Aerial view of the School of Music

For Professor Jerry Tolson, the African American Music Heritage Institute is about more than good music – it’s about broadening perspectives.

“The idea is exposure,” Tolson said. “Exposing the audience and students to music that they might not ordinarily experience. Also, fulfilling the mission of diversity within the School of Music and the university.”

Since 1996, the African American Music Heritage Institute has given the community an opportunity to learn about and experience the notable contributions that African Americans have made to culture and history through music.

Typically held during Black History Month, the event was postponed to November due to COVID. It includes clinics, lectures, workshops and concerts for Kentuckiana students and the Louisville community.

Tolson, chair of academic and professional studies at the School of Music, is the director and coordinator for the institute. His team of graduate assistants, students and fellow colleagues, along with the generous support of community and university organizations, make the AAMHI possible.

The 2021 theme is “The Spiritual Side of Jazz,” with renowned saxophonist Kirk Whalum and his band taking center stage. Whalum has worked with many musical greats including Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Quincy Jones, Larry Carlton and most notably, Whitney Houston in her mega-hit “I Will Always Love You.” A Memphis, Tennessee, with gospel roots and a background forged in the 1980s Houston nightclub scene, Whalum’s stirring, soulful and passionate tenor sound is unmistakably his own.

The AAMHI will take place Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 1 and 2. On Monday, there will be a masterclass and workshop on improvisation that is free and open to the public. Whalum and his ensemble will perform at 8 p.m., that evening in Comstock Concert Hall. Concert admission is $20 for adults and $10 general admission for non-UofL students. University students are free with valid student ID. Due to COVID tickets are limited and will need to be reserved through Eventbrite, available on the School of Music website. There also is a mandatory mask policy in place and proof of vaccination will be required for the concert.

On Nov. 2, Whalum will lead a lecture presentation at 1 p.m. at Comstock Concert Hall that is free to attend.

The School of Music is planning additional events in February.