Arts & Culture

From jazz to samba to ‘Hill Street Blues’

2 min read

Artist alums bring inaugural to life

A muster of remarkable musicians who also happen to be Harvard graduates gathered in Sanders Theatre Thursday night (Oct. 11) to serenade the soon-to-be inaugurated University President Drew Faust.

The group showed that Harvard not only produces first-rate musicians, but that it also produces artists whose work spans a vast musical spectrum.

The Harvard Kuumba Singers conducted by Sheldon Reid ’96 started things off with a selection from their repertoire of African-American spiritual music.

The Alison Brown Quartet with Joe Craven was next. Brown ’84, a banjo virtuoso, has made that humble instrument speak the language of acoustic jazz without abandoning its folk and bluegrass roots.

A “celebratory improvisation” by Robert Levin ’68 followed. Levin, the Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of Music at Harvard, is both a renowned music scholar and an accomplished performer and recording artist.

One non-musical offering was “A Primer for a President,” a video produced by Jeffrey Melvoin ’75, a television writer and producer who has worked on such shows as “Hill Street Blues,” “Northern Exposure,” and “Picket Fences.” John Lithgow ’67 introduced the humorous video.

China Forbes ’92 and Thomas Lauderdale ’92, members of the eclectic band Pink Martini, performed, as well. The two met when they were students at Harvard and discovered that they shared a passion for music. Their casual collaboration evolved into a band that performs everything from French cabaret music to Brazilian samba to Japanese pop.

Stefan Jackiw ’07 and Max Levinson ’93 performed “Road Movies,” a piece for violin and piano, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams ’69. Violinist Jackiw made his solo debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at 14 and has played with major orchestras worldwide.

The final performance was by Joshua Redman ’91, a modern master of jazz saxophone who has played and recorded with some of the greatest jazz artists.