To mark Black History Month, the UNM African American Student Services (AASS) will host two multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes’ Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz featuring the Ron McCurdy Quartet Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22. 

There is a free concert Friday, Feb. 21, at 10:30 a.m. at Popejoy Hall. Everyone is invited. RSVP for the event here.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, there is a benefit concert at the Outpost Performance Space at 7:30 p.m. 

Tickets are $25 general admission. The concert is a fund-raiser for the AASS Scholarship Fund. Get tickets for the event here or at the door.

“We are accepting donations at the door to support Black student scholarships,” said AASS director Brandi Stone. For information, contact Stone at 505.277.2490.

On Thursday, Feb. 20, Ron McCurdy will present a master class for UNM students from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the SUB Ballroom C and another from 2 to 3:15 p.m. at Keller Hall. The Poets, Dancers and Musicians of the Harlem Renaissance will explore a period in American history when African Americans demonstrated the ability to make significant contributions to the intellectual and artistic landscape in America. The Artist Entrepreneur: Creating and Minding Your Own Business offers an overview of the music business and how to assist emerging artists navigate and construct careers in the music and artistic business. Strategies for creating and mounting Big Idea Projects will be discussed. UNM students, faculty, and staff have seating priority but the class is open to the public on a space available basis.

The Langston Hughes Project is a multimedia concert performance of Langston Hughes' kaleidoscopic jazz poem suite titled Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz. This is Hughes' homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s. It is a 12-part epic poem which Hughes scored with musical cues drawn from blues and Dixieland, gospel songs, boogie-woogie, bebop, progressive jazz, Latin cha-cha, Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indian calypso, and African drumming – a creative masterwork left unperformed at his death.

The performance is brought to life by the extraordinary talents of the Ron McCurdy Quartet. McCurdy is professor of music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) and is past president of the International Association for Jazz Education. Prior to his appointment at USC he served as director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC. 

McCurdy will play trumpet, joined by New York University graduate Yuma Sung on piano and UNM Men of Color Initiative director Rodney Bowe playing bass. Albuquerque poet laureate and UNM alumnus Hakim Bellamy and other poets will also perform.

According to the Poetry Foundation, “Hughes was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of black intellectual, literary, and artistic life that took place in the 1920s in a number of American cities, particularly Harlem. A major poet, Hughes also wrote novels, short stories, essays, and plays. He sought to honestly portray the joys and hardships of working-class black lives, avoiding both sentimental idealization and negative stereotypes.”

Stone explained that the African American Student Services serves as a resource for UNM students of African descent and provides culturally relevant academic and social programs to support the matriculation and graduation of its students.

“Our goal is to ensure that they have a smooth transition and excellent college experience while at UNM. We understand the many challenges Black students face while navigating higher education and want them to know that we have several resources within our office to prepare them and assist in their matriculation. These include advocacy, mentorship, student organizations, workshops and programs, and connections to our Albuquerque Black community events,” she explained.

Donations can be made to the AASS on its website.

Master lecture · Thursday, Feb. 20

11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. in UNM SUB Ballroom C · 2 - 3:15 p.m. in UNM Keller Hall

Free concert · Friday, Feb. 21

Popejoy Hall · 10:30 a.m. - noon

Benefit concert · Saturday, Feb. 22 · 7:30 p.m. · $25 admission

The Outpost Performance Space · 210 Yale Blvd. NE, Albuquerque

Proceeds support UNM African American Student Services Scholarship Fund

For information, contact Brandi Stone at 505.277.2490