From traffic lights to Motown, Black entrepreneurs have sparked innovation throughout history. This February, join VocalEssence, one of Minnesota’s premier choral music organizations, as they showcase Black achievement in the arts and beyond each day of Black History Month as part of its daily pandemic show, Take 5 with GPS.
For more than three decades, the VocalEssence WITNESS program has celebrated the contributions of African Americans to a shared American heritage through concerts, recordings, and school programs. This special program continues their legacy of innovative educational opportunities.
Termed “28 Days of Black Excellence,” the programming is led by the host of Take 5 with GPS, VocalEssence associate conductor and director of learning & engagement programs G. Phillip Shoultz, III. Programming will stream live every day in February at 9 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook, and archived for later viewing.
“I started Take 5 with GPS on March 30 at the beginning of the pandemic to build connections even when we can’t all be together,” said G. Phillip Shoultz, also known as GPS. “Our goal is now to make it 365 straight days. On Take 5, we start with a quick exercise, and then add wellness components, poems, and song. I view it as a time for centering, reflecting, and being grateful, plus an opportunity to watch and sing along at home.”
Celebrating Black achievement in the arts and beyond
“As special programming for Black History Month, I wanted to focus energy on genius as it exists in the Black community,” added Shoultz. “For each episode, we’ll sing a song that was either written by or made popular by a Black artist and highlight poetry, inspirational thoughts, inventions, and creations by Black entrepreneurs.”
Highlights of the month will include musical selections from spirituals and soul to gospel and R&B. Poets will range from Langston Hughes to Maya Angelou. Black inventors will include Garrett Morgan (traffic light), Sarah Boone (improved ironing board), James E. West (microphone), Lewis Lattimore (carbon lightbulb filament), George Washington Carver (hundreds of products using peanuts) and Mary Van Briton Brown (home security center).
In addition to the daily live streams, the videos will be available on the VocalEssence WITNESS School Portal, a free website for teachers that contains resources and opportunities to learn about well-known African American artists across various disciplines.
“I hope that the community will join me and sing along as we celebrate these amazing trailblazers,” said Shoultz.
VocalEssence was called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the NEA. It impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its initiative programs, contests, and support for innovative art. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and has debuted more than 300 commissions and world premieres.