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Roland Hayes

Patrice Rushen composition honors trailblazing tenor Roland Hayes

DETROIT — The Detroit Public Library and the E. Azalia Hackley Collection present the 70th Annual Hackley Concert at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12. This year’s concert premieres “The Legacy of Roland Hayes,” a composition written by multi-Grammy nominated artist Patrice Rushen. The performance will feature renowned tenor George Shirley and the Cut Time Players, led by Detroit Symphony Orchestra bassist Rick Robinson.

The E. Azalia Hackley Collection is one of the nation’s foremost research collections documenting achievements by Black performing artists. Created in 1943 by a gift from the Detroit chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians, the Collection was named in honor of Emma Azalia Hackley (1867-1922), singer, educator, and activist, who mentored Marian Anderson among others. Hackley attended high school in Detroit and passed away while in the city as well.

“As we celebrate the 70th E. Azalia Hackley Concert this year, we are pleased to present this special composition to the public,” said Jo Anne Mondowney, executive director of the Detroit Public Library. “One of our most treasured archival collections is the Roland Hayes Collection and this concert allows us to further honor his legacy.”

In 2000, the Detroit Public Library commissioned Patrice Rushen to write a score in honor of Roland Hayes. Hayes was born to formerly enslaved tenant farmers in Tennessee and became of the greatest tenors of the 1920s. He pioneered the use of “Negro spirituals” as an intrinsic part of vocal recitals.  A summer program — led by Hayes — was the catalyst for de-segregating Black Mountain College. Hackley and Hayes were not only contemporaries, they shared a similar deep commitment to social justice, the end of segregation and love for music. The concert is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 313.481.1338 or visit and click on E. Azalia Hackley concert link. The concert will be held in the Clara Stanton — Jones Friends Auditorium at the Detroit Public Library (5201 Woodward Ave.). 

— Staff report

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