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Black History Month

Celebrate the rich cultural and artistic legacy of the African diaspora with Old Town School! Join us for a month of song, dance, history, and much more.


Wednesday, February 3, 7:00 PM CST · Online

History of R&B Workshop Series: The Real Rhythm and Blues with John Mead

Listen to and learn about the music that gave us the term "rhythm and blues"—the early 1950s combo of jump blues and gospel that exploded into the post-WWII world and changed it forever. The Drifters, the Dominoes, the Five Royales, Ray Charles, Louis Jordan, and many more. We’ll play a few songs and we’ll hear some of the great tracks that define the genre and the era.

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Wednesday, February 10, 7:00 PM CST · Online

History of R&B Workshop Series: The Birth of Soul with John Mead

Hear and play some of the great tunes that marked the transition from rhythm and blues to "soul" music. From the mid-50s through the early 60s, we’ll track the rise of Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield, and Sam Cooke and their use of the music of the Southern black church to create a new genre that would lead to Motown, the Memphis recording business, and the first black-owned label, Chicago’s own Vee-Jay.

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Saturday, February 13, 12:00 PM CST · Online

Introduction to African Mandolin with Nathaniel Braddock

We'll learn music from recently uncovered recordings of one of Ghana's last mandolinists and discuss tactics for developing mandolin music in contemporary African styles.

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Saturday, February 13, 2:00 PM CST · Online

Yaa Amponsah: the Mother of West African Guitar with Nathaniel Braddock

In this workshop Braddock unpacks one of most important guitar rhythms from the roots of Africa's earliest guitar tradition.

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Saturday, February 13, 2:30 PM CST · Online

Family Hand Drumming Workshop with Lenny Marsh

Learn the basics of hand drumming is this workshop specifically designed for families.

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Wednesday, February 17, 6:00 PM CST · Online

African-Rooted Percussion Workshop with Dendê Macêdo

Learn to play Afro-Brazilian percussion on timbau, caixa, surdo, pandeiro, bacurinha and tamborim first hand with a former member of Timbalada!

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Wednesday, February 17, 7:00 PM CST · Online

History of R&B Workshop Series: The Roots of Funk with John Mead

Learn about the beginnings of funk, and learn to play some riffs, as we dive into the origins of funk, from the blues migrating into the cities as well as the vocal group origins of James Brown and George Clinton. We'll travel from New Orleans to Cincinnati to Detroit and even San Francisco and look at giants like Sly and the Family Stone and the Meters as well as lesser known heroes like Dyke and the Blazers and the Brothers Johnson.

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Saturday, February 20, 2:30 PM CST · Online

Snare Drum Workshop for Kids with Lenny Marsh

Perfect for the budding drummer, this workshop introduces kids to the basics of playing the snare drum. From how to hold the sticks to basic rhythm patterns, this workshop will prepare your child for a future of playing a drum set.

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Sunday, February 21, 1:00 PM CST · Online

Funky Banjo Workshop with Súle Greg Wilson: Songs from the African American, Caribbean, and African Traditions

Súle Greg Wilson is offering an examination of the banjo in African American, Caribbean, and African Traditions. Súle will cover a few songs in different playing styles including one-finger up-picking, two-finger playing, multiple strumming techniques, and beginning frailing.

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Tuesday, February 23, 7:00 PM CST · Online

Afro-Brazilian Samba with Dill Costa

Join Dill Costa in this new online workshop exploring the culture of Afro Brazilian Samba. Learn to use footwork, body placement and rhythmic steps to create dramatic, and stylish choreography!

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Wednesday, February 24, 6:00 PM CST · Online

Afro-Cuban Dance Workshop with Victor Ramirez

This workshop will cover fundamental movement vocabulary for Orisha dance. Students will learn about timing, technique, and improvisation. There will be live drumming! No experience necessary.

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Wednesday, February 24, 7:00 PM CST · Online

Jeff Parker Guitar Workshop

Join Jeff Parker for an examination and discussion of some of his influences, musical ideas, and compositional approaches. By listening to some of his select recorded work, Jeff will provide insights into composing, recording, and performing, delving into creative ideas and bigger concepts to apply to both your guitar playing and your overall musicality.

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Wednesday, February 24, 7:00 PM CST · Online

History of R&B Workshop Series: Soul Apotheosis with John Mead

The reign of soul music—its commercial success and its cultural relevance—was cemented in the late 60s and early 70s. From Philadelphia to Memphis to Los Angeles, the artistry, the groove, and the message of soul came from, and reached, everywhere in America. We’ll hear and play songs by Aretha, the Spinners, the O’Jays, Millie Jackson, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and more.

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Thursday, February 25, 6:00 PM CST · Online

African-Rooted Percussion Workshop with Sanba Zao

This workshop with Sanba Zao will focus on the basics of Vodou drumming and singing. Participants will learn foundational Haitian rhythms such as Yanvalou, Petwo, and Nago and will work with both Sanba Zao and Steeve Valcourt to learn a couple Vodou spiritual songs that work within the rhythms.

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Saturday, February 27, 2:00 PM CST · Online

African-Rooted Percussion Workshop with Joaquin Pozo

Explore the classic rhythms of Afro-Cuban music with master percussionist and Havana native Joaquin Pozo. In this workshop intensive, Pozo will demonstrate on the congas - or tumbadoras as they are known in Cuba - the rhythms that constitute both popular and traditional Afro-Cuban forms.

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Saturday, February 27, 2:30 PM CST · Online

Afro Beats Drumming Workshop for Kids with Lenny Marsh

Learn about the African roots of Cuban and Brazilian Percussion in the workshop for kids ages 8 and up.

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Sunday, February 28, 12:00 PM CST · Online

Roots of Tap: The Beginning through Today with Reggio McLaughlin

Explore the origin of tap dance, its roots in Africa and its multicultural blend in the New World. Tap Dance is known today as America's true folk dance.

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