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The Humanities Advisors for the Jester Hairston Film Project are part of an Advisory Council that will contribute to and review the treatment and the documentary script. Our advisors are experts in African-American music history and folk culture, church music history and practice, and American film and cultural history. Their expertise also extends to Jester Hairston's biography and performance practice.

Humanities Advisory Council

  • Donald Bogle

    d bogleDr. Bogle teaches at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and the University of Pennsylvania and is a leading authority on African Americans in film and television. He has authored several award-winning books like Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Buck: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films; Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood; Blacks in American Films and Television; and Dorothy Dandridge.

  • Rev. James Lawson

    j lawsonAs former pastor of Holman United Methodist Church and leading theoretician of the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Lawson transformed music into an expression of non-violence. His love of spirituals can be traced back to his earlier years (as a pastor) in Memphis. Upon moving to Los Angeles, this special genre of music gained even more significance after meeting Jester Hairston, who sang for many years in the distinguished Holman Choir.

  • Dr. Albert McNeil

    a mcneilProfessor Emeritus of the University of California at Davis and conductor, composer, founder, and director of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. Dr. McNeil is also the author and editor of a music education textbook series. Professor McNeil, who studied and toured with Jester Hairston, plays a key role in molding the narrative of the documentary in a way that addresses the national standards of music.

  • Dr. William Hall

    w hallAs Professor of Music and Dean of the College of Performing Arts at Chapman University in Orange, CA. During this career, Jester Hairston's tours with Dr. Hall became highly successful, as they featured performances of Hairston's spiritual arrangements. Dr. Hall gives a first-person account of the local, national, and global impact of Jester Hairston's work.

  • Dr. Jacqeline DjeDje

    j djedjeAs Professor and Chair of the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology and Director of the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive, Dr. DjeDje is the author and editor of several books: California Soul; Music of African Americans in the West (co-edited with Eddie S. Meadows, 1998) and Black Religious Music from Southeast Georgia (1979). She has written numerous articles on African-American music, with a particular emphasis on gospel music in California. Through the union of both her background and written works, Dr. DjeDje brings a unique musical perspective to the Jester Hairston Project.

  • Dr. Maria Manzo-Kissinger

    m kissingerPianist, conductor, co-founder and Music Director of Bravo! Vancouver. Under her direction, the Bravo! Chorale has toured throughout the United States and Europe and is considered one of the most successful arts organizations in Southwest Washington. Dr. Kissinger received her B.A. and Master of Music degrees from Eastern Washington University and completed a dissertation on Jester Hairston - A Compositional and Interpretive Analysis of the Arranged Negro Spiritual, as Represented by the Choral Music of Jester Hairston - while pursing a Doctorate of Arts degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

  • Dr. Thomas Sheets (d. 2014)

    t sheetsAs choral conductor and ADSMM Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Sheets has presented Jester Hairston in concert in the past. He also presents a comprehensive timeline of performances by Jester Hairston, using archival film, pictures, and recordings, that helps portray a historically accurate depiction of Jester Hairston's musical career.

  • Dr. Gwendolyn Wyatt

    g wyattA member of the Rio Hondo College music faculty, and singer, voice instructor, conductor, and founder/director of the Gwen Wyatt Chorale. Dr. Wyatt's community ensemble specializes in the performance of Spirituals; she has lead several concerts in Los Angeles and at Carnie Hall titled Remembering Jester Hairston. Her scholarly dissertation on Dr. Hairston - Jester Hairston and His Approach to the Singing of Spirituals in the USA - is an integral part of the Jester Hairston Project research.

  • Jacqueline Hairston

    j hairstonPianist, organist, multi-talented ASCAP composer/arranger, and popular San Francisco Bay area vocal coach. Jacqueline Hairston has presented lecture-performances in tribute to Jester Hairston. Her vantage point not only as kin, but also a composer of African-American music, helps paint a commemorative portrait of Jester Hairston's multi-faceted legacy.

  • Charlotte Blake Alston

    c alstonA singer and storyteller with a warm, elegant, and commanding voice. She breathes life, infectious energy, and inspiration into traditional and contemporary African and African-American stories and songs, while accompanying herself, at times, on the 21-string koa. With performances fanning the U.S. and abroad, she has played with major symphony orchestras at the The Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian Institute, and South African Women's Festivals. Charlotte Alston has been a featured artist in Carnegie Hall's Family Concert series since 1996, and has received many distinguished honors like the Storytelling Circle of Excellence Award, the Zora Neal Hurston Award, and the Commonwealth of PA Artist of the Year Award. She is instrumental in shaping the Jester Hairston story by highlighting his love of Spirituals and narrating his experience in Hollywood as a storyteller.

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