Artina McCain didn’t always plan on becoming a performer, but found herself falling deeply in love with music and everything that it represents.
“It is not an easy job to be a musician, but you feel so strongly about playing that you absolutely can’t do anything else,” said Artina McCain. “This is what you have to do.”
This Black History Month, Artina McCain, UT Alumna and Black Composers Concert pianist and curator, as well as fellow UT Alumni Martin McCain and Icy Simpson-Monroe, will get a chance to use music to celebrate their community through history in the Austin Chamber Music Center’s Black Composers Concert.
“I made a point to not just engage African-American artists but engage any artist who has this repertoire in their fingers and is concertizing with it because it is not just for black people,“ Artina McCain said. “It’s just music and it is just music for people,”
Artina McCain said this year’s theme will focus on African-American song and dance, with genres ranging from gospel-related pieces to art songs.
“We have a couple of dances that will have you clapping your hands and tapping your feet or you might want a cocktail because it sounds so bar-like and sultry,” Artina McCain said. “And then we have some spirituals, but also the spiritual many might know had hidden meanings for slaves at the time to escape slavery.”
The concert will also be spotlighting lesser known composers who have made great accomplishments in their careers but never received the recognition they deserve.
“The composers that we feature are highly decorated, just as decorated as their European colleagues,” Artina McCain said. “Their music has just not made it to the mainstream as much as we would like.”
For Martin McCain, a bass trombone player, Black History Month is more than just a month to celebrate African-American culture. It’s about recognizing the common historical threads that run through American history.
“I don’t think it is a month thing, I think it is just more about the history behind everything,” Martin McCain said.
Simpson-Monroe said she hopes the concert and Black History Month will go beyond just celebrating African-American history and culture.
“At this time it is more important that we continue to shed light on the fact that we need to facilitate love across races,” Simpson- Monroe said. “Months that celebrate Hispanic history, Asian history and black history are crucial because they remind people of that.”
Icy Simpson-Monroe, a singer, said she believes this year’s Black History Month holds a special significance in light of recent political turmoil.
“I think it is important for people to be taught and reminded of who we are as a people, how our country was founded and what role we played in that,” Simpson-Monroe said. “To facilitate love, a sense of unity and the idea that even if you do not agree with who I am and what I represent, you can still respect me, understand me, expose your children to me and educate them about me.”
Black Composers Concert
Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Upper School Chapel.
Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. at the George Washington Carver Museum.