FRESNO STATE — Fresno State music theory and composition teacher Dr Benjamin Boone was named a American Fulbright Scholar for the 2022-23 academic year. The prize will take him to Ireland to learn more about the musical pedagogy and work with other musicians to create and record new music.
Boone will be based at Irish World Academy of Music and Dance to University of Limerick while in Ireland.
“I’ve never been to Ireland, but I know they have great hybrid music, and their Academy of Music, where I’ll be, is groundbreaking in their fusion of musical styles,” Dr Boone said. “Their program is very innovative and integrated, quite a different model from any music program I’ve seen in the United States. I’m fascinated to watch how they do what they do, so I can bring that knowledge back and that perspective to Fresno State to share with my department and with our students.
Dr Boone is one of three Fresno State faculty members to win Fulbright awards this year, joining the political science professor Dr. Melanie H. Ram and professor of communication and performance Dr Devendra Sharma.
Recent graduate in biochemistry sydney foxmember of the track and field team, also won a Fulbright Research Award.
Dr. Boone has previously received a Fulbright Senior Specialist Award for Moldova in 2005 and a US Fulbright Scholar Award to Ghana for the 2017-18 academic year. While there, Boone launched the first-ever National Jazz Workshop Tour in Ghana, which taught improvisation and how the relationship between Ghana and the United States is rooted in jazz.
“American [jazz] the music was created largely by Ghanaian and West African slaves,” Dr Boone said shortly after returning from Ghana. “So talking about music, you can talk about the horrific circumstances and you can come to some sort of reconciliation. Ghanaian musicians and scholars collaborated with me on this tour, so we were, in a sense, an embodiment physics of the synergistic musical relationship between American and Ghanaian cultures.
While there, he collaborated with Ghanaian musicians including rappers, palm wine musicians, traditional xylophonists and drummers. Through this process, he met a group called The Ghanaian jazz collective. What started with regular gigs at a big jazz club in Accraended with the recording of the album “Joy”, released by Original recordings in 2020.
“I was thrilled that the critics and radio DJs heard how amazing these Ghanaian musicians are at jazz and gave them big kudos,” Boone said. “Most people think of traditional music or afro pop when they think of Ghanaian music, so I hope this album has helped counter that limited perspective.
This album spent several weeks on Amazon “Trendy New Arrivals” list and has been acclaimed by major jazz publications, such as an article in the major jazz magazine, Downbeat.
Dr Boone has similar plans for Ireland. The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance is known for its fusion of musical styles, its integrated approach to music pedagogy and its ritual music programme, which Benedictine monks learn.
“I hope to do exactly the same thing I did in Ghana – meet as many musicians as possible, immerse myself in their music, and then work with them to create and record new music,” said Dr Boone. “Irish World Academy has a community music program that helps refugees adjust, and I can’t wait to be part of that program. I can’t wait to see what happens with all of this.
Dr. Boone is well known for his “jazz poetry», which mixes his expressive alto and soprano saxophones with original jazz with poetry. The first two albums, “The Poetry of Jazz” and “The Poetry of Jazz, Vol. 2″, were recorded with former American Poet Laureate Philip Levin. The albums, released in 2018 and 2019 on Origin Records shortly after Levine’s death, have been widely acclaimed.
In 2020, Dr Boone expanded the concept with tracks featuring the American Poet Laureate twice Juan Felipe Herrerafour-time individual champion National Poetry Slam Patricia Smith and nine other poets, including local poets Marisol Baca and Lee Herrick.
He is currently working on finalizing his next album, which will feature tracks with the writer/poet Faylita HicksPulitzer winner Jess Tyhimba and many others. Boone is also the service learning specialist for the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at Fresno State.
Article by Benjamin Kirk.
Image selected by Tamela Ryatt.