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Spelman Students Enjoy Participating in Silkroad Community Music Workshop

March 2024

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The Spelman College Department of Music presented Silkroad Artists-in-Residence featuring Pura Fé and Michi Wiancko in a community music workshop. Indigenous activist, singer-songwriter and storyteller Pura Fé and violinist, composer and collaborator Wiancko joined together to lead two-day educational workshops.

The presentations were held from Thursday, March 21 - Friday, March 22. The free workshops were open to the Spelman community. Participants explored music and healing, improvisation, composition, personal backgrounds and live performance.

Silkroad completed their third residency at Spelman with a non-traditional afternoon concert in Sisters Chapel. The artists invited audience members on stage to participate and experience the music with them and the students enjoyed singing.

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“It was a very grounding experience to hear all of our harmonies together. It’s a freeing type of music. Even if you mess up on a note, you can catch back up. It forces you not to think so much and improvise. I’m grateful for this experience,” said Hannah Baumgardner, C’2026.

Baumgardner, an Atlanta native, is a member of Spelman Noire, a contemporary music ensemble who joined the artists on stage. Wiancko played her violin and Pura Fé worked her magic on her lap-steel slide guitar and a loop station.

“It’s music – probably unlike anything you've heard before – Pura Fé is an indigenous artist with Tuscarora and Taino roots – the music she creates speaks to your soul. It speaks to the earth. You feel grounded and rooted when you hear the music and harmonies she creates. It’s not something that most of us grow up hearing," said Alicia Robinson, Silkroad’s director of strategic partnerships and impact. "Michi, while she is Western classically trained, the music she plays and the passion she puts into her music just draws you in. The two combined are just magical.” 

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Ariana Swindell, C’2026, harmonized with members of Spelman’s Glee Club from the pews.

“I enjoyed it. It was inspiring and refreshing to see different types of music. I’m a music major and right now I’m studying a lot of classical music. Even when I listen to my own music, I go with what I know. To hear Pura Fé’s work and Michi’s violin was refreshing and I enjoyed it!,” said Swindell. "I went to some workshops. I learned about their compositional process and how there’s no correct or incorrect way to improvise. We were trying to pick their brains to see, 'What are you thinking about?'  'You just let yourself be and thinking can get in the way.' I thought that was interesting, especially coming from someone who’s learning from the Western classical tradition. There’s lots of rules and standards that you must know. But to hear them say, 'Just be and feel the music.' It’s like, oh, okay, freedom!"

Wiancko and Pura Fé echoed the student’s sentiments about the experience.

“My two-day residency at Spelman was by far one of the best experiences I've had within an educational institution. The level of learning and engagement and thinking and creating was truly inspiring and next level. I think what moved me the most was the quality of questions being asked, and how most of them are the same questions we are grappling with as professional artists and thinkers and activators out in the world," said Wiancko. "We talked about identity as artists, connection to self, issues around musical appropriation and cultural extraction, and, most importantly, following your own true voice and spirit no matter what. Big thank you to the amazing faculty, administration, and students of Spelman College!” 

“I’ve never been to a school where there’s been so much amazing talent and energy – all the teachers and students we met, I wish I had had that in my youth,” said Pura Fé.

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More About Pura Fé

Pura Fé, whose name means "Pure Faith," was born in New York City and is an heir to the Tuscarora Indian Nation. She is an artist, an activist and much more. Her musical journey, running the gamut from folk to mainstream through an artful use of the blues, reflects the concerns of an artist who grew up in the Motown era, while citing Buffy Sainte-Marie, Charley Patton and Joni Mitchell as her true mentors. 

More About Wiancko

Michi Wiancko is a violinist and composer whose creative work encompasses a wide spectrum of new composition, collaboration and interpretation. In addition to her composition and performing career, Michi is the director and curator of Antenna Cloud Farm, a music festival, arts retreat and community organization based in western Massachusetts. She also teaches a course on 21st-century musicianship and creativity at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Silkroad will return to Atlanta in November to perform on tour.

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