African Studies


"This program (Africa) is perfect. It is very educational and fun. You exactly get to be part of your learning."
— 6th Grader, IS 235

"The discipline, focus, and meaning that was exuded was monumental."
— Andrea Haywood, Teacher, Lenox Academy

Led by Women of the Calabash, a vocal and instrumental ensemble, this workshop or performance explores the traditional musical forms of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. The artists bring a variety of percussion instruments made from natural materials into the workshop for participants to play, including the shekere which is made from a type of gourd called a calabash from which the group takes its name. In the classroom or at a performance, this group captivates students with irresistible music interwoven with stories of African culture and history.
Artists: Director, Madeline Yayodele Nelson and members of Women of the Calabash (see Artist Bios)
Exploring the historical and geographical context of African music, Spirit Ensemble brings bright, pulsating African rhythms into the classroom or stage. Using their voices and a multitude of unusual instruments including the mbira, kora, and shekere, the group weaves a tapestry of percussion patterns and melodies. Experts in the music of Africa and the African Diaspora, musicians perform an array of traditional, as well as their own original compositions, encouraging audiences to clap and dance along with them.
Artists: Hasan Bakr and Kevin Nathaniel Hylton (see Artist Bios)
This special two-part workshop engages participants in creating homemade instruments out of recycled materials. In Part One, students make and decorate their homemade instruments under the direction of a visual artist. In Part Two, l students learn to play African rhythms on their original instruments. The workshop culminates in an in-class performance at your school or organization. At least ninety minutes is needed for the second workshop. [Participants must bring in empty plastic, cardboard or metal containers from home.]
Artists: Barbara Barry, Nicole Haroutunian, , Christopher Lea, Misha McGlown, Lance Paladino, Rose Pearlman or Kevin Nathaniel Hylton (see Artist Bios)
In this workshop participants make their own mbira (also known as likembe or thumb piano,) the ancient melodic instrument found throughout Africa. Master mbira-maker and -player, Kevin Hylton, teaches students how to play their original instruments. The workshop culminates in an in-class performance. At least ninety minutes are needed to complete this workshop. [Additional fee of $10 per participant for supplies.]
Artist: Kevin Nathaniel Hylton (see Artist Bios)
This art form consists of dancers and musicians who celebrate African dance and demonstrate its influence on other cultures. The dancers and drummers engage students in a variety of African dance movement, emphasizing the connection between traditional African culture and the dance and music that permeate African society even today. In workshops, students participate in drumming and movement from this rich heritage. In performance, the company treats the audience to a thrilling and colorful repertoire.
Artist: Ella Moore and members of the Charles Moore Dance Theatre(see Artist Bios)
Focusing on dance as an essential ingredient in African society, commemorating important life events as well as being an exuberant form of expression and interaction, the professional dancer shares the enthusiasm for African dance with students aged 2 to 70. In a workshop series, traditional African dance techniques is used to create an original dance with students.
Artist: Karen Farnum (see Artist Bios)
Paying homage to the oral traditions of Africa, the teaching artist demonstrates how to tell a story using strong characterization, vocal effects and actions. Expressive and energetic, our storyteller takes the listeners on a journey of the imagination, where the tales evoke the culture, people and landscape of Africa. Students are encouraged to talk about their own family histories, especially by listening to the stories of their grandparents.
Artist: Tammy Hall (see Artist Bios)
The teaching artist shows students how to look at African art by introducing contextual information such as the function of African art in society and the concept of symbolism. Students are given postcards of iconic African images for further observation and analysis. Depending upon the time available, students construct a mask or other hands-on activity based on African art. Artist-led tours of museum exhibits of African art are also available.
Artists: Barbara Barry, Nicole Haroutunian, , Christopher Lea, Misha McGlown, Lance Paladino or Rose Pearlman (see Artist Bios)
For more information about Global Arts contact Regina Larkin, Manager of Education Programs, at regina.larkin@symphonyspace.org, (212) 864-1414 ext. 212.