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Professor's Experiences in Ghana Inspire 'Winds of the Sahel' Concert

Dr. Joseph Sheehan saw a great opportunity when a colleague suggested last spring that he apply for a Rev. Alphons Loogman, C.S.Sp., Faculty Research Grant. Sponsored by Duquesne University's Center for African Studies, the Loogman grants support research that reflects the University's commitment to and emphasis on Africa.  

Sheehan, an assistant professor in the Mary Pappert School of Music, was among four faculty members to receive a $4,500 Loogman grant award, which he utilized to research the music of Ghana. The fruits of his labor will be featured at Winds of the Sahel: Music Inspired by Africa and Its Diaspora on Thursday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the music school's Dr. Thomas D. Pappert Center for Performance and Innovation.  

More than half of the pieces to be performed at the concert are original works composed by Sheehan, who selected the other numbers for the program. "It's all influenced by my experiences and encounters with African music and performing the music of Africa's diaspora in the U.S.," said Sheehan, who will play piano and keyboards and sing at the concert.  

Winds of the Sahel will be a multidisciplinary performance featuring jazz, hip-hop and R&B styles of music as well as a work of video art-created by a music technology student-featuring photos that Sheehan took while in Ghana.  

Performers at the multidisciplinary Winds of the Sahel include saxophonist Mike Tomaro, chair of jazz studies; Anoush Tchakarian, adjunct professor of piano; the Texture Contemporary Ballet; the groups Kinetic and Trio + (of which Sheehan is a member); as well as numerous Pittsburgh-based musicians.  

Sheehan spent six months in Ghana, West Africa, in 2008-09 doing independent study, during which he first learned about the nation's traditional music, drumming and dancing. His experience there was and remains very influential on Sheehan's work as a composer and performer.  

The Loogman grant provided Sheehan with the opportunity to do further research on Ghanaian song. "I'd written a lot of songs after coming back from Ghana," explained Sheehan. "I had struggled to write my own lyrics and was just thinking differently about music and knew it was an area in which I'd like to get more in depth. I also thought it could be inspirational for my own music."  

In July, Sheehan used part of the grant money to return to Ghana, where he learned from and performed songs with different musicians there, transcribed the songs and recorded performances.

A $10 donation is suggested for admission. In addition to the Duquesne performance on Oct. 23, Sheehan will present a nearly identical performance of Winds of the Sahel at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, at The Alloy Studios in Pittsburgh.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.