dwb (Driving While Black) Opera Tells Powerful Story
“Every time you leave I’ll try to let go a little more. But every time, I’ll be waiting to hear your key in our front door.” – The Mother in dwb (Driving While Black)
It’s a feeling that most parents are familiar with – the anxiety that occurs when their teenager gets behind the wheel – intensified for Black mothers of sons coming of age in a society plagued by racism and inequality, which is the basis of the chamber opera dwb (Driving While Black) presented this month by Greensboro Opera.
David Holley, General and Artistic Director of Greensboro Opera and Director of UNC Greensboro’s Opera Program, says it’s a story that needs to be told:
“There’s a universality to this story. She’s sitting there waiting for her son to come home. I thought, I can relate to that. I taught my sons how to drive. I remember watching them go out that door and get in a car and then waiting for them to get in safely. But there are certain things I will never experience, things that I can’t possibly understand. There are certain realities that need to be discussed.”
Written by composer Susan Kander and librettist Roberta Gumbel, dwb takes the audience on a 16-year journey of mother-son interactions, through two storylines – one internal, one external. The Mother relates to her child as a passenger in her car: bringing him home as a baby, picking him up from school, and finally, teaching him how to drive. Woven between these scenes are a series of vignettes based on real incidents of racial profiling and murders of Black men by police.
dwb packs all of that into a hauntingly beautiful 45 minutes. The set is sparse: a platform with four chairs represents the car. There are only three people on stage – a vocalist (librettist Roberta Gumbel) who portrays The Mother and other characters plus a cellist and a percussionist who, in addition to providing the music, are active parts of the drama as narrators and witnesses.
As impactful as the performance is, Holley believes that what happens afterwards may be even more important:
“Each performance will be followed by a community talkback session. It will be moderated, and we’ll gather questions ahead of time. The Assistant Deputy Chief of the Greensboro Police Department will be part of the conversation because GPD has a division that addresses these issues. We’re presenting dwb in four locations – two of which we think will have a predominantly Black audience, the other two might be predominantly White. It’s important to us to take this out into the community. Trying to make opera accessible as an art form has been one of my missions and will be for a long time. Greensboro Opera has pledged to commit to social equity and to use opera not only to entertain, but to educate.”
This piece also speaks to the work being done at UNCG’s College of Visual and Performing Arts with the leadership of Dean bruce mcclung, striving to decolonize the curriculum and de-center Whiteness. One of the performance locations is in the UNCG Music Building.
Thursday June 22 1:00pm
Tew Recital Hall at UNCG School of Music
100 McIver Street
Thursday June 22 7:30pm
Mount Zion Baptist Church Chapel
1301 Alamance Church Road
Saturday June 24 1:00pm
Guilford Park Presbyterian Church
2100 Fernwood Drive
Saturday June 24 7:30pm
Paul Robeson Theatre at NC A&T
1601 East Market Street d
dwb is sung in English. The performance length is approximately 45 minutes with a special post-show discussion. This production contains adult themes and is recommended for high school age and older.
Learn more about studying Opera at UNCG
Story by Terri W. Relos
Image provided by Greensboro Opera
Kasia Ozga Named Assistant Professor of Sculpture
College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean bruce d. mcclung has announced the appointment of Kasia Ozga as Assistant Professor of Sculpture in CVPA’s School of Art.
Kasia Ozga is a Polish French American sculptor and installation artist who reuses, revalues, and reanimates mass-produced materials into singular artworks and inverts associations that we make with different types of waste. She describes her work as “combining the development of art in public places with critical research into material histories and shared spaces by making and studying site-specific interventions and permanent works that inspire social change by creating visual metaphors for missing and environmentally altered human bodies.”
Ozga is a former Kosciuszko Foundation Fellowship recipient, Harriet Hale Woolley grantee from the Fondation des États-Unis, Jerome Fellowship recipient at Franconia Sculpture Park, and Paul-Louis Weiller award recipient from the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. Her work has been exhibited in over ten different countries, and she has participated widely in residencies in Europe and North America (Shakers, Nekatoenea, Pépinières Européennes de Création, Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions, and Kimmel Harding Nelson for the Arts). (more…)
Brendan Slocumb ’94: Musical Thrillers with a Message
“I just want people to look at people—really see them—not just their outward appearance. Look at me. You could say I don’t look like a person who plays the violin. You could just see me as a scary black man with tattoos.”
Brendan Slocumb (’94 Music Education) says that’s one of the reasons he writes, and why one of the main characters in his new novel is a neurodivergent woman.
“Everyone has a story. I want people to look beyond the physical characteristics of people.”
Slocumb spoke to a packed house at Footnotes Bookstore in Winston-Salem on April 18th, greeting fans with smiles and “thumbs up.” It was the national launch event for his second book, Symphony of Secrets, which has been described as a gripping page-turner.
In the book, music professor Bern Hendricks discovers a shocking secret about the most famous American composer of all time—his music may have been stolen from a Black Jazz Age prodigy named Josephine Reed. Determined to uncover the truth that a powerful organization wants to keep hidden, Bern will stop at nothing to right history’s wrongs and give Josephine the recognition she deserves.
A New York Times review praises the novel, and the genre Slocumb is developing:
“Brendan Slocumb’s first novel, The Violin Conspiracy, displayed his deftness at crafting character-driven stories featuring amateur sleuths with a deep reverence for music history — and everything to lose. With his pitch-perfect follow-up, Symphony of Secrets, he firmly establishes himself as a maestro of musical mystery.”
Slocumb grew up in Fayetteville, NC and started playing the violin at age nine, thanks to an elementary school music program. He graduated from UNCG with a degree in Music Education, with concentrations in Violin and Viola. He spoke on campus last spring during the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival.
“I’m the product of public school education. Music is a life-saving force. It took me to college, and it took me around the world. I have so many opportunities that I owe to this place (School of Music). I have “thank you” tattooed on my forearm because I have so much gratitude for the people and places who have helped me get where I am today.”
Slocumb says Winston-Salem, where the book launch was held, is a special place, too. His first teaching job was at North Forsyth County High School. Several “Vikings” were in the audience for the talk, including former band students, who cheered wildly when Slocumb took his violin out of its case to play a brief musical interlude during the Q&A with musicologist Kate Storhoff.
Storhoff asked Slocumb how he was able to bring fictional musicologist Bern Hendricks so perfectly to the page:
“It was that stellar education I got at UNC Greensboro,” said Slocumb with a quick smile.
After the moderated conversation, attendees lined up to have the author sign their books and take selfies with them. Again, there was that Slocumb smile and his signature “thumbs up”.
Symphony of Secrets is published by Penguin Random House. Read more here.
Learn more about the Music Education degree at UNCG.
Story by Terri W. Relos
Lee Walton Named Director of School of Dance
College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean bruce d. mcclung has announced the appointment of Lee Walton as Director of CVPA’s School of Dance.
Lee Walton is a Professor of Art with a practice that spans performance art, new media, and social practice. Since joining UNCG’s faculty in 2007, Lee has held various leadership roles within the School of Art, serving as the Associate Director and Director of Graduate Studies. He is also the founding Director of the Interdisciplinary Art and Social Practice program, a program he created with faculty and administrators to bring students together from art, dance, music, and theater for collaboration and community.
As an advocate and supporter of student voices, Lee has served as the primary advisor for student-run Coraddi magazine for over a decade. He was also instrumental in the development of Greensboro Project Space, the School of Art’s satellite space for community engagement in downtown Greensboro.
Lee is a globally recognized contemporary artist. His innovative methods of creating systems and scores for participatory public projects played a pivotal role in the early development of the Social Practice genre. Today, Lee’s practice continues to expand across disciplines to explore performance, new media, pop culture, game strategies, and experiential art for personal and social change. He considers his art to be part of a larger team effort to celebrate the things we, as humans, ultimately value.
Lee has collaborated and exhibited with numerous institutions and venues, including ICA Boston, Eyebeam (New York), Haskins Laboratory at the Yale Research Center (New Haven, CT), The Power Plant (Toronto), The City Museum of Ljubljana (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Naples Museum of Art (Italy), Oakland Museum of California, Island #6 Art Center (Shanghai), National Academy Museum (New York), White Columns (New York), and Reykjavik Art Museum (Iceland).
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Lee earned his Master of Fine Arts from the California College of Arts in 2000. His work can be viewed at his artist’s website: http://www.leewalton.com/.
UNC Greensboro Brings Jewel, Chris Botti, and Additional Artists to Campus for 111th Season of University Concert and Lecture Series
UNCG College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean bruce mcclung has announced the roster of artists for the 2023–2024 University Concert and Lecture Series (UCLS).
UCLS, the longest running concert and lecture series in North Carolina, will present Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Chris Botti; Collage, a captivating and totally unique performance featuring School of Music faculty and students in one riveting work after another; Jewel, four-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, actress, and author whose life story—from homelessness to discovery in a coffee shop to selling millions of albums—is as compelling as her music; and Garth Fagan Dance, an internationally acclaimed contemporary American dance company led by The Lion King choreographer Garth Fagan. The season also includes performances by the Robinson Family Visiting Jazz Artists Julieta Eugenio, Marcus Printup, and Tim Warfield, Jr.; and Falk Visiting Visual Artist Lalla Essaydi.
Dean mcclung also announced a change to how tickets will be sold for the 2023–2024 season:
“As we look to the future of series such as ours, we have made the decision to not sell season subscriptions, rather we will sell
each show as an individual event. This new model will allow ticket sales to begin earlier and enable us to market each artist more aggressively in hopes of growing the series for future generations.”
The ticket price structure has a few changes, too. All UNCG faculty and staff will be able to purchase UCLS tickets for $25 each, and the student price ($7.50) will now be available to all students, not just those at UNC Greensboro:
“We want to ensure that this series and the incredible artists that we are bringing will be even more accessible to our community,” says mcclung, “as well as to students, no matter where they attend school.” For tickets, visit ucls.uncg.edu or call ETix at 800.514.3849.
UCLS is supported. by:
Presenting Sponsors: Joseph M. Bryan, Jr. and the Cemala Foundation
Underwriting Sponsor: Well-Spring
Hospitality Sponsor: Quaintance Weaver Hotels & Restaurants
Media Sponsor: Our State Magazine
2023–2024 UNC Greensboro Concert and Lecture Series
Robinson Family Visiting Jazz Artist
Julieta Eugenio, saxophonist, with UNCG Jazz Faculty
October 19, 2023
Oden Brewery (Free, no tickets required)
October 28, 2023
November 3, 2023
Robinson Family Visiting Jazz Artist
Marcus Printup, Trumpeter
November 19, 2023
Tew Recital Hall
January 12, 2024
Garth Fagan Dance
April 5, 2024
Robinson Family Visiting Jazz Artist
Tim Warfield, Saxophonist
April 19, 2024
Falk Visiting Artist
Spring 2024, date TBA