Black History Month Concert Features Guest Soprano Carline Waugh

Free production includes choirs, symphony and African drum and dance

Acclaimed soprano and UM alumnus Carline Waugh is set to perform Thursday (Feb. 13) in the Ford Center for the university’s Black History Month Concert. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Soloists, choirs, a symphony and an African drum and dance ensemble all come together this week at the University of Mississippi to celebrate the African American spirit and experience in the university’s Black History Month Concert.

The concert, set for 7:30 Thursday (Feb. 13) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, is free and open to the public.

“We’re pleased to have so many ensembles and soloists performing,” said George Worlasi Kwasi Dor, UM professor of music and ethnomusicology. “And we’re especially proud to feature Dr. Carline Waugh, an acclaimed soprano and a graduate of our program.”

Waugh plans to sing a spiritual by Jacqueline Hairston and one by Margaret Bonds.

“These are two leading African American female composers,” she said. “This is special to me because women are still underrepresented as composers, and African American women in particular.

“I will also present Jamaican folk music and a new work by Dr. George Dor, with whom I have had the pleasure of working in the past.”

Waugh earned her master’s degree in music performance at Ole Miss, and returning to Oxford had the singer thinking about the ways that her time studying and training at UM contributed to the artist she has become.

“I got the chance to showcase my strengths, but I simultaneously got the one-on-one attention I needed in the areas in which I was perhaps not as strong,” she said. “There were so many important teachers at UM who contributed to my artistry and my teaching approach and philosophy.

“My voice teacher, professor Nancy Maria Balach, taught me so much and really showed me what a supportive teacher ought to look like. Professor Amanda Johnston, my coach and diction teacher, helped me tremendously with my languages and understanding of style. Professor Julia Aubrey gave me some of my earliest stage time in the operas, and Dr. (Brad) Robinson opened my mind to vocal pedagogy.”

Waugh, who went on to receive her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, teaches voice at Marshall University in addition to managing a career that includes singing solo recitals, opera and oratorio. The Jamaican-born singer has performed around the world and next will sing the part of Micaëla in Bizet’s “Carmen” this season in Atlanta.

“I am so proud of Carline and all of her successes as a performer and teacher,” Balach said. “It is an absolute thrill to have her back on campus again.

“In 2016, Carline returned to Oxford to portray the role of Sophie in our award-winning production of ‘Master Class.’ No one should miss this opportunity to enjoy her fabulous artistry again.”

Dor is looking forward to working with Waugh.

“With this concert, we are celebrating our own,” he said. “And not only by featuring University of Mississippi students, faculty and alums, but also by including great work by Mississippi composers William Grant Still, Sam Cooke and Kevin Towers.”

The concert also includes the American premiere of movements from two symphonic works by Dor.

“These pieces have been performed in Ghana and in Germany, but this is their first performance in the United States,” the composer said. “It will be an honor to hear the LOU Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. (Selim) Giray, interpret my work.”

Like many Black History Month events, the concert will celebrate not only the African American experience, but also the idea of diversity in general. The music of this year’s Black History Month Concert advances an additional idea that Dor knows is critical: diversity thrives best on love.

“If our actions are not rooted in love – love of neighbors, love of self, even love of difference – then they are hollow,” Dor said. “We know this instinctively, but it helps to focus on it from time to time.”

The event is co-sponsored by the offices of the Chancellor, Provost, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, and Global Engagement, as well as the College of Liberal Arts, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, and the Ford Center’s Campus Connection Fund

“So many people have come together to join with the Department of Music to support this year’s concert,” Dor said. “We all want to share this important message with a single voice.”