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Responding to the heightened mood of this election year, SUNY's Empire State College (ESC) Metropolitan Center and The Yip Harburg Foundation (YHF) aim to inspire existing and prospective students with the power of songs of conscience as part of their educational/entertainment partnership.

They are co-producing a concert, I HEAR AMERICA SINGING: THE IMMIGRANT'S JOURNEY Monday, May 16 at 2:00 PM at Empire State College Metropolitan Center SUNY, 325 Hudson Street, 3 fl. The show is a revue featuring songs by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and friends and some works by later songwriters, all devoted to the ongoing struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

The concert is the kickoff event of a series of concerts to be presented by YHF which will ultimately include new works devoted to 21st century challenges.

Subsequent editions of this revue may feature commissioned works. As it programs an ensuing concert this fall, The Yip Harburg Foundation is considering having new music written for unpublished Yip Harburg lyrics and inviting an outstanding composer/lyricist team to submit an original song based on the 2016 election season.

The Yip Harburg Foundation (YHF) and Empire State College (ESC) presently have a unique resource partnership in musical theater education. Through this partnership, students of ESC's Metropolitan Center are offered an opportunity for unique undergraduate study in the arts and a personalized interdisciplinary degree that reflects their interests in Musical Theater. ESC is ideal for students who need maximum flexibility, including older students returning to college after a hiatus and those who are studying part-time around work or family commitments. Such students profit from the college's flexible approach to learning and the opportunity to earn college credit through work and life experience. The college's three locations in New York City provide easy access to the vast cultural resources or our urban setting. This enhances the curriculum, since the City becomes a "rich classroom," providing an array of experiences and activities which can be utilized for credit as students work toward their degrees.

E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, the master lyricist who was "Broadway's Social Conscience," fought for social and economic justice for all people throughout his whole life. His songbook includes such milestone songs of the Great Depression as "Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?" The Yip Harburg Foundation ( was created after his death to carry on his legacy and to promote educational opportunity, social/economic justice and world peace.

Among its varied themes, this revue will offer unknown Yip Harburg songs, some written for historic elections, and other songs offering Yip Harburg's views on immigration and migration. The revue will culminate in a performance of "Over the Rainbow." Deena R. Harburg, Yip's daughter-in-law, points out that the song, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, expresses the dream of an immigrant--or a would-be immigrant--for a better life in a far away land. This classic is under-appreciated for this original intent, says Ms. Harburg.

The performing cast includes ESC alumna Lisa Brescia (Broadway's "Mamma Mia!," "Wicked," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Aida"), current ESC student Ben Harburg (who is currently appearing as The Tin Man in Harlem Repertory Company's current stage production of "The Wizard of Oz"), and professionals Eric Poindexter (Theaterworks, Thalia Follies at Symphony Space), Jane Blass (Broadway's "Annie"; Broadway tours of "Hairspray" and "9 to 5"), and Reanna Armellino (founder of Greenhouse Ensemble). The last three are are members of the YHF's Rainbow Troupe. Musical directors are David Brunetti (musical director for Art Garfunkel, Judy Collins, Jennifer Holliday, Donna Murphy, Faith Prince and singers in most shows on Broadway; shows "Nunsense" and "Forever Plaid" and others; author of "Acting Songs") and David Gaines (musical director for Penny Fuller, Jeff Harnar, Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Mason; coach/accompanist and musical director in the Drama Division at Juilliard).

In this partnership, YHF offers varied workshops for ESC credit. They are not exclusively designed for performers, but appeal to a wide variety of students, for example a performer who wants to direct, a student of the music business who wants to learn songwriting, or a student of economics who wants to learn acting. The workshops are led by the highest level of Broadway and Entertainment professionals. New workshops in 2015/16 include: "Afro-Latin Musical Theater and Its African Origins" (conceived by Elizabeth Ruf-Maldonado and Deena Harburg) and "Musical Theatre Retrospective: American Musical Theater Songs from the 20th to 21st Centuries." Workshops do not follow a single formulaic approach; they are geared to almost all matriculated students who are interested. YHF is also offering an array of customized internships that place students into non-profit theater companies and other venues around NYC.

YHF has so far contributed $16,000 to ESC scholarships over the past three years. The personalized degree in Musical Theater Studies at ESC was conceived by Dean Cynthia Ward, ESC Metropolitan Center, and Deena R. Harburg., Executive VP and Artistic Director of Yip Harburg Foundation.

Bambi Everson, a graduating student and YHF scholar, sent this blank verse message of gratitude to YHF for its workshops: "I am absolutely not the same person I was when I started this class./ It was this class that gave me the confidence to take risks in other areas of my life!/Despite my hearing loss, my self esteem improved so much that I was able to successfully interview for jobs and land them and take chances acting again./It has already led to so many opportunities./I am forever grateful!!!....I still have some songs in my back pocket itching to get out."

The concert is free. To reserve, email or call 212-343-9668.

Pictured: Portrait of Yip Harburg. Photo courtesy of Yip Harburg Foundation.

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