Dr. Phillip Autry, chair of the Fisk Department of Music, along with Stefan Petrescu, professor of strings at Tennessee State and Fisk Universities, Ai Ishihara, pianist and graduate student at Tennessee State University, Zhengyang Cong, pianist and student at Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School as well as Fisk piano performance majors De’Andre Jones and Kaylina Madison paid tribute to the legacy of John W. Work, III during the 13th annual Piersen Lecture Series. The performers presented a concert containing newly discovered and rare works of John W. Work.
Work served as chairman of the University’s department of music and director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1947-1956. As a composer, Work is responsible for writing over 100 compositions for various musical ensemble groupings. He is most remembered for his compositions for solo voice as well as choral music.
“During the early part of the 20thCentury, there was a stigma against American-born and American-trained composers,” said Dr. Philip Autry, chair of Fisk’s department of music. “Work studied and mastered classical forms, yet he exhibited a personal style of composition that also reflected his experiences. Work can be an example for aspiring composers from remote places, small institutions, or from outside the mainstream.”
Following the Work composition performances, Dr. Reavis Mitchell reflected on noted Fisk graduate, activist and co-founder of the NAACP in 1909, W.E.B. DuBois.
The Piersen Series, named in honor of the late William Piersen who chaired the Fisk University Department of History for fifteen years. The series is a lecture and performance initiative that exists to provide primary research information on Fisk University.