Josephine Perez found the performances to be “really powerful.”

“You don’t really get to see a lot of different styles of music,” Perez, a senior at Delaware Valley High School, said. ‘It was really nice to hear that variety.”

Ryder Haines, Eunice Sun and Caden Werner continued the performance with their percussion ensemble of Halo by Joe W. Moore III.

The recital concluded with the Penn State Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble. Conductor Velvet Brown led the students through Kevin Day’s Ignition.

“There was a lot of really great variety of ensembles, people performing and the composers,” Feaster said. “It was just all great music.”

Leach said that the significance of expanding the music festival to three days allowed the music to be “discussed and experienced.”

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