Bobby cFerrin

Ten-time Grammy winning singer and songwriter Bobby McFerrin will join the Georgetown faculty this fall as the Rev. Royden B. Davis, S.J., Visiting Professor in the newly-formed Program in Performing Arts, which resulted from the merger of the Arts, Music and Theater Department and the Office of Performing Arts earlier this year.

McFerrin will work with a variety of Georgetown music ensembles, theater and dance groups as well as physics and sound engineering students throughout the semester.

His residency will culminate with a final concert in McDonough Gym on Nov. 22.

McFerrin was chosen as this semester’s Visiting Professor because of his worldwide musical renown, versatility and genuine enthusiasm for cultivating the creativity of students, Caestecker Chair of Music Jose Bowen said. He is well known for his vocal innovations and improvisations and for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Music charts 15 years ago.

The professorship rotates among departments and this year Bowen was given the opportunity to choose the professor.

Bowen said McFerrin was the perfect candidate because “he could not only conduct the orchestra and the choir, but also work with dancers, poets and jazz students . Bobby is really in a league of his own.”

During his residency, McFerrin will work alongside Georgetown professors in specific classes ranging from a course on Gershwin’s music to a physics class on sound engineering, and will work independently with students on various creative endeavors.

“We’ve tried to involve Bobby with all aspects of the program and then some,” Bowen said.

Students will not only have the chance to learn how he makes his music, but will also be able to get feedback from McFerrin on their own music.

“When Bobby McFerrin is challenging students to sing something new and better, everyone will be on their toes. He’ll be an inspiration,” Bowen said.

McFerrin’s appearances will not be limited to the classroom. There are a number of public events scheduled throughout his residency, including a series of open public workshops – dance on Sept. 29, singing Sept. 30 and poetry and vocal workshops on Nov. 20.

The poetry workshop will conclude with a poetry slam featuring Georgetown’s Black Theatre Ensemble.

According to Bowen, the best way for students to get to work with McFerrin is to join the Georgetown concert choir, which will be performing in the final concert. A Faculty and Student Collaborative Theater group will also participate in the concert.

The Faculty and Student Multimedia Multidisciplinary Collaboration, organized by Karen Berman, the artistic adviser of Georgetown’s Theater Program, will combine song, dance, theater, art, instrumentals and visual projections in the final concert. The group will rehearse weekly and meet with McFerrin for two workshops to create an original performance piece. This unique presentation will pair many diverse talents such as student Jeffrey Civillico (COL ’05), a juggler, with Spanish professor, dramatist and novelist Barbara Mujica.

“We will certainly welcome anyone who would like to join any of the groups,” Dorothy Biondi, administrator in performing arts, academic and special programs, said. “No one should feel left out of this creative process.”

On Nov. 22 the entire floor of McDonough Gym will become a sea of singers, dancers and musicians, and the audience will get to experience this collaboration as McFerrin “plays this massive ensemble like an instrument,” Bowen said. The Georgetown Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, Georgetown Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, assorted campus a cappella groups, the Georgetown Jazz Band, Black Dance Movement Theatre and Georgetown Dance Company will also perform in the concert.

According to Bowen, McFerrin’s ability to improvise and free associate is one of the most unique talents he will bring to the Georgetown community.

“Bobby has figured out how to open the mind and create without worrying about all the things that can go wrong,” said Bowen. “That is a tremendous lesson he can teach our students.”

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