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The 2024 Harry T. Burleigh Spirituals Festival

Facing the Rising Sun: Amplifying Black Music and Institutions for Generations to Come



About the Burleigh Festival

Since November 2016, the Tennessee State University Department of Music and the Big Blue Opera Initiatives has hosted the Harry T. Burleigh Spirituals Festival. Beginning as a commemoration of the 150th birthday of the pioneering African American composer and musician and celebration of the legacy of the American Negro Spiritual, the Burleigh Festival focuses on a different area of the Spiritual and African American music under various themes annually. 

The Burleigh Festival features panel discussions and lecture presentations led by prominent scholars and musicians, choral clinics for attendees in varying stations in study, a vocal masterclass focused in performance practice and style of African American music, and a scholarship benefit concert in support of the Harry T. Burleigh Fund for Vocal Studies at Tennessee State University. Each year, the Burleigh Festival grows exponentially in attendance, partnerships, and support, adding new innovations and programming such as the 2019 world premiere of the Tupac Shakur Art Song Project. The National Museum of African American Music has been a core partner since its inception with the Burleigh Legacy Alliance of Erie, PA and the 105 Voice of History following shortly after. Other partners and supporters have included ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, the Harry T. Burleigh Society, 91Classical Radio, Early Music City, Weirdo Workshop, Hoskins and Co.Classically Black Podcast, and Intersection Contemporary Music Ensemble. We are delighted to welcome the Nashville Gospel and Sacred Music Coalition and the Nashville Symphony as partners for this year. 

April 5

Tennessee State University Performing Arts Center

Eddie T. Goins Recital Hall


10:30AM - 11:45 AM- Opening Plenary

Dr. Mark Hugh Malone, author of William Levi Dawson: American Music Educator with performances

  • livestream available for registered participants only


12:00 PM - 1:00 PM - Lunch

Floyd/Payne Campus Center


1:15 PM - 2:50 PM - Choral Clinic I

Colin Lett, Burleigh Festival Choral Clincian and Composer-in-Residence

  • livestream available for registered participants only


3:00 PM - 4:00 PM - Performance Lecture

Dr. Iris Fordjour-Hankins, soprano and professor of voice, Oakwood University and Evelyn Simpson-Currenton, composer and collaborative pianist

  • livestream available for registered participants only


4:15 PM - 6:15 PM- Vocal Masterclass

Dr. Iris Fordjour-Hankins

  • livestream available for registered participants only


6:30 PM - Dinner on your own (General Attendees)


7:00 PM - Phenomenal Women...Phenomenally: Opera Tigre Celebrates the Artistry of Black Women


Members of the Nashville Opera-HBCU Fellows and the 105 Voices of History 


April 6

National Museum of African American Music


9:00 AM - 11:00 AM - Choral Clinic II


11:00 PM- 2:45 PM- Free Time (General Attendees)


* Lunch-and-Learn for Burleigh Legacy Alliance, 105, and Nashville Opera-HBCU Fellows with NMAAM Visit to follow. Option of attending a rehearsal of the Nashville Symphony

  • livestream available for Lunch and Learn for registered participants only


3:00 PM - 5:00 PM - Concert Tech


6:00 PM - 6:30 PM - Pre-Concert Talk 

Dr. Mark Hugh Malone, presenter

  • livestream available for all


7:00 PM - 9:00 PM-

Burleigh Festival Scholarship Concert


The 105 Voices of History Young Artists 

The W. Crimm Singers 

-Patrick Dailey, countertenor and director

The Tennessee State University Meistersingers

-Dr. Angelica Dunsavage, director

Dr. Patrick Bradley. collaborative pianist 

Trevor Thornton, collaborative pianist 

The Southwind High School Chamber Singers

-Dre Pinson, director

The Athena Treble Choir of Stewarts Creek High School

-Dr. Susan Kelly, director

Dr. Iris Fordjour-Hankins, soprano

Burleigh Festival Gala Artist

Burleigh Festival Chorus 

Colin Lett, director 

Burleigh Festival Composer-in-Residence and Choral Clinician

Burleigh Festival Honors

  • Burleigh Civic Champion Award- Professor Edward L. Graves 

  • Burleigh Arts Trailblazer Award- Diana K. Poe

Co-Presented by the Big Blue Opera Initiatives and National Museum of African American Music

Suggested Donation Ticket- $25

  • livestream available for all

Registration, Donation, and Concert Ticket

For More Information, Contact

Patrick Dailey, M.M. (he/him/his) 

Founder and Director, Big Blue Opera Initiatives

Tennessee State University 

Department of Music

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