Kent State School of Music will mark May 4 through music, dance and poetry

The Kent State University School of Music returns to the Severance Music Center on May 2 at 7 p.m. with nearly 300 students from across the university performing a rich range of genres and styles from classical and jazz to gospel and music from the world. It will also feature collaborations with the School of Theater and Dance and the Wick Poetry Center.

Titled “Stories of Peace, Protest and Reflection”, the concert is a commemoration of the tragic Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970. Each work explores social justice, civil rights and the complex emotions felt before, during and after the tragedy. Throughout the concert there will be poetry, read by guest speakers like Roseann “Chic” Canfora, an eyewitness to the May 4 events and current faculty member at Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism. The poems will be chosen from the collection of the Wick Poetry Center commemorating the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

“I am thrilled that we can perform at the Severance Music Center, presenting such a powerful and important concert,” said Kent McWilliams, Director and Professor of the School of Music. “Today we face many of the same challenges that led up to May 4. I hope that through art we can come together as a community to continue to learn and face them together.”

The concert begins with “With Heart and Voice” by David Gillingham, featuring the Kent State Wind Ensemble, Symphony Band and Kent State Youth Winds. Next comes the world premiere of “I Have a Dream” by Bobby Selvaggio, a work inspired by the famous speech of Martin Luther King Jr., for jazz ensemble and strings. It will also include guest spoken word artist Orlando Watson. The Kent State Thai Ensemble then performs the Khmen Phothisat inspired by Buddhist teaching. Singers from the Kent State Opera Theater will then perform selections from “Blind Injustice”, a contemporary work by Scott Davenport Richards and David Cote based on the stories of those who were wrongfully convicted and then exonerated by the Ohio Innocence Project. Pianists Alena Miskinis and Will Baughman then perform Frederic Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” featuring eight student dancers choreographed by dance department faculty member Jeffrey Marc Rockland. To conclude the first half of the concert, African Ensemble and Steel Band with Afrobeats dance team Asé Xpressions perform Davido’s “FEM”.

The Kent State’s Percussion Ensemble opens the second part of the concert with the colorful and warm “Citadel of the Stars”. Next is the Kent State New Music Ensemble’s performance of faculty composer Adam Roberts’ new work, “Sometime There Is a Day.” Next, guest clarinetist David Shifrin, who came to Kent State as a student of the Kent Blossom Music Festival in the summer of 1970, will join the Kent State University Orchestra to perform the Clarinet Concerto by Aaron Copland. The program continues with the Kent State Gospel Choir, Voices United, singers from the Cleveland School of the Arts and the Kent State University Orchestra performing a spiritual song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” . The Kent State University Orchestra and Kent State Choirs combined then perform the meditative ‘How Lovely are Thy Dwelling Places’ by Johannes Brahms from ‘A German Requiem’.

The conclusion of the program is “Be the change”. Part of the 43-song “Justice Choir Songbook”, the work was written by Marc Kaplan and Colin Britt with text adapted from words attributed to Gandhi. For this event, Kent State alumnus Bryon Black II creates a new arrangement that will bring nearly all of the concert performers together on the same stage. Black will also return to lead the play.

A public reception will follow the concert in the main hall of Severance. Tickets are available now and start at $25. For ages 18 and under, a special discounted price of $10 is available using code KentUnder18. Purchases can only be made online through the Severance box office or by calling 216-231-1111.

More concert information can be found on the Glauser School of Music website at