Press Release

Honor the African American Women Who Power Our Journey to Equality with VocalEssence WITNESS: Yet They Persist


Jennifer Weismann


Atlanta’s Spelman College Glee Club will join the VocalEssence Chorus and VocalEssence Singers Of This Age—February 24

            MINNEAPOLIS — November 27, 2018 — VocalEssence will celebrate the accomplishments of trailblazing African and African American women through music with a February 24 concert at Orchestra Hall. VocalEssence WITNESS: Yet They Persist will feature Atlanta’s Spelman College Glee Club with the VocalEssence Chorus and  VocalEssence Singers Of This Age (VESOTA), plus special guests U.S. Representative-elect Ilhan Omar, Minneapolis City Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins, and former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton.

Images are available here.

African American women are changing their communities by stepping up, speaking out, and taking action in greater numbers and to greater effect than ever before, and it’s a perfect moment to pay tribute to their entrepreneurship, acknowledge the importance of education in the fight for social change, and commit ourselves to advocating for the equality of all. This year’s WITNESS concert, Yet They Persist, is an opportunity to remember the long odds faced by female African American activists, cheer for the victories of today’s changemakers, and encourage that fighting spirit in the next generation.

Each year since 1991, WITNESS has shined a light on the cultural contributions of African Americans. Besides creating the annual WITNESS public concert, the program places teaching artists in local schools, develops educational curricula, commissions new works, releases recordings, and hosts youth concerts. Its Reatha Clark King Award for Excellence and Youth Motivation through the Cultural Arts celebrates and recognizes outstanding leaders who are in the field empowering young people through direct contact, making a way for them to be as successful as they can be.

VocalEssence WITNESS: Yet They Persist will take place at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Sunday, February 24, 2019 from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Ticket range from $10-$40 and are available online. Ticket holders are invited to attend a preconcert conversation from 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm.

“Our community is stronger thanks to the tenacious and persistent leadership of women of African descent. This program gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to them and to musical artists who share their spirit,” says VocalEssence Associate Conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III. “We’re delighted to have the Spelman College Glee Club share their gift of song with us to remind us of the important role historically black colleges and universities have played in the struggle for civil rights and equality. For many years, women did not receive the recognition they deserved for the role they played as catalysts for social change. WITNESS: Yet They Persist gives us an opportunity to shine a bright spotlight on the amazing legacy women have created and continue to create each and every day.”

VocalEssence, called “one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time” by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its initiative programs, contests, and support for innovative art. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and has debuted more than 300 commissions and 500 world premieres. For more information, visit