The Spirituals Project Symposium & Concert 2021

The Year of the Woman


Symposium: Thursday, May 13 at 4:00 p.m.

Keynote: Dr. Alisha Lola Jones  “I am Moses the Liberator” A Womanist Listening to Black Messianism in Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman
Panelists: Dr. Nkeiru Okoye, Angela Brown & Rev. Dr. Lisa D. Jenkins

$10 Symposium Registration Fee for guests outside the University of Denver.

University of Denver faculty, staff, students (any university) and Spirituals Project members. RSVP for link.

Concert: Saturday, May 15 at 4:00 p.m.

Director M. Roger Holland and the Spirituals Project Choir perform works by African American women composers, spotlighting Rosephanye Powell and Linda Twine. The concert will begin in a conversation with the director and composers.

Free to view concert stream.

Symposium Keynote Speaker

Alisha Lola Jones

Dr. Alisha Lola Jones

Symposium Panelists

Dr. Nkeiru Okoye

Dr. Nkeiru Okoye

Angela Brown

Angela Brown

Rev.Dr. Lisa D. Jenkins

Rev. Dr. Lisa D. Jenkins

Concert Composers & Director

Linda Twine

Linda Twine

Rosephanye Powell

Dr. Rosephanye Powell

M.Roger Holland

M. Roger Holland, II

Information, Bios & Registration

  • Symposium & Concert Information

    Symposium Keynote Speech by Dr. Alisha Lola Jones

    “I am Moses the Liberator” A Womanist Listening to Black Messianism 

    in Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman

    African American composer and historian Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014) is one of several portrayals of the most famous conductor of the underground railroad known as Harriet Tubman that were produced, shortly after the centennial of Tubman’s death in 2013. Named after a woman affectionately called “black Moses,” the opera Harriet Tubman fills the sonic void in “black messianism” research on and performance of women’s narratives in the U.S (Cleage 1969; Moses 1982). This lecture addresses the perceived inaudibility of black women liberators in the US popular imagination (Hayes 2007; Jones 2019) by constructing an anti-oppressionist listening and observing of Tubman in Okoye’s composition. As we analyze the composer’s cultural intervention through the prism of race/gender/class, we will ask: What is the sound of black women’s messianism? How might we undertake an anti-oppressionist listening of sonic worlds?

    To respond to these questions, I consider the re-emergence of recent Tubman portrayals, pointing to the fissures that divide U.S. communities along lines of race, gender, class, and ability. This moment of historical retrieval illuminates the discontinuity in our retelling of historical accounts and oral music transmission. However, some American music reviewers seem to misrecognize Okoye’s compositional methods such as “extended vocal techniques” that are uniquely African American. To explore my method of anti-oppressive listening, I conclude by comparing media reviews with Okoye’s intentional composition strategies that privilege her cultural insights as an African American culture bearer. 



    Concert to Spotlight Works by African America Women Composers

     The concert with M. Roger Holland, II direction the award-winning Spirituals Project Choir, will spotlight performances of "Sorida" and "The Lord is My Light and My Salvation" by Rosephanye Powell, and excerpts from "Changed Mah Name" by Linda Twine

    The streaming of the concert is free admission.


  • Symposium Keynote Speaker & Panelists

    Symposium Keynote Speaker

    Dr. Jones

    Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones

    Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is an assistant professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and faculty director of the Global Pop Music Initiative at Indiana University (Bloomington). Dr. Jones is a board member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), a member of the strategic planning task force for the American Musicological Society (AMS), and a co-chair of the Music and Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Additionally, as a performer-scholar, she consults museums, conservatories, seminaries, and arts organizations on curriculum, live and virtual event programming, and content development. Dr. Jones’ book Flaming?: The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (Oxford University Press) breaks ground by analyzing the role of gospel music making in constructing and renegotiating gender identity among black men. Her research interests extend to global pop music, musics of the African diaspora, music and food, the music industry and the marketplace, and anti-oppressive ways of listening to black women. 


    Symposium Panelists

    Nkeiru Okoye

    Nkeiru Okoye

    A composer with a gift for incorporating many influences and styles within her work, Nkeiru Okoye is perhaps best known for her opera, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom, the orchestral work, “Voices Shouting Out,” which she composed as an artistic response to 9/11, and her suite, “African Sketches,” which has been performed by pianists around the globe. Profiled in both the, “Music of Black Composers Coloring Book,” and Routledge’s “African American Music: An Introduction” textbook, Dr. Okoye is also the inaugural recipient of the Florence Price Award for Composition. Read More

    Angela Brown

    Angela Brown, soprano

    Angela Brown personifies the ideal soprano: sheer vocal power; luxurious finesse; and shimmering, high pianissimos. With a charming personality larger than life, she unites opera, pops, and gospel in one sensational voice and has graced the leading opera and symphonic stages across six continents. A featured artist on the two-time Grammy Award® winning recording “Ask Your Mama,” Angela’s international reputation continues to grow. Read More

    Lisa Jenkins

    Rev. Dr. Lisa D. Jenkins

    Dr. Lisa D. Jenkins is the tenth Pastor and first woman to lead the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church located in Harlem, New York. Since assuming the pastorate in July 2013, Rev. Jenkins has implemented an AIDS/HIV program in partnership with the New York City Council Faith Based HIV/AIDS Initiative and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of New York City. She has reorganized the church ministries to reflect the mission of equipping the community as service to our Lord, Jesus Christ and is placing emphasis on the importance of youth and young adult involvement. Read More

  • Concert Composers & Director

    Concert Composers 

    Linda Twine

    Linda Twine

    Linda Twine, a native of Muskogee, OK, graduated from Oklahoma City University in 1966 with a bachelor of arts degree in music. There, she studied piano with the esteemed Dr. Clarence Burg and Professor Nancy Apgar. After graduating from OCU, Twine studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where she earned a master’s degree, and made New York her home. She began her musical career in New York, teaching music in public school by day and accompanying classical and jazz artists at night. Read More

    Rosephanye Powell

    Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell 

    Dr. Rosephanye Dunn Powell has been hailed as one of America’s premier women composers of choral music. She has an impressive catalogue of works published by some of the nation’s leading publishers, including the Hal Leonard Corporation, the Fred Bock Music Company/Gentry Publications, Oxford University Press, Alliance Music Publications, and Shawnee. Dr. Powell is commissioned yearly to compose for university choruses, professional, community and church choirs, as well as secondary school choruses. Read More

    Concert Director

    Roger Holland

    M. Roger Holland, II

    M. Roger Holland, II is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Music and Religion and Director of The Spirituals Project at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he received the master of divinity degree, Roger also served as Artist-in-Residence and director of the Union Gospel Choir for over 13 years. In 2015, Union awarded him the Trailblazers Distinguished Alumni Award, the first given to a graduate whose ministry is music, for his contributions to the legacy of African American music. He received a master’s degree in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music, also in New York, and completed his undergraduate work at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, where he majored in music education with a concentration in piano and voice. Read More

  • Registration & Symposium Payment

    Registration is Online through the Newman Center Box Office

    Registration Open Now.

    Pay $10 Registration Fee Online

    Once you have paid for your registration, the streaming link and information will be emailed to you by Roger Holland, director of the Spirituals Project..

    University of Denver faculty, staff, students (any university) and Spirituals Project members.

    RSVP for link.