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Arts & Culture

NC State LIVE’s 50th Anniversary Season to Close with Special World Premiere

Prolific violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and the Raleigh Civic Symphony will perform a new work highlighting a wide variety of Black composers and performers.

DBR speaks stands at the director's podium in front of a large group of musicians
Daniel Bernard Roumain leads a rehearsal for the Raleigh Civic Symphony

As a grand finale to its 50th anniversary season, NC State LIVE is pairing prolific violinist and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) with the Department of Performing Arts and Technology’s Raleigh Civic Symphony to perform a world premiere of DBR’s new work, Home, Migrations, and Our Imaginary Daughter on Saturday, April 15.

NC State LIVE commissioned the piece, and the concert will be the eighth time DBR has taken the stage at NC State. As an acclaimed violinist, composer, educator and social entrepreneur, DBR’s career spans over two decades, earning commissions from venerable institutions worldwide. 

“Raleigh feels like home,” DBR said. “I’ve seen the city and campus change, and, like everything else, the music has evolved as well. So, this is a new piece for new times.”

“As we considered how to close our 50th anniversary season, it was natural to turn to Daniel and commission him to create a piece of music to honor this moment in time for him and for us,” said Sharon Moore, director of NC State LIVE. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Peter, the Raleigh Civic Symphony, and our incredibly talented Triangle artists to bring the piece to life.”

Home, Migrations, and Our Imaginary Daughter, featuring a libretto by Haitian-American poet Kaitlyn Boyer, is a type of “community concerto.” It highlights local musicians, including high school violinist Felicia Adizue, acclaimed cellist Shana Tucker, and spoken word artist Bernadette Allen. The program also includes rising star cellist Tristen Johnson and United Strings of Color, a string quartet of Black high school artists dedicated to addressing racial disparity in classical music through music education and community engagement.

DBR with a group of students holding string instruments and wearing shirts that say "United Strings Color"
DBR with members of United Strings of Color
DBR and a small group of students play their string instruments in a circle
DBR rehearses with United Strings of Color

“In this piece, everyone has an opportunity to use their imagination — to improvise at times, to play the music as written at times, to participate and to play an orchestra in a way that is more equitable,” DBR said. “It’s not just about the conductor telling you what to do. You can make choices, you can take a chance and you have an opportunity for your voice to be heard. That’s also what this piece is about.”

DBR’s new work will be performed alongside an evening of music by Black composers from across three centuries, including Margaret Bond’s monumental Montgomery Variations, a meditation on the Civil Rights movement, and music from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Othello. The orchestra will also perform Roumain’s epic Voodoo Violin Concerto with DBR as a soloist, almost 20 years to the day from when it was first performed under the direction of the late Randy Foy, the former director of Raleigh Civic Symphony.

A selfie of DBR with Andaiye Qaasim in front of the sign for Witherspoon Student Center
DBR with Andaiye Qaasim, assistant director of the African American Cultural Center

“Daniel is an extraordinary artist, activist and human being,” said Peter Askim, teaching professor, director of orchestral studies, and conductor of the Raleigh Civic Symphony and chamber orchestra, “He is working at the highest level of the contemporary music field, including with some of the most prominent professional music organizations in the country. It is incredibly rare for university students to have the opportunity to collaborate with an artist of his caliber, let alone bring to life the world premiere of music written especially for them.

“His practice in equity runs deep,” Askim continued. “His work with the orchestra is centered on empowering each member of the orchestra to bring their own artistry, personality and musical choices to the performance. This is unique and special for an art form not typically centered around the individual.”

DBR composed Home, Migrations, and Our Imaginary Daughter during a residency at NC State earlier this year. In addition to writing the music and leading rehearsals, he was a guest lecturer for Askim’s composition class, shared conversations with students at the African American Cultural Center and Arts Village, and presented his work at University Honors Program forums. He also met with NC State leaders like Doneka Scott, vice chancellor and dean for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, and Andaiye Qaasim, assistant director of the African American Cultural Center. 

DBR plays his violin in front of a large group of students seated in theater chairs
DBR performs for University Honors Program Students at an Honors Forum

“I always feel grateful that I get to do work that allows me to connect with audiences,” DBR said. “As an artist, I can respond responsibly to the ills of the world and be a sort of antidote through my music. NC State LIVE is kind of like that antidote as well. It’s a safe space where audiences and artists can come together to revel in, well, magic on the stage.”

This weekend’s concert and world premiere conclude a memorable 50th anniversary season for NC State LIVE. Look back on the full lineup of performances here: 

A selfie of DBR with three people in front of the NC State Memorial Belltower
DBR with NC State LIVE staff in front of the NC State Memorial Belltower.

“Since his first residency in 2008, Daniel has shared a rich artistic and personal journey with NC State LIVE, our students and the community,” Moore said. “It has been such a gift over the years to watch him inspire, delight and empower everyone from our own NC State students to local elementary school children to Triangle artists. His passion for creating work that is relevant, collaborative and reflective of many voices truly seems limitless.”