Mozart to Motown | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mozart to Motown

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Phyllis Lewis-Hale keeps classical opera alive in Jackson.

Jackson State University music students take a journey "From Mozart 2 Motown" April 28. Featuring the JSU Opera Workshop and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the show begins with classical pieces and works up to musical theater numbers and jazz tunes from the 20th century.

And, as the title implies, it will end with some Motown tunes.

"Just because we are in 21st century doesn't mean the classics can't be appreciated," says Phyllis Lewis-Hale, director of opera theater at JSU. She's a vocal instructor for many of the singers in the "From Mozart 2 Motown" production.

An opera singer who has performed internationally, Lewis-Hale began her musical career as a JSU sophomore. She has a special academic interest in classical African American composers. Her passion is making their work known to a broader audience.

The performance—"showing that wonderful evolution of music"—is a fundraiser for the vocal music department outreach programs, Lewis-Hale says. She wants to take more shows to Mississippi's public schools, summer camps and rural areas.

"We want to reach out and share classical musical with all of our communities without stunting the popularity of contemporary music," she says. "We're making a difference in keeping the classical arts alive."

Younger students may idolize pop stars, like Lady Gaga, and assume classical music is not of any interest. Lady Gaga, however, had classical training, Lewis-Hale points out.

"From Mozart 2 Motown" is at 7 p.m. April 28 in F.D. Hall Music Center at Jackson State University. Concert tickets are $5 for students and $10 for general admission; VIP reception following the performance, $5. For information, call 601-979-2984.

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