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Valerie Coleman - "Umoja" | Oct 1st

Growing up playing the clarinet, I never saw a Black or Brown person playing anything classical on the clarinet, let alone an oboe or bassoon or french horn. Not only is this a beautiful rendition of Valerie Coleman's 'Umojia' (Valerie herself is playing the flute in this video), but a beautiful example of people having fun and communicating non verbally during a performance. 'Umoja' is the Swahili word for 'unity'.

Valerie Coleman was named as one of the top 35 Women Composers by the Washington Post in 2020, and became the first living African American woman composer to be commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Find out more about her on her website

Ideas for discussion questions:

  1. Have you ever seen a wind band like this before? If no, why not? If yes, where and who were they?

  2. Why do you think Valerie Coleman named this piece 'Umoja'? Why Swahili?

  3. How are the musicians communicating?

  4. Can you identify the main theme of the piece?

  5. What technique does the flautist use at 1:04?

  6. What does this piece remind you of?

  7. Some of these instruments are not tuned to concert pitch. Which ones, and which keys are they tuned to?

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