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Civil Rights Road Trip: Azar – Eye-opening and inspiring

Dan Azar at Fisk University

Dan Azar ’18 — Visiting Fisk University was the most eye-opening and inspiring portion of our trip today. The Fisk Jubilee Singers were formed as an all black a capella group to raise funds for their university. Their repertoire initially consisted of “white man’s music” as they did not sing African American spirituals. Spirituals reminded them of a dark history of slavery. They later sang some black folk music as they toured the United States. I was inspired by how important the singers were to the history of African American music.

Black musicians earlier on who toured only toured as minstrels to mock black culture through jokes, dances, and catchy tunes. The Fisk Jubilee Singers toured not to mock, but to show the world that they are talented and can perform as classically trained musicians just as white people can. They gave audiences a genuine look at African American music and culture.

To see how this small group of African American musicians, who were about my age at the time, help their university through music truly inspired me as a musician and question why music is so important to me. The eye-opening thing about this whole experience is how the Fisk Jubilee Singers did not settle for music for the sake of music. What I mean is, they sang with a purpose. They wanted to show the world that they are proud of who they are and that being a classically trained musician is not something limited solely to white European artists.

What made me feel so inspired is how they used music to save their university. Their actions make me truly discern the role of music in my life and think about how I can sing and perform with purpose. After all, the music I’ve been privileged to study in this class has a deep cultural purpose. It’s important to maintain that deep cultural importance in a variety of genres of music and remind ourselves why we sing.