When I was a young boy growing up on the Westside of Chicago, I began to sense a connection to Africa in the churches I attended. In those churches, there was a particular way of singing, praising God, speaking in tongues, holy-ghost dancing, call and response, processional, and recessional. The music was always combined with improvisation. The performer would individualize each song to make it a current and in-the-moment personal statement. As I grew older, I studied this music in greater detail. I learned that the music of my ancestors has roots in the musical practices of Africans.
Over the last 400 years, the music of these proud people has evolved into many forms like jazz, soul, hip-hop, gospel, and military music– just to name a few. When you listen to Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Mahalia Jackson, Celine Dion, John Legend, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Common, Ray Charles, T. Pain, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Christina Aguilera, you experience many elements of African music. These colorful musical moments are called “Afro Music Distinctions” (AMD). AMDs are musical elements that helped create African American music. My curriculum and performances are fun informative, interactive, and empowering.
Bruce A. Henry Vocalist/ Composer/Historian
Bruce A. Henry’s award-winning talent and music has taken him to five continents, garnering a large following in France and the Far East. His fans have heard him on BBC, performing a Worldwide Radio Live Concert, as well as notable movie soundtracks. Henry has performed on 5 continents in locales such as Havana, Manila, Israel, Paris, London, Miami, New York City, Maui, Saipan, and Tanzania. Bruce’s journey has resulted in an eclectic style of world-influenced jazz vocals and composition. Bruce possesses a three and one-half octave range, a pure voice with versatility and depth that few can match. Bruce studied voice at The American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and is a former MacPhail Student. Vocalist/educator/composer Bruce A. Henry has performed with the likes of Jimmy Jam, Doc Severinsen, The Sounds of Blackness, Bobby McFerrin, Julius Hemphill, and Buddy DeFranco, and has opened for the likes of Roberta Flack, Ramsey Lewis, Chris Botti, Natalie Cole, Stephan Grapelli, and Gato Barbieri. “Bruce Henry would have made a terrific Cantor. Not just because his pitch is true and his multi-octave range can cover the demands of any prayer. Like the best Cantors, Bruce can summon the highest spirit with a simple incantation. And it matters little if that spirit is Judaic, African, or Bulgarian, or if the origin of the call is Gershwin or Parker or folk tradition. No spirit would turn away from the unwavering sound, the pure tone, the thunder from the heart.
We can’t turn away when Bruce is on stage. His presence is simultaneously commanding and approachable. His joy is contagious. He nearly overpowers with emotion, leaving one breathless but still standing. When he improvises it’s as if creating a ceremonial chant from ancient fragments. His voice is his horn, and he can swing like Goodman, spin and spiral like Parker, or levitate like Coltrane.”