Montclair State Musicians Love the Skin They’re in at First Ever Black History Month Recital

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Published March 28, 2019
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The Montclarion
From left to right: Makaela Shade-Alexander, Mikaela Guzman, Lauren Cowart, Terralyn Hayes and Sen Raines perform at the recital. Sierra Craig | The Montclarion

Musicians for Diversity and Culture (MDC) ended Black History Month with a bang on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Students performed spoken-word pieces as well as gospel, jazz and spiritual songs.

“I never really sang with a choir filled with people of color before,” said sophomore jazz performance major Sen Raines. “I didn’t speak to any of the other performers before the show and now we’re all friends. It’s a testament to how music brings people together.”

MDC did not expect a large crowd, but the event brought in over 100 people. Some professors even canceled class and re-routed students to the performance.

“Thank you for this,” said professor Jeffrey Gall to participating students. “We need to do more things like this.”

Junior vocal performance major and performer Makaela Shade-Alexander believed the event connected with the audience.

“It was an emotional experience,” Shade-Alexander said. “You can tell the audience was really connected and feeling it.”

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Makaela Shade-Alexander becomes engulfed in song. Sierra Craig | The Montclarion

Formally known as Black and Latino Musicians United (BALMU), MDC was founded by Dr. Lisa C. DeLorenzo, music education coordinator and professor, and music education major Miles Cody in 2013. Its original mission was to promote black and Latino students. It has since expanded to advocate for all cultures.

“There’s many organizations on campus for minority students,” said MDC President Alex Conley. “We didn’t have that in the music school. There needed to be a platform for these voices to be heard.”

When he came on board as a shy freshman, Conley already had plans for how he wanted to increase its reach to other students. As someone who runs the organization, he has hosted five events since the beginning of his presidency in September. Latin Dance Night, Multicultural Potluck and Lunar New Year Karaoke Party are just some of the exciting events under his belt.

“We changed the name because we didn’t want other minorities to not feel welcome,” Conley said. “We want to make sure that everyone feels included.”

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Isaiah Bridges-Green recites a spoken-word piece by Sharon G. Flake. Sierra Craig | The Montclarion

An idea that only came together three weeks prior, piano accompanist for the entire show, sophomore music composition and theory major Jahmai Person, helped Conley organize the event. The duo asked friends and other students to compose a song together. After seeing how well the dynamic worked, Conley suggested the group put on a recital.

They ended up ditching the original song but ultimately chose to sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem.

“My friend Vaughn came up with the idea to sing the song,” Conley said. “I had never heard the song before or knew the history. After learning about it and the impact it had on me, I knew it was perfect.”

Holding rehearsals every day, Conley knew he needed to be there to ensure the success of the event. Getting all of the talent together was especially hard considering the students’ demanding schedules and other activities.

The core crew stayed up to the early hours of the morning for several days in a row just to make sure that every detail was double-checked and approved.

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MDC performers pose for a photo. Sierra Craig | The Montclarion

“It was a lot of hard work,” Person said. “I’m just glad that it went so well.”

Raines explained that the recital consisted of just under 20 acts, each song broken up with a poem in between.

“We showed the school of music a little bit of black culture,” Raines said. “It was awesome.”

Conley hopes that the recital will become an annual tradition even after he leaves his presidential position.

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