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Ohio Northern University to present ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Celebration of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’

Mar 17, 2015

The Ohio Northern University Department of Music presents a guest vocal recital titled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Celebration of Paul Lawrence Dunbar” in the Snyder Recital Hall in the Presser Building on Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public. 

The recital will feature Herbert W. Martin, poet; Minnita Daniel-Cox, soprano; and Jennifer Cruz, collaborative pianist.

The performance will center on the writings of noted African-American author and poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar accompanied by musical works from composers Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Leslie Adams, Carrie Jacob-Bond and Betty Jackson King.

Dunbar was known as the “poet laureate of the negro race” and considered at the time of his death to be the most famous poet in America. Focusing on the period’s racial attitudes, Dunbar gained national prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by employing both dialect and humor to entertain and distract readers from the underlying political messages contained in his work. For these reasons, Dunbar’s work continues to resonate with people today.

Martin, who was on faculty of the University of Dayton as professor of English and poet-in-residence from 1970 to 2007, edited “The Selected Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar” and “In His Own Voice: The Uncollected Dramatic and Other Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar.” He has written encyclopedia and textbook entries on Dunbar as well. Martin is most often associated with Dunbar via his one-man show, “The Eyes of the Poet.” He has also collaborated with a number of American composers as librettist.       

Daniel-Cox has performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Bach Society of Dayton and will debut with the Dayton Opera. She has appeared with the University of Dayton, Yellow Springs, Flint, Ann Arbor and South Bend Symphony Orchestras as well as the Defiance and Packard Symphonic Bands. Her collaboration with Herbert Martin, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A celebration of Paul Laurence Dunbar,” has been performed across the U.S. and has lead to the establishment of the Dunbar Multicultural Series and the Dunbar Music Archive.

Cruz is an associate professor of piano and the program director of the Music Mentors program at Central State University. She began her piano studies at the age of 4 with Suzanne Lent. After being discovered by Alexander Toradze at a master class in Milwaukee, she graduated from high school early to join his studio. She received her Bachelor of Music at the University of Indiana-South Bend under his tutelage. While pursuing her master’s degree, she worked at the Boys Choir of Harlem School as an accompanist and as a pedagogue at the Bronx School of Music and Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn. Cruz received her doctoral degree in piano performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music under the team of Elizabeth and Eugene Pridonoff.

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