To honor the accomplishments and artistry of the Black student community at Jacksonville University, the Student Government Association partnered with the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts and Humanities in hosting the second annual Celebrating Black History through Fine Arts Concert.
Choreographers, composers, instrumentalists, poets, and vocalists presented a repertoire of their own, creative freedom being at the forefront of this year’s performance.
“The general focus of the show is always to celebrate Black history through sharing all aspects of the Black experience. This is why I rarely request that a song or specific piece be in the show because the intention is to showcase student composers and performers, and what they’re passionate about,” said Sommer Kinsler ‘25, show director and SGA vice-president.
Vocal ensembles such as The Rivertones and Choral Union bookended the concert with classic jazz pieces composed by Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald, honoring the uniquely African American art form that emerged in the 19th century.
Dominique Gambrell ‘25 then followed with original spoken word pieces, Are We Still Caged Birds and Sounds of Sirens, two emotive and compelling accounts of the struggles that face the Black community.
An unintentional inspiration for the concert was The Color Purple, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel and award-winning movie that tells the lives of two young Black women who experienced extraordinary adversity. Kinsler and Arrione Magee ‘24 sang “What About Love” from The Color Purple, and later Magee led a solo performance of “I’m Here.”
“Unintentionally the show did feature two songs from the musical The Color Purple which allowed me to draw a sort of message from the show for those who were maybe searching for a clear theme, and that message is—while we strive to celebrate successes, it is worth remembering that out of pain comes a beauty and a strength that you’ve never known before,” Kinsler said.
Cellists, drummers, pianists, and violinists filled the second act alongside choreographers Chelsea Butler-Thomas ‘24 and Kamryn Dorsey ‘25. The percussion pieces were inspired by African rhythms and harmonies, while original works performed by cellist and composer Isaiah Jackson ‘25 moved the concert to a close, inspiring hope and unity.
“One of the biggest takeaways from this event is that anyone and everyone can and should celebrate Black History Month. The overarching goal is to highlight Black composers and art, but anyone can appreciate that, not just Black students,” Kinsler said.
“It is our intention to celebrate Black art by uplifting student composers and choreographers as well as performers. However, more than just Black performers were onstage. I think it is important that everyone, Black or not, can appreciate Black artists and their art and the massive contributions they’ve made to society. One way of doing this was to include performers who are not Black and show ways to appreciate and participate in Black History Month in a respectful way.”
2023 Black History Month Concert Program
Everybody’s Boppin’ arranged by Kirby Shaw
Composer/lyricist by John Carl Hendricks (1957-2017)
When I Fall in Love arranged by Kirby Shaw
Composer. Victor Young, Edward Heyman, recorded by Nat King cole in 1956
The Rivertones, directed by Dina Barone
Are We Still Caged Birds
Written and performed by Dominique Gambrell
What About Love from The Color Purple
Written by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, and Allee Willis
Performed by Arrione Magee and Sommer Kinsler
Melody - Sheku Kanneh Mason
Performed by Isaiah Jackson on Cello
Happiness - Isaiah Jackson
Trinity Bryant - Piano
Strange written by Celeste Waite, Stephen Wrabel, and Jamie Hartman
Performed by Julian Morris
Dreamgirls from Dreamgirls
Written by Henry Krieger
Performed by Arrione Magee, Ariana Fitzgerald, and Sommer Kinsler
But We have X Instead of Y by Quinn Mason
Sounds of Sirens
Written and performed by Dominique Gambrell
Cornfield Chase by Hans Zimmer (living)
Choreographed and performed by Chelsea Butler-Thomas and Kamryn Dorsey
Traditional Folk Song
As performed by Ella Fitzgerald
Roger Emerson, arranger (Living)
AJ Dionne, percussion
James Chang, pianist
Matthew Anderson, bass
Choral Union, directed by Dr. Julian Bryson
A Different Perspective - Isaiah Jackson
Sarah Iynna Spencer - Violin 1
Irsia Guzman - Violin 2
Ellison Whitehead - Viola
Ian Rivera - Cello
Isaiah Jackson - Cello
I'm Here from The Color Purple
Performed by Arrione Magee
Photo credits: Taylor Sloan '26