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Jazz concert at WFU to launch student initiative to build children's center in Benin

January 30, 2007

World-renowned jazz musician Lisa Henry will perform at a benefit concert at Wake Forest University at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17 in Wait Chapel.  The concert, coordinated by five Wake Forest students, is a community event designed to kick off the students’ fundraising efforts to raise $25,000 to build a children’s center for art and music in Ouidah, Benin, West Africa.  The center would be the first of its kind in Benin.  All proceeds from the concert will be used to purchase construction supplies.

The students —Jacob Bathanti, Matthew Burrows, Evelyn Eisele, Christina Stenhouse and James Wise—all attended a summer course on African development taught by Sylvain Boko, Zachary T. Smith Associate Professor of Economics at Wake Forest.  Boko and Sarah duPont, a member of the Wake Forest College Board of Visitors, suggested the students create a strategic plan for the construction of the children’s center.

duPont proposed the project after meeting self-taught, Beninese jazz musician Lionel Loueke and discovering that Beninese children have little, if any, exposure to the arts.  She saw a center, built in Loueke’s honor, as an opportunity to inspire and support children in ways that were unavailable to Loueke as a child.

While studying in Benin with Boko, the students went to Ouidah to scout locations for the center.  They found a site strategically located on the shared grounds of two primary schools.  Officials from the schools worked with the students to create a construction plan, including architectural renderings and a proposed budget.  Construction will begin once supplies are provided. 

The students do not plan to end the project after constructing the facility.  They are seeking ways to involve Wake Forest students and faculty and professional musicians to equip Beninese teachers to incorporate art and music classes in their curriculum. 

Henry is an award-winning jazz musician classified among the ranks of Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.  She began singing in church at age six.  At age 12, after hearing the music of Billie Holiday and Miles Davis, she became interested in jazz music.  At 17, she began her professional jazz career in the nightclubs of Kansas City where she was mentored by Everette Devan and performed with the Vince Bilardo Big Band and the Steve Miller Orchestra. 

Throughout her career she has performed throughout the United States and internationally with renowned artists, including Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garrett, Rosemary Clooney, Doc Cheethem and Lou Rawls.  She is an active member of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a non-profit educational foundation whose mission includes presenting public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the world.

Advance tickets for the concert are $15 general admission; $7 for students with ID.  Tickets are available through the Wake Forest University Benson Ticket office at (336) 758-4265 and at the door. 

Press Contacts:

Pam Barrett
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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