Savannah Music Festival For Community Involvement

The 2006 Savannah Music Festival invites Savannah’s diverse communities to attend performances during the festival, which will be held March 17 – April 2, 2006, and to be a part of them. As the region’s largest and most diverse music festival, Savannah Music Festival will once again produce a 17-day musical marathon that will include the best in symphonic music, blues, jazz, gospel, chamber music, bluegrass, international music and dance. Under the theme, “Paradise for Music Lovers, ” artistic director, Rob Gibson, has created opportunities for the community to become a part of the “experience, ” which will feature more than 500 artists participating in more 100 events.

The Festival is committed to reaching all segments of the community from families and college students to aficionados and novices with programming that is not only of exceptional quality, but also affordable. More than 25% of the performances throughout the 2006 Festival are free, including the Music at Midday concert series and educational children’s concerts, as well as nominally priced master classes and workshops. For the first time, performance tickets are as low as $5 and discounted weekend and series passes are also available.

The 2006 Savannah Music Festival lineup includes a wealth of musical styles that celebrate the influence of African Americans and the Diaspora. Savannah Music Festival is also pleased to offer the community an opportunity to participate in the creation of the Savannah Music Festival Mass Choir; and to encourage aspiring vocalists to participate in the 13th annual American Traditions Competition.

Included among the more than 100 performances is an appearance by African American classical pianist André Watts with The Atlanta Symphony; an unprecedented double-bill highlighting two of the most remarkable traditional groups performing African music and dance, from the old and new worlds, featuring Les Ballet Africains (the National Dance Company of the Republic of Guinea) and Peru Negro, cultural ambassadors of Peru dedicated to preserving and sharing the “soul of Black Peru”; The Jazz Juggernauts Series, which will include a 75th birthday celebration for jazz great Ben Tucker; a performance by the Marcus Roberts Trio with special guest Wycliffe Gordon; a blues concert featuring Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Nappy Brown, and “Steady Rollin” Bob Margolin; and the Louisiana Soul series featuring concerts by Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters, Rebirth Brass Band, and Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience.

New to the 2006 Savannah Music Festival is the creation of the Savannah Music Festival Mass Choir under the artistic direction of James Bignon. Bignon, former minister of music for the world renowned Georgia Mass Choir, will conduct a three-day workshop designed to provide musical training and to inspire participants to render more excellent praise through the medium of religious music. SMF is now accepting applications from the first 200 singers interested in participating in the workshop and the subsequent debut performance as a part of The Gospel Truth on Saturday, April 1st at the Johnny Mercer Theatre, where they will perform with the Campbell Brothers Sacred Steel Band, The Sweet Singing Harmony Harmoneers, and Kenny Carr and the Tigers. There is a $20 application fee.

Many in the community may remember the early days of the American Traditions Competition, the foundation of the festival, when celebrated artists like Della Reese and Odetta judged the contestants. Now in its 13th year, the ATC remains one of the nation’s most unique vocal competitions, showcasing singers from all over the country as they compete for $30, 000 in prize money, while fostering the continuity of American vocal music. Each contestant’s eleven-song repertoire must feature works by American composers. In addition, all songs must fall within three pre-defined entry categories as described in entry materials and include a variety of genres, including spirituals, opera, jazz, blues, Broadway, country, western, bluegrass, and Early American. Complete entry requirements and competition information can be found at The deadline is December 2, 2005.

In an effort to raise awareness of the festival’s diverse programming and new participation opportunities, SMF has entered into several new community partnerships. They include new partnerships with Citi Trends, which is sponsoring the SMF 2006 Gospel Truth Series; Cumulus Broadcasting; The 2006 Coastal CollegeFest Association; and The Savannah Tribune.

“This festival is designed to bring together the entire community in a celebration of diverse music styles, ” said Rob Gibson, executive and artistic director of the festival for the last four years, and co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis more than 15 years ago. “For many years, I have witnessed the power that music has to unite everyone through a kaleidoscope of rhythm, melody and harmony, from tradition to invention, and from classical to Cajun. That’s what this festival is all about.”

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