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Virginia Tech, Mill Mountain team up for Thursday's "Jazzing Women"


BLACKSBURG, Va., March 10, 2005 – Virginia Tech is teaming up with Mill Mountain Theatre and Circuit Productions to present "Jazzing Women," an evening of jazz music, dance, and song at Mill Mountain's Waldron Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 17. The featured event is part of Virginia Tech's Mid-Atlantic Conference on the Scholarship of Diversity.

Senior artists include vocalist and jazz keyboard player Sarah McLawler, and tap dancer Tina Pratt. Both women have toured worldwide with many jazz masters in music and dance. McLawler has worked with many of the greats in the business, including Dinah Washington, George Benson, Pearl Bailey, Nat Cole, Dionne Warwick, Max Roach, and many more. Pratt was last seen on Broadway in Black and Blue, and has performed with Count Basie, Barry Harris, Dr. Jimmie Syde, and the legendary Honi Coles, among others. McLawler and Pratt will be joined by their band, Les Jazz Femmes, which includes New York artists Bernice Brooks (drums), Whitney Moulton (bass), and Carol Sudhalter (sax and flute). The New York artists are presented through Susan Goldbetter's Circuit Production, a New York City based non-profit organization dedicated to presenting under-represented artists, especially African-American musicians and dancers.

Joining these luminaries are Atlanta-based musicians Elise Witt and Mick Kinney, and Jackson, Miss., musicians and spoken-word artists Maurice and Carleton Turner (also known as MUGABEE or Men Under Guidance Against Early Extinction).The Turners are in residency with Mill Mountain Theatre and working with the Downtown Music Lab in Roanoke. Virginia Tech professor and tap dancer Ann Kilkelly, organizer and director, will add her tapping feet and knowledge of tap history to the mix.

Kilkelly, Ph .D, professor of Theatre Arts and Women's Studies at Virginia Tech, is spearheading the residency of McLawler and Pratt to make their voices heard and seen in Southwest Virginia and more broadly through national archives. Other weekend events include an oral history project, "Citing Her Feet" and a free lecture-demonstration by McLawler and Pratt from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at Virginia Tech's Black Cultural Center in Squires.

"Oral histories, focused and undertaken by scholars and jazz artists aware of the context and practice of jazz, assure that specific voices make their way into the public record," said Kilkelly, who will record and document the "Jazzing Women" presentations for placement in national music and dance collections.

The Thursday event will be presented to the Blacksburg and Roanoke public as well as to about 100 national and international scholars in attendance at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on the Scholarship of Diversity at the Hotel Roanoke. The conference is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Virginia Tech. The artists' residency honors and showcases the historical contributions of African American women jazz artists and historians working to make the art and humanity of jazz a part of everyone's life and an integral addition to scholarship.

Sponsors of the event include Mill Mountain Theatre, Circuit Productions, Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, The Women's Studies Program, The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Virginia Tech, Circuit Productions of New York City, the Network of Cultural Centers of Color, the Doris Duke Foundation, National Performance Network, the Ford Foundation, and Alternate R.O.O.T.S. through the National Endowment for the Arts.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in this celebration of jazz arts and humanities. Tickets for "Jazzing Women" are $15 at the door/$7 students and seniors. "Citing Her Feet" is free and open to the public.

For further information, contact Ann Kilkelly at (540) 231-7652 or at akilkell@vt.edu.