Composer Tania Leon to Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School

Composer Tania Leon to Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School

The University of Central Arkansas, in conjunction with partners in Little Rock, has produced multiple events that use the arts to spotlight the history of Little Rock's Central High School, marking the 90thanniversary of its opening and commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Desegregation Crisis in 1957.

Through visual art, music, architecture, spoken word, and dance, the University seeks to showcase the arts as tools for social change and spark community conversations about race and place surrounding these anniversaries.

More information on the UCA commemoration events is outlined on their website uca.edu/cfac/central60.

The Little Rock Nine, an opera composed by Tania León with libretto by Thulani Davis and historical research by Henry Louis Gates Jr., has been commissioned by the University of Central Arkansas College of Fine Arts and Communication. León and Davis will create a two hour score based on the true story of nine African-American students who, in 1957, under federal troop escort, entered all-white Central High School to obtain an equal education. Funders for the commission of the opera include the Multi-Arts Production Fund (MAP Fund), The National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Fred Darragh Foundation, the Dorothy Morris Foundation, and the UCA Office of Sponsored Programs.


Commemorative Events Featuring Tania León:

Sept. 24 (Sun) 6:00-7:30 pm

Civil Twilight: Reflections on Fear, Courage, and Resilience, dance/spoken word event with Core Performance Company, LeRon McAdoo, Marcus Montgomery, and Central High Writeous Poetry Club with remarks by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tania León (composer of the Little Rock Nine opera), coordinated by UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication and ACANSA Arts Festival. Little Rock Central High School Commemorative Garden, 2120 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Dr. Free.

Sept. 25 (Mon) 11 am-12 pm and 7:30 pm

11 am-12 pm, Tania León Q&A with UCA voice students, Snow Fine Arts Center, UCA

7:30 pm, "An Evening with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tania León: Turning History into Art, " lecture with preview performance of excerpts from Little Rock Nine opera, Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA. Tickets at uca.edu/tickets; $15 general public; $5 students, children, and UCA community.


Cuban born Tania León is a highly regarded composer and conductor recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been the subject of profiles on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo and independent films. Recent commissions include: the score for the opera, The Little Rock Nine, with a libretto by Thulani Davis, and historical research by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., commissioned by the University of Central Arkansas's College of Fine Arts and Communication, with funds from the Multi-Arts Production Fund (MAP Fund), the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Fred Darragh Foundation, the Dorothy Morris Foundation, and the UCA Office of Sponsored Programs; Acana for orchestra; and Inura for voices, strings and percussion.

Appearances as guest conductor include those with the Symphony Orchestra of Marseille, France the Gewandhausorchester Orchestra, Germany and Orquesta Sinfonica de Guanajuato, Mexico among others. Tania León's honors include The New York Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award, the ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, she instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, was co-founder of the American Composers Orchestra "Sonidos de las Americas Festivals" and New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic. She has lectured at Harvard University, served as visiting professor at Yale University and as guest composer/conductor at the Hamburg Musikschule, Germany, the Beijing Central Conservatory, China and the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa.

León has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin and SUNY Purchase Colleges. She served as US Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. A Professor at Brooklyn College since 1985, she was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York in 2006. In 2010 Ms. León was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. For more information on Ms. Leon, go to www.tanialeon.com.

She is the founder and artistic director of Composers Now, a nonprofit founded in 2010 and dedicated to empowering all living composers, while celebrating the diversity of their voices and honoring the significance of their contributions to the cultural fabric of society. In 2017, a proclamation was presented to Tania Leon and Composers Now on behalf of Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition of their contributions on behalf of living composers. For more information, visit www.composersnow.org.




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