UA Concert to Feature Original Composition by Hip-Hop Violinist; Daniel Bernard Roumain Commemorates Desegregation of UA in New Piece

  • April 3rd, 2007
Daniel Bernard Roumain

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama will premiere a composition by nationally-acclaimed hip-hop violinist and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain at an innovative concert on April 10. The original piece commemorates the heroism of the desegregation of the University through such important figures as Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood.

The multi-media composition for soloists and string orchestra will include an original video piece that will be shown during the playing of the piece. It will be performed by Roumain and UA’s Huxford Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. in the Moody Music Concert Hall on the UA campus. Roumain has served as holder of UA’s endowed chair of performance in the School of Music during the 2006-2007 academic year.

The University commissioned the piece, which Roumain has titled “The Tuscaloosa Meditations.” Written in honor of Jones and Hood, the first two African-Americans to successfully desegregate UA in 1963, the piece is the fifth in a series of compositions Roumain has written commemorating key figures in the Civil Rights Movement. Jones and Hood entered UA following then Gov. George Wallace’s unsuccessful “stand in the schoolhouse door” at UA’s Foster Auditorium. Two years later, Jones became UA’s first African-American graduate.

Roumain is the first African-American composer UA has commissioned to write a piece. His partnership with UA is a collaborative endeavor that has involved students, faculty and staff from throughout campus.

“Daniel Bernard Roumain is clearly one of the leading young composers and musicians internationally, and this partnership with him is a significant cultural event for the University. It is an ideal example of the rich collaboration that can and should take place on a student-centered research campus,” said Dr. Hank Lazer, associate provost for academic affairs at UA and a leader in the University’s Creative Campus Initiative.

“This concert will be an exciting, dynamic performance. It is historically and artistically important as the music invites us all to reflect on our history.”

The concert will also include a performance of Roumain’s “Voodoo Violin Concerto” and performances by various other artists, poets and performers. The Huxford Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Carlton McCreery, UA professor of music. A video piece by filmmaker Janet Wong will be shown during the performance of the new piece.

Roumain is a Haitian-American violinist, composer and band leader, who blends funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music in his own personal style, which he dubs “dred violin.” Raised in South Florida, Roumain started playing violin at the age of 5. He did graduate studies under Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, and today collaborates with such artists as composer Philip Glass and choreographer Bill T. Jones. The orchestras of Dallas, Memphis, San Antonio and St. Louis; the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the North Dutch Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra have all performed or commissioned his works.

Roumain’s new piece celebrating Jones’ and Hood’s courage is the latest in a collection of works that serve as musical portraits of iconic figures from the Civil Rights Era. Previous pieces commemorate Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Maya Angelou.

Roumain describes “The Tuscaloosa Meditations” as “spiritual music composed during turbulent times.”

“I traveled down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, upon invitation from The University of Alabama, to learn more about George Wallace and his stand in the schoolhouse door; Vivian Malone Jones, James Hood and their stand against him; and to stand, gaze upon, and learn from Foster Auditorium itself,” he said. “Being in that building, walking along the dusty floor, and playing the violin through that same, infamous door, has, in very real and significant ways, changed my life.

“Vivian’s courage and James’ strength, in the face of so much opposition and oppression, laid the foundation for why I chose to memorialize them and to pay homage to Foster Auditorium,” Roumain said.

Roumain’s partnership with UA was made possible with the support of the Office of Academic Affairs, the School of Music, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, the Creative Campus Initiative, Housing and Residential Communities, and the Center for Public Television, all at UA, and the Alabama State Arts Council.

Free tickets for the April 10 concert may be accessed by taking a short online survey at http://creativecampus.ua.edu/litdoor. Printed versions of the survey are available at the Crimson Arts Box Office in room 217 Ferguson Center on The University of Alabama campus. For those who prefer not to take a survey, $10 tickets are available for advance purchase at the Crimson Arts Box Office. For more information visit http://creativecampus.ua.edu/litdoor , the Crimson Arts Box Office, or call 205/348-SHOW(7469).

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.