Sankofa Chorale Spring Concert Shares Easter Spirit
by James Coulter
Easter Sunday is right around the corner, and Holy Week received a most soulful start at Hurst Chapel AME Church with a spring concert hosted by the Sankofa Chorale on Sunday.
More than a dozen singers within the local choir helped lift spirits for the Easter season with performances of soulful selections, both classical and contemporary.
Many of the singers that afternoon graced the stage to shine within the spotlight through solo performances, be it through violin, piano, or even vocals.
Dr. Anita Manger was one such soloist, as she took center stage to utilize her years of experience as an opera and classical singer to sing about the loving grace of Jesus Christ through her solo performance.
Dr. Manger had been performing within the choir for the past five years. She had previously performed as a soprano opera and classical singer prior to moving to Winter Haven from up north in Michigan.
Her past experiences allowed her to learn the vocal and breath control necessary to sing soprano loud and clearly without losing breath. Such experience turns such ordinary musical events into something quite extraordinary.
Being able to perform with the Sankofa Chorale allows her to continue her love of music and share it with others who likewise share that love, she explained.
Also as a music lover, she appreciates the director of the Sankofa Chorale, Dr. Jessie Owens, who leads the choir as a component of her local music school, the Dr. J. Owens Academy of Fine Arts.
The local academy offers music lessons to young school-aged children, not only teaching them to perform music, but to perform a variety of musical styles that they otherwise would not learn about through their public school education, Dr. Manger said.
“The school has been an excellent experience for the community, for the children as well as the adults,” she said. “It has broadened their horizons from one focus of music to broaden it with different styles of music and appreciation for those styles of music. I think this is a great asset for the community. Dr. Jessie Owens is doing a tremendous service to the community.”
Dr. Owens herself had served several decades as a music instructor within the local school system before retiring. Following her retirement, she noticed that her house was packed with so much sheet music that she didn’t know what to do with it all. So she decided to use it to start her own school, she explained.
“I am someone who loves music and who loves helping people,” she said. “It comes from this community and for the love of it here, so I have kids started early to help them improve.”
Her academy is hosted after school hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and offers students from first to ninth grade music lessons and classes on every type of instrument and musical style imaginable.
The Sankofa Chorale is a component of her academy, as their performances are often hosted during fundraisers for the school, such as their upcoming Juneteenth Gala at Polk State College.
As with any musical talent, their performances require three things to make it the best: practice, practice, and practice. Every week they practice for two hours, sometimes twice a week before big programs such as the spring concert on Sunday.
At the end of the day, being able to see so many likeminded musicians and singers come together to share their love and appreciation of music is more than worth the effort, especially when it involves a large turnout. The turnout for this concert especially more than exceeded expectations, Dr. Owens said.
“Putting all the different musicians together to show the talent they have in their community, and let them put together their own thing, let them do their own thing and shine themselves, coming together, it is coming together and going a fine job,” she said.
Dr. J. Owens Academy will be hosting two other upcoming events. Their student recital will be hosted at the church on May 4 at 1 p.m., and will be open to the public.
Their Juneteenth Gala, which is hosted as their annual fundraiser, will be hosted at Polk State College on June 1 at 6 p.m. For information and tickets, visit their website at: https://www.drjowensacademyfinearts.com/