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New Take on the Great American Songbook


Date: November 28, 2016

Vocalist and jazz pianist Dena Underwood will join writer Ashley Coleman to present “Black Americans and the Great American Songbook” in concert on Dec. 6

Washington College welcomes back the gifted vocalist, pianist, and jazz artist Dena Underwood in a performance that provides an alternative look at the Great American Songbook. Through music and narration, Underwood, joined by writer and lecturer Ashley Coleman, highlights the influence of black Americans on musical theater and popular culture of the 1920s through the 1950s. Many black artists, such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong, are credited as being among the founding fathers of American music, but what did that mean in an America that viewed them as second-class citizens? In the context of modern America, is there a place at the table for black culture?

Free and open to the public, the concert on Dec. 6 at 4:30 p.m. is sponsored the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Department of Music. After the performance in Hotchkiss Recital Hall in the Gibson Center for the Arts, Chester River Wine & Cheese Co., a Chestertown boutique specialty market and kitchen tool shop, will provide a wine-and-cheese tasting at a reception in the Underwood Lobby.

Dena Underwood made her debut at Washington College last April in performance with the Bearded Ladies Cabaret. Underwood is a vocalist and self-taught pianist from Philadelphia. Hailing from a family of gifted vocalists and instrumentalists, her passion for music began at an early age. Since graduating from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and studying jazz voice performance at Temple University, Underwood has performed at a number of venues, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Academy of Music, and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and New York City’s Lincoln Center.

Last modified on Nov. 28th, 2016 at 5:32pm by Jean Wortman.