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Symposium 2017

The University of Illinois Black Chorus, Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, conductor, will host the Thirteenth Biennial Black Sacred Music Symposium on the Urbana-Champaign campus March 9-12, 2017. The closing Symposium concert featuring the UI Black Chorus and Friends is on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm in the Great Hall of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

The Thirteenth Black Sacred Music Symposium


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The Black Sacred Music Symposium, presented by the University of Illinois Black Chorus, was founded by Professor of Voice Ollie Watts Davis in 1991. This four-day, biennial conference is dedicated to the study of Black Sacred Music traditions.

The Thirteenth Black Sacred Music Symposium will be held March 9-12, 2017.  The Symposium Concert on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Great Hall.

The conference provides participants with methods necessary to expand both their performance of the music and understanding of its message. Participants learn from a distinguished faculty of musicians and perform with them in the classroom and in concert. Seminar topics range from the history and development of African American sacred music traditions, including congregational singing, folk and concert spirituals, metered and improvised hymns, anthems, and traditional gospel expressions, to choral decorum, choral conducting, and vocal and instrumental techniques.

Additionally, participants attend musical rehearsals and join the artist faculty in a closing concert of repertoire learned during the Symposium weekend. The artist-faculty have included Illinois alums: the Rev. K. Edward Copeland (BALAS ’84), L'Tanya Moore-Copeland (MS '96) (no relation), and Willie T. Summerville (MS ’67), conductor Walter Owens, Dove Award winner V. Michael McKay, and gospel music legend A. Jeffrey LaValley.

In creating the curriculum for this conference, Dr. Davis envisioned an intensive training forum for university students and a continuing education opportunity for members of the community. The ensuing eleven Symposia have attracted participants from across the nation and have been recognized as viable experiences in the teacher certification process.

For more information, contact assistant conductor Ashley M. Davis at and visit this website for updates.