Black Keys: Storytelling, music and dance Wednesday night

Monday, June 28, 2021
Joshua Thompson

This week’s Greencastle Summer Music Festival program features pianist and musical sociologist Joshua Thompson (a 2004 DePauw University alum), who returns to Greencastle to present “Black Keys: The Evolution of the Black Classical Arts,” an origin story that weaves together music, dance and narrative to highlight the historic and current mastery of the African diaspora.

There’s no admission charge for the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday performance, which will be under an hour in length, held in the intimate setting of the air-conditioned sanctuary of Gobin Church, and followed by an informal reception.

“Black Keys” recently debuted at the Palladium in Carmel. As Nicholas Reading wrote about that performance in Nuvo, “You will join Thompson, vocalist AshLee “PsyWrn Simone” Baskin and dancer Vae Savage, for a performance of ‘musical storytelling,’ that explores an evolution from, in his words ‘cosmic nothingness before the stardust,’ to the creation of, ‘prose, poetry, and the unique cultural aesthetic of a people.’ While the scope of his vision is expansive, the show is rooted in a desire to share, inform and delight.” Composers featured are William Grant Still, Chevalier de St. Georges, Nina Simone, Duke Ellington and Florence Price.

Eric Edberg, the DePauw emeritus music professor who founded the festival in 2005, says, “Joshua is an extraordinary musician and human being, whose life has taken him on quite a journey. He started out as a music major, switched to sociology, worked in the mental health field, and eventually returned to music as a passionate advocate for the Black classical-music tradition. We at the festival are absolutely honored to bring him, his colleagues, and this deeply imaginative program to Greencastle.”

Thompson is a pianist, social musicologist, teaching artist and producer. He is increasingly recognized on a national scale for his expertise on classical composers of African descent and the inherent cultural connectivity in the broader aesthetic of Black Arts movements. As the 2020 Beckman Emerging Artist Fellow of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, he successfully completed his residence at the Africana Studies Center for Music and Society at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and currently serves as the first Musicologist in Residence for Classical Music Indy.

Thompson is a classically trained and accomplished keyboard artist with a personal mission to exclusively program and perform classical masterworks by composers of African descent. In 2019 Joshua was named Performer in Residence for Eskenazi Health’s Marianne Tobias Music Program and in 2020 was named a Robert D. Beckmann Jr Emerging Artist Fellow made possible by the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

He has worked with legendary bassist John Clayton, Smithsonian Research Fellow Dr. William C. Banfield, touring pianist Ric’key Pageot, Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Davis, renowned clarinetist Anthony McGill, and international operatic soprano Angela Brown. His award-winning podcast series “Melanated Moments in Classical Music” with co-host Angela Brown, won 2020 Best Music Podcast from the Black Podcasting Awards.

The festival’s concerts are presented through the generosity of individual donors (who have donated more than $11,000 toward this summer’s goal of $21,000), income from an endowment at the Putnam County Community Foundation, grants from the PCCF and the Putnam County Community Foundation, and in-kind donations from the Inn at DePauw.

This summer’s concerts are being video recorded and are available on YouTube and Channel 3 in Greencastle. For more information, visit

The festival continues next week on July 7 with “Songs and Stories of Putnam County” featuring Bobbie Lancaster, Ethan Batan and Luke Lovejoy, Gus Moon and Carly & Josh Brown.

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