In response to the National Endowment for the Arts’ American Masterpieces initiative, the Tennessee Arts Commission designed programming that supported work of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in local schools. The goal was to support the performance and historical legacy of African American Spirituals in high schools. As a successful initiative for Tennessee communities, we believe that the rest of South Arts’ region can benefit from this notable program, while expanding the market for artists in our region.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers are vocal artists and students at Fisk University in Nashville, TN, who sing and travel worldwide. The original Jubilee Singers introduced ‘slave songs’ to the world in 1871 and were instrumental in preserving this unique American musical tradition known today as Negro spirituals. The Fisk Jubilee Singers were selected as a recipient of the 2008 National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor for artists and patrons of the arts. They continue the tradition of singing the Negro spiritual around the world. This allows the ensemble to share this rich culture globally while preserving this unique music.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers Touring Program is an opportunity for presenting arts organizations to receive fee support for a four-day residency with the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ Musical Director and a local school choir, rehearsal with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and an hour-long public performance (to include songs with the school choir). The residency/performance fee is $18,000 (this inclusive fee includes travel and lodging expenses). The grant program requires each presenter to collaborate with a local high school choir and grant awards require a 2:1 cash match (a $12,000 grant from South Arts must be matched with $6,000 from the presenter).
We hope the program will create a stronger relationship among presenters, schools, and the community, a deeper connection with a Southern artform, and a unique opportunity to engage students. The goals of this touring program include:
1. Highlight and support the work of Southern artists;
2. Engage an underserved audience (middle and high school students);
3. Promote and preserve a traditional artform unique to our region;
5. Strengthen arts education in the region; and
6. Support audience development and community engagement efforts.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers’ Musical Director will visit each community for three days (ideally, Wednesday – Friday) and work with the school choir (including the choir director) to teach approximately two Negro spirituals (selected spirituals will be based on the performance level of each choir). At the culmination, the Jubilee Singers will arrive in each community for a Saturday rehearsal with the school choir and a public performance. The hour-long performance will include selections from both choirs, performing jointly as well as selections performed solely by the Jubilee Singers. To be most successful, the school needs an aggressive choral program, and the involvement and commitment of the choral director are crucial.
Prior to the residency, the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ Musical Director will make an advance visit to each community to meet with participants (presenter, school, and partners) to design the residency and outreach activities, and assess the choir’s performance level. Preliminary materials will be sent to each choir so that students have background information, cultural context, and prior knowledge of the songs. During the residency, the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ Musical Director will maximize his time in each community and be available to provide additional outreach and educational activities, focusing on history, music, and social studies, to schools and possibly community organizations such as senior centers. In addition, curriculum materials (a Teacher’s Guide, CD, DVD, and book) will be available as a resource for each participating school.
December 7, 2012: Application deadline
January 2013: Application notification
February – May 2013: Residency planning (advance visits)
July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014: Community residencies and performances