Members of the Duquesne University Symphony Orchestra will partner with the chamber strings of Iowa State University to honor the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre through the voices of Black American composers and historic Black civil rights activists at Symphony of Diversity: A Thousand Thunderbolts.
A special musical and spoken-word performance, A Thousand Thunderbolts will be held Wednesday, April 20, from 3 to 3:50 p.m. at the Dr. Thomas D. Pappert Center for Performance and Innovation in the Mary Pappert School of Music.
Led by Dr. Jonathan Govias, director of orchestras at Iowa State University, Symphony of Diversity: A Thousand Thunderbolts aims to commemorate, testify and engage. It is described as a remembrance, a demand for justice and a call to action to audiences around the world to stand up for human rights.
"When my colleague Dr. Stephen Benham, who knows Jonathan Govias from their work in the music education and string pedagogy fields, let me know that Jonathan was taking the Symphony of Diversity project on the road, we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to bring them to campus," said Associate Music Professor and Musicianship Chair Dr. Benjamin Binder, who also chairs the music school's Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access.
As part of the performance, powerful, pertinent speeches by luminaries like Ida B. Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins and W.E.B. Du Bois are brought to life by current Black civil rights leaders active in Tulsa and the Midwest. Through pre-recorded video segments, their words are passionately delivered by those who know firsthand the tragedy of racism or who preach in its shadow.
The spoken word segments are prefaced and followed by the music of Black American composers both living and historic, such as Dorothy Rudd Moore, Oscar Peterson, Jessie Montgomery, Florence Price, George Walker and Adolphus Hailstork.
"Music can be a powerful and impactful expression of social justice," Binder said. "We hope that this concert will not only be a moving and thought-provoking experience for our community, but also an inspiring model for our students who might wish to engage similar issues in their work as musicians at Duquesne and beyond."
A Thousand Thunderbolts is a non-partisan presentation that tells the story of Tulsa-and the unfinished story of systemic racism-from the perspective of those who lived it or are still living it. The production brings these issues-their history, their ongoing legacy-to audiences in an unusual, immersive way that invites engagement and reflection.
For more information on Symphony of Diversity: A Thousand Thunderbolts, email Dr. Binder.