South Orangetown Central School District

In celebration of Black History Month, Tappan Zee High School Chorale and Concert Choir students have been studying the contributions of Black American choral composers, including William Dawson, Jester Hairston, Undine Smith Moore, Moses Hogan, R. Nathaniel Dett, Hall Johnson, Harry Burleigh, William Grant Still, Rosephanye Powell and André Thomas.

Each day of February, Choral Director Russell Wagoner, DMA, has spotlighted the life and work of a composer. After listening to one of the featured composer’s compositions, students discussed the historical context and distinguishing attributes of the piece.

“It’s important that students learn how the spiritual reflects the rich culture and history of our country and how the oral transmission of these songs informed and educated those they touched,” he explained. “It’s exciting to see students realize yet another way that culture is passed along from one generation to the next. This genre of musical storytelling brings history to life.”

Choral Teacher Russell Wagoner teaching in front of smartboard