Nina Kennedy Invited to Present Lecture/Book Signing at Juilliard



As you may have read last month (in my blog "Juilliard Covers Its Ass"), I was very upset to learn of an auditory exercise conducted by the Juilliard Drama Division depicting scenes from slavery. Several students complained about this exercise, and posted some of the actual audio on Facebook and Instagram. The person who presented this workshop claimed that the intent of the exercise was to explore the origins of Negro Spirituals.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers


Anyone who knows me knows that my father directed the Fisk Jubilee Singers, who have been called the originators of the Negro Spiritual. In my Lammy-nominated memoirPracticing for Love, I wrote extensively about the history of the Jubilee Singers, and how their music had been utilized by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák in his Symphony from the New World. When I wrote the first blog, Juilliard had expressed no interest whatsoever in my book. Well, about a week after I sent an email of complaint to the Director of Alumni Affairs, I received an email from the Director for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Initiatives. The director of Alumni Affairs had forwarded my email to her, and she in turn forwarded my email to the Director of Earned Revenue Operations. Soon I was informed that my book was available for sale at the Juilliard Store.


The following week I had an hour-long phone conversation with the Juilliard Earned Revenue Operations director, who ultimately invited me to present a lecture and book-signing for Juilliard students AND the general public next October, after the school is re-opened for the fall semester. This lecture will be recorded and livestreamed. She was especially interested in my lecture on the life of Ella Sheppard, who was a pianist, composer, and former slave who was sold from Andrew Jackson's plantation for $350. Ella Sheppard was the matriarch of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, and notated the Spirituals in their repertoire for publication.


A date in October will be chosen to coincide with Fisk University's "Jubilee Day," which is the school's Founders' Day commemorating the Jubilee Singers' departure on their first fundraising tour. 

By that time, my second book of memoirs, Practice What You Preach, will be available, and hopefully, also for sale at the Juilliard Store.

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