Pro­fes­sor mixes mu­sic with ed­u­ca­tion

Dr. Lisa Ed­wards-Burrs feels ‘great pride’ in singing songs by African Amer­i­can com­posers

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Lind­sey Lan­ham Staff Writer

So­prano and ed­u­ca­tor Dr. Lisa Ed­wards-Burrs will be per­form­ing Feb, 16 at the Ch­ester­field County Pub­lic Li­brary. Along­side pi­anist Charles Sta­ples, the two will be play­ing a va­ri­ety of mu­sic by African-Amer­i­can com­posers.

Ed­wards-Burrs has been per­form­ing for more than 30 years, in­clud­ing when she per­formed the na­tional an­them for former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. She was in­volved in mu­sic pro­grams in school, where she stud­ied the harp.

“I was one of the first harp stu­dents in Rich­mond Pub­lic Schools be­cause my mu­sic teacher, Anne Walker, wanted the school sys­tem to have harp, so she started it,” she said. Ed­wards-Burrs also stud­ied vi­o­lin and plays pi­ano.

Grow­ing up in Peters­burg, she at­tended Gill­field Bap­tist Church. She said that grow­ing up in a church with a mu­si­cian and Pulitzer Prize-nom­i­nee Un­dine Smith Moore was very in­flu­en­tial.

“They would do her won­der­ful ar­range­ments,” said Ed­wards-Burrs. “She was a huge fig­ure in

African-Amer­i­can mu­sic. That was some­thing that was fun for me was to grow up with her in the church, lis­ten­ing to her mu­sic. I feel great pride in do­ing her mu­sic.”

Though Ed­wards-Burrs still per­forms, she is also a pro­fes­sor. She taught at Vir­ginia State Univer­sity for 17 years and has now been teach­ing at Long­wood Univer­sity for the past six years, where she teaches classes such as voice and opera work­shop.

Now, years later, both of Ed­wards-Burrs’ chil­dren are also in­volved in mu­sic. Her son plays jazz gui­tar, and her daugh­ter is a vi­o­lin­ist. She cites them as one of her great­est ac­com­plish­ments.

With a long his­tory of per­for­mances tucked un­der her belt, Ed­ward­sBurrs said she still looks for­ward to per­form­ing.

“It’s al­ways a nice ex­pe­ri­ence for the peo­ple in the au­di­ence, and it’s al­ways nice for me and my col­leagues be­cause you re­al­ize you’re ed­u­cat­ing at the same time while you’re hope­fully giv­ing an en­joy­able per­for­mance as well,” she said.

“The first African-Amer­i­can com­poser recital that I did was years ago at the Univer­sity of Rich­mond where I was an ad­junct pro­fes­sor,” Ed­wards-Burrs added. “Peo­ple just mar­veled at what they didn’t know. With African-Amer­i­can com­posers, some­times peo­ple think that they only do spir­i­tual and don’t re­al­ize that they con­trib­ute to clas­si­cal as many other com­posers do.”

Ed­wards-Burrs and Sta­ples will be per­form­ing mu­sic from a wide va­ri­ety of com­posers like John W. Work Jr., Mar­garet Bonds, Les­lie Adams and Duke Elling­ton. Sta­ples will also be per­form­ing solo pi­ano pieces from com­poser Harry T. Burleigh.

“I hope that the au­di­ence learns. It is very un­usual that you would find an au­di­ence, un­less they are mu­si­cians like my­self, that are well versed and knowl­edge­able about the con­tri­bu­tion of African-Amer­i­can com­posers to clas­si­cal mu­sic,” said Ed­wards-Burrs. “I love for them to just learn and en­joy and to go home and say ‘I had no idea that these songs were writ­ten.’ I like that for them, to be ex­posed and to dis­cover just a lit­tle bit more about our his­tory.”

The event is one in a se­ries of events that are be­ing held for Black His­tory Month. It will be held at 1 p.m. Satur­day, Feb. 16 from 1-2 p.m. Reg­is­tra­tion is re­quired and can be done at li­brary.ch­ester­field.gov or call (804) 751-CCPL.

[CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Dr. Lisa Ed­wards-Burrs will per­form a con­cert spot­light­ing African Amer­i­can com­posers Feb. 16 at the Ch­ester­field County Li­brary

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