Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, the Suzanne and William Allen Distinguished Professor in Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), will present “Yet With A Steady Beat: The Art, Aesthetics, and Activism of the Music of Black Americans” at 7 p.m. March 22. A question-and-answer session with Dr. Watts will immediately follow her presentation. 

headshot of Dr. Ollie Watts Davis
Dr. Ollie Watts Davis

Registration for the free, online presentation is open now. Register here.

In this address, Davis will share her inspiring journey as a performance scholar of the sacred solo and choral music of African Americans. She will explore performance practices, historical context, and aesthetic choices that influence the various genres, including field hollers, folk and concert spirituals, improvised hymns, and traditional and contemporary gospel songs.  

Davis serves as professor of voice and artistic director and conductor of the Black Chorus at UIUC. Her numerous awards include the 2018 Outstanding Faculty Leadership Award and University Scholar in 2008. 

Since making her New York debut at Carnegie Hall, Davis has performed with the nation’s leading orchestras as well as internationally in North, South, and Central America; Africa; Europe; and Asia. She has released four recordings and is featured on the PBS documentary: The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price.  

A native West Virginian, Davis holds a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Institute of Technology where she was named Alumna of the Year. She earned a master’s degree from West Virginia University; and the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts (Phi Beta Kappa) from UIUC.  

The event is sponsored by Illinois State University’s School of Music, the Choral Department of the School of Music, African American Studies, the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology.  

Those who need a special accommodation to fully participate in this program/event, contact Dr. Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum of the School of Music at okaduon@ilstu.edu. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.