Kent State School of Music to Commemorate May 4 Through Music, Dance and Poetry at Severance

Kent, Ohio — The Kent State University School of Music returns to Severance Music Center on Monday, May 2, at 7 p.m. featuring nearly 300 students from across the university performing a rich lineup of genres and styles from classical and jazz to gospel and world music. It will also feature collaborations with the School of Theatre and Dance and the Wick Poetry Center.

Titled “Stories of Peace, Protest and Reflection,” the concert is a commemoration of the tragic Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970. Each work explores social justice, civil rights and the complex emotions felt before, during and after tragedy. Interspersed throughout the concert will be poetry, read by guest speakers like Roseann “Chic” Canfora—an eyewitness to the events of May 4 and a current faculty member in Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism. The poems will be selected from the Wick Poetry Center’s collection commemorating the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. 

“I’m thrilled we’re able to perform at Severance Music Center, presenting such a powerful and important concert,” said Kent McWilliams, director and professor of the School of Music. “Today, we face many of the same challenges that led to May 4. I hope that through art, we can gather as a community to continue to learn and face them together.”

The concert begins with David Gillingham’s “With Heart and Voice,” featuring the Kent State Wind Ensemble, Symphony Band and Kent State Youth Winds. Next is the world premiere of Bobby Selvaggio’s “I Have a Dream,” a work inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, for jazz ensemble and strings. It will also include guest spoken word artist Orlando Watson. Kent State’s Thai Ensemble then performs the Buddhist-teaching-inspired Khmen Phothisat. Singers from Kent State Opera Theatre will next perform selections from “Blind Injustice,” a contemporary work by Scott Davenport Richards and David Cote based on the stories of those who were wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by the Ohio Innocence Project. Pianists Alena Miskinis and Will Baughman then perform Frederic Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues,” featuring eight student dancers choreographed by Dance Department faculty member Jeffrey Marc Rockland. Concluding the first half of the concert is African Ensemble and Steel Band with Afrobeats dance team Asé Xpressions performing Davido’s “FEM.”

Kent State’s Percussion Ensemble opens the concert's second half with the colorful and warm “Citadel of the Stars.” Next is the Kent State New Music Ensemble’s performance of faculty composer Adam Roberts’ new work “Sometime There Is a Day.” Then, guest clarinetist David Shifrin—who came to Kent State as a student of the Kent Blossom Music Festival in summer 1970—will join the Kent State University Orchestra to perform Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto. The program continues with the Kent State Gospel Choir, Voices United, singers from the Cleveland School of the Arts, and the Kent State University Orchestra performing a spiritual, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The Kent State University Orchestra and combined Kent State Choirs then perform Johannes Brahms’ meditative “How Lovely are Thy Dwelling Places” from “A German Requiem.” 

Concluding the program is “Be the Change.” Part of the 43-song "Justice Choir Songbook," the work was written by Marc Kaplan and Colin Britt with text adapted from words attributed to Gandhi. For this event, Kent State alumnus Bryon Black II is creating a new arrangement that will bring nearly all the concert’s performers together on the same stage. Black will also return to conduct the piece. 

A public reception will follow the concert in Severance’s main lobby. Tickets are now available and start at $25. For those 18 and under, a special discounted price of $10 is available using code KentUnder18. Purchases can only be made online through the Severance Ticket Office or by calling 216-231-1111. 

More concert information can be found on the Glauser School of Music’s website at

For the latest information about this year's commemoration and the events of May 4, 1970, visit


Contact for Media:
Andrew Paa | 330-672-0894

Header Images Courtesy of Kent State Libraries

  • David Futey. Annual May 4 Commemoration records. Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Deborah Andersen. Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections & Archives.
  • News Service May 4 photographs. Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections & Archives.
POSTED: Monday, March 21, 2022 02:45 PM
UPDATED: Sunday, May 19, 2024 05:12 AM
Andrew Paa |