More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the inaugural Music Master Mentor Program with the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University, seven student participants were able to open for famed bassist Bakithi Kumalo on Sept. 12 at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks.
Kumalo, who was the artist-in-residence at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in early 2020, had been in the midst of mentoring the young musicians and 11 others from Lehigh Valley schools when the pandemic forced the Music Master Mentor Program online and led to the cancellation of the culminating concert at Baker Hall. The students got to join Kumalo 17 months later on stage as they opened for the Graceland Experience.
"Both Lenore Pitsolis, Zoellner Arts Center's education and community engagement coordinator, and I couldn't have been more pleased to witness these seven young artists give it their all, bringing a smile to one another's faces as they shared the stage and supported one another in their first public performance,” said Tahya, director of the Music Master Mentor Program.
“It was heart-warming to witness their growth as musicians as well the friendships formed among these young people from schools throughout the Lehigh Valley who previously had been unacquainted, and the crowd gathered at Levitt Pavillion offered a resounding round of applause and standing ovation at the conclusion of the set presented by these young musicians showcasing their talent and enthusiasm.”
Kumalo, renowned for his bass playing on artist Paul Simon’s 1986 Graceland album and his subsequent touring with Simon, and keyboardist and composer Will Smith, had begun working with the middle- and high-school students selected for the program in February 2020—teaching them technique, rehearsal and performance skills, composition and songwriting. Also, Dan Andree, a Lehigh Valley drum instructor and music education consultant, had lent his expertise.