Michael Mwenso

Working Artists Lab with Michael Mwenso

Protest, Hope and Resilience through the Black Arts

Fall 2020

This fall’s Working Artists Lab centers on the magnetic impresario, Michael Mwenso, of Mwenso and the Shakes, who specializes in musical code-switching, freely adopting and repurposing the drama, whimsy and spirit of the Great American Songbook, African beats, funk, modern jazz, dance pop, Delta blues and cabaret theater with equal, effortless verve. Mwenso will collaborate with UB’s departments of Music and Theatre and Dance on his curriculum, Protest, Hope and Resilience through the Black Arts. The Black Arts have always played a role in American protest, hope and resilience. Michael Mwenso, with a coalition of leading black artists, takes students on a journey that demonstrates how these forms of ultimate human expression have propelled change, currently play a role in the advancement of consciousness, and will be a guiding force to real revolution in the future.

This fall’s Lab is in collaboration with George Caldwell, Adjunct Instructor, Department of Music and Director of Jazz Ensembles; Thomas Kolor, Associate Professor, Department of Music and Director of Percussion Ensemble; and Maria S. Horne, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance and Director of IACE International Artistic & Cultural Exchange Program.

“Michael Mwenso is a life student of African American music forms; he has exhaustively researched the the history, styles and subtleties of the music: field hollers, blues, spirituals, ragtime, early jazz, big band swing, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, post-bop, modal jazz, R&B, hip hop and beyond. Especially gifted in performance, he honors the history and often includes it all in a single set when he and his group, Mwenso and the Shakes, perform. He’s magnetic, curious and generous; we were fortunate to have him do a Working Artists Lab with the UB student jazz ensembles. Working with the students, his obvious honesty and integrity permitted them to respond openly, and challenged them to explore the music, while simultaneously giving them the confidence to do so. It’s something all educators want to impart, and it’s wonderful to watch. As with my students, my own store of knowledge has been enhanced. Thanks Michael, I am grateful to have met and gotten to know you.”

— George Caldwell, Director, Jazz Ensembles, UB Department of Music

“In times of crisis and uncertainty it’s through the arts that we might bring enlighten and awareness and yes, healing too. In our forum, we strove to make visible what often remains invisible, to address erasures, to build community, to hope, and to open a safe forum where to engage in healthy dialogue. While learning about “Protest, Hope, and Resilience through the Black Arts” from a team of exceptionally talented interdisciplinary artists, our students and our faculty discovered so much more! We are all overwhelmed by the richness of this experience and hope there will be more of the kind soon.

I want to recognize the extraordinary work of Arts Collaboratory and in particular of director Bronwyn Keenan; working with Bronwyn is a most exhilarating, creative and fruitful enterprise for all!”

— Maria S. Horne, Associate Professor, UB Department of Theatre and Dance, and Director of IACE

button with picture of person and text Michael Mwenso Hope Resist Heal 2020.

“Having Michael Mwenso at UB has been an experience I will never forget. The Working Artists Lab gave me an opportunity to express myself honestly and unapologetically in a safe space filled with joy and love. I learned things about myself that were rooted so deep I didn’t recognize it at first. For the first time I saw and learned from people who looked like me, who were thriving in the artistry they’ve chosen. It was invaluable.”

— Timiyah Love, Theatre Performance BFA

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Vuyo Sotashe

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Shariffa Ali

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Kyle Poole

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Simeon Marsalis

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Mathis Picard

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Frank Stewart

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Russell Hall