Campus speaker discusses black influence on music culture

Brady's Roadhouse

On Fri., Feb. 12, the Waynesburg University Fine Arts Department hosted a virtual conversation as part of their Performing Artist Series, discussing the history and soul of American music and how it was influenced by Black culture. This virtual conversation comes with many more for Black History Month. 

Speaking at the virtual event was Joshua Head, a top five billboard producer. He is also a songwriter and musician. During a normal year without the COVID-19 pandemic, events like these would be held in-person.

“Usually we would have this two-fold,” Ronda DePriest, professor of instrumental music and Director of the Music Program, said. “We would have masterclass with our majors specifically for them to ask music questions and then we’d have some kind of presentation in the evening usually. A concert or some kind of a speaker set up that would involve the whole campus.”

Rather than having the gathering just for the majors first, the event was held virtually so everyone on campus could join immediately.

Students were invited to sign up for the virtual conversation via an email. From there, students were able to join in on Zoom at noon for Head’s presentation. 

This event was the second in a list of events planned for Black History Month.

“It’s the full month in February, we’re doing something every week,” DePriest said. 

Thurs., Feb. 18, Black History Month will be putting on a play called “Of Ebony Embers” presented by the Core Ensemble. According to the Core Ensemble’s website, they celebrate diversity through chamber music. This event will also be virtual. The concert will be discussing the Harlem renaissance for a theatre music presentation.

Head’s presentation led students through how history has influenced today’s music.

Head was introduced to the Waynesburg University fine arts department through a student of his, Qwinlyn Kelley, a senior music ministry major. 

“I took piano lessons with him when I was in middle school and I still take lessons with him now,” Kelley said. “It meant a lot [that he came to talk]. I was happy and proud that I was able to welcome him to my school and to the community here at Waynesburg.”  

For Kelley, Head’s presentation was impactful and that Head was able to communicate how Black people in America influenced music here in a way to educate the community at Waynesburg University. 

“The community at Waynesburg is not diverse and there are not a lot of outlets for people at Waynesburg to learn about this topic,” Kelley said. “So I was very thankful that the people on the [Zoom] call and the presentation were able to learn and educate themselves on African American music and how it influenced entertainment in the United States.”