Artist of the Month – Aeolians
The late Dr. Eva B. Dykes originally organized the Aeolians of Oakwood University in 1946. Since its inception, the choir has traveled widely, touching the hearts of both young and old with their inspirational singing. Subsequent conductors have included: Mrs. Joni Pierre-Louis, Mr. Harold Anthony, Dr. Jon Robertson, Dr. Alma M. Blackmon, Dr. John Dennison, Dr. Ricky Little (former Aeolian), Dr. Eurydice Osterman, Michele Cleveland, Dr. Lloyd Mallory (former Aeolian), Dr. Julie Moore, Norman Crarey, Dr. Wayne Bucknor (former Aeolian) and since 2008, Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand (former Aeolian).
Directors have made considerable contributions over the years. Under the direction of Dr. John Dennison, the Aeolians performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, receiving flattering reviews. Under the direction of Dr. Alma M. Blackmon, which began in 1973, the group was propelled into national and international prominence with the performance of over 200 concerts in the United States, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Canada, Poland, Romania, and Great Britain. Under the current director, the group tours extensively, and has extended their international prominence to Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Russia, Hungary, and South Africa.
Aeolian performances present a repertoire of choral music that ranges from the Baroque era to the twenty-first century. The choir has become an authoritative exponent of Negro spirituals and Work songs, which express the yearnings of the choir’s enslaved forefathers to be free.
Under the God-inspired direction of Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand, the choir placed 1st two years in a row (2010 & 2011) in the iSing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Challenge hosted by the Reid Temple AME Church in Lanham, Maryland, and was named in 2014 as the four-peat national HBCU choral champions. The Aeolians have also been presented with the keys to the City of Huntsville with Deember 3rd & Dec. 5th being days named in the choir’s honor.
A stellar 2011 – 2012 season saw the Aeolians visiting Moscow, Russia as part of the Russia-US Bilateral Presidential Commission on Development of Cooperation between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama. The choir competed at the 7th World Choir Games held in Cincinnati, USA, where they earned gold medals in all three categories of entrance and the overall championship in the Spiritual category.
In Oct 2015, the Aeolians made their debut at Carnegie Hall performing with the Altino Bros, the Altino Brothers Concert Chorale, and the Beyond Boundaries Symphony Orchestra in the Altino Brothers’ “Beyond Boundaries” Concert Series. Later that month, the Aeolians accompanied the world-renowned soprano, Kathleen Battle at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center in her, “Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey” Concert Series.
Since January 2013, the Aeolians have partnered with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO) to present an annual Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) tribute at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center in Birmingham, Alabama. This collaboration has seen masterpieces performed from the symphonic choral literature to include Brahms, Mozart, Schoenberg, Dvorak, Hailstork & Dett, just to name a few. In 2016, the collaboration featured Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” with guest classical pianist, Nerva Altino. The Huntsville Symphony has also collaborated with the Aeolians in presenting works by Verdi, Mozart, Brahms and others.
In the summer of 2017, the Aeolians competed at the 70th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, which was held in Wales, UK. The choir achieved the coveted “Choir of the World” title along with the Pavarotti trophy. Additionally, Dr. Ferdinand won the competition’s first, “Outstanding Director” award.
In July of 2018, the Aeolians traveled to South Africa to compete at the 10th World Choir Games. They entered three categories and won three gold medals. They were also named the champions of the University/College Choir category as well as the Spirituals category. The choir received 97.88 points out of 100 — the highest score for received by any choir in the competition.
Most recently the Aeolians collaborated with two-time Grammy winner and musical sensation Jacob Collier. The four-part project will feature the Aeolians on volume 1 (All Night Long) and volume 4 (World, O World). Look for these on the Universal Music record label.
The Aeolians are truly humbled to have been selected to present at the ACDA national conference.