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2017 Festival

The Penn State African American Music Festival celebrates the music of African Americans and African American composers. Typically occurring in February (Black History Month), it includes performances by Penn State faculty and students as well as guest artists. The festival concludes with a concert on Saturday afternoon featuring Penn State's Essence of Joy.all in logo

Now in its 22nd year, the 2017 festival will feature guest artist Rollo Dilworth (Temple University). The festival is coordinated by Anthony Leach.

Note: This event is part of the 2016-17 initiative titled “All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.”


Thursday, February 9, 12:10 p.m., Bach's Lunch in Eisenhower Chapel - see program

Thursday, February 9, 5:30 p.m., Esber Recital Hall - see program

Friday, February 10, 2:30 p.m., Common Hour in Esber Recital Hall - see program

Friday, February 10, 5:30 p.m., "Meet the Composer" in Esber Recital Hall - see program

Saturday, February 11, 1:00 p.m., Essence of Joy, Worship Hall of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center - see program

rollo dilworthRollo Dilworth serves as chair of music education and music therapy at Temple University. He holds degrees from Case Western Reserve University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Northwestern University.

More than 150 of Rollo Dilworth's choral compositions and arrangements have been published—many of which are a part of the Henry Leck Creating Artistry Choral Series with Hal Leonard Corporation. Additional publications can be found in the catalogs of Santa Barbara Music Publishing and Colla Voce Music, Inc. Dilworth is a contributing author for the Essential Elements for Choir and the Experiencing Choral Music textbook series, both published by the Hal Leonard Corporation/Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Publications, and for Music Express! Magazine.  He has authored three books of choral warm up exercises intended for elementary and secondary choral ensembles, entitled Choir Builders: Fundamental Vocal Techniques for General and Classroom Use (2006); Choir Builders for Growing Voices (2009); and Choir Builders for Growing Voices 2 (2014).

A frequent presenter at local, state, regional and national conferences, Dilworth has conducted 43 all-state choirs at various levels (elementary, middle school, high school), and has conducted 6 regional honor choirs and 4 national honor choirs (ADCA, OAKE and NafME). He has most recently appeared as guest conductor for international choral festivals and master classes in Australia, Canada, Taiwan, Ireland, and China. For the 2015-2016 season, Dilworth was invited to conduct all-state choirs in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Arizona and Massachusetts. He has also conducted honor choirs for the Central and Southwest regions of the American Choral Directors Association. International festival and clinic invitations include Canada, Singapore, Austria and France.

Dilworth is currently national board chair for Chorus America. He is an active life member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). He also holds memberships with several other organizations, including the National Association for Music Education (NafME), the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).                        

In February, 1995, Essence of Joy presented the first concert titled  “Celebration of African American Spirituals.” Since that time, the event has developed into a collaborative venture in the School of Music. High school and guest collegiate choirs/bands, as well as professional performing artists, have also participated since 2003.

In 1997, Anthony Leach coordinated the first Symposium on the African American Spiritual, involving guest artists, lectures, and choral performances. In 2000, Leach initiated conversations with several African American choral colleagues regarding a commissioning project. In 2003, the annual Celebration of African American Spirituals Concert featured commissioned choral compositions by Glenn Burleigh, Roland Carter, Marvin Curtis, Keith Hampton, Moses Hogan, Robert Morris, and Rosephanye Powell. All of the composers, with the exception of Moses Hogan, were present in University Park for the premiere of their works.

Essence of Joy presented these compositions again at the 2003 national American Choral Directors Association convention in New York City and at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association in Hershey. Moses Hogan died February 14, 2003 during Essence Of Joy’s concert at ACDA.

The year 2009 brought a second commissioning project, and the festival hosted premieres of original works written for Essence of Joy by M. Roger Holland, II, Damon Dandridge, and Raymond Wise. Penn State students have also contributed original works and arrangements that have been premiered by EOJ since 2001. To date, 23 compositions have been written or arranged for performance at the African American Music Festival.

In 2009, the name of the festival was changed from "Celebration of African American Spirituals" to the "African American Music Festival" in order to be more inclusive of the variety of music offered by the performers.

The festival is coordinated by Anthony Leach.